One hundred and fifty or so movie geeks, including myself, have come on a mercifully cool summer night to Silver Lakes Vista theater for a 30th-anniversary screening of Peter Bogdanovichs 1973 black-and-white comedy, Paper Moon. But first there is a handprints-in-cement ceremony for its director and two of its stars, Ryan ONeal and his daughter, Tatum, who at age 10 won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film (beating out her genius co-star, the late Madeline Kahn, as well as The Exorcists limber-headed teen, Linda Blair).
Ryan and Tatum are late, so the three-man handprint crew continually refresh their work, muttering apologies as they push a wobbly, cement-dripping wheelbarrow back and forth through the crowd. Bogdanovich, who hasnt abandoned his 30-year predilection for striped shirts and ascots, has been here awhile signing autographs. With the surprisingly large contingent of flash-popping paparazzi all to himself, he has already been photographed sinking his hands into the Vistas own eclectic Walk of Fame, right above those of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen and the cast of Swingers.
Unexpectedly, Griffin ONeal, wayward son of Ryan, is center-carpet, looking tanned, fit and hyperactive. Like his sister, he was a child star (sorta, kinda) but is best remembered for youthful brushes with the law and rehab. Tonight, hes remarkably attentive to the clutch of frenzied autograph hounds, several of whom will shriek in astonishment a half-hour from now when Griffin offers to take their 8-by-10 Ryan ONeal glossies inside to be signed by Dad.
A black stretch limo glides into view, and Papa Ryan bounds out, alone, and is immediately encircled by the insistent faithful, who thrust one-sheets and vinyl soundtrack albums at him. ONeal, who is reportedly in remission from chronic myeloid leukemia, has shed the puffy face of illness and looks terrific. Watching him deftly scrawl his name with one hand while holding an Evian bottle with the other is another kind of reminder: Once a movie star (remember Love Story, Whats Up Doc?, Barry Lyndon?), always a movie star.
Entertainment Tonight reporter Bob Goen E.T. at the Vista! This is a big night! quickly snags ONeal for a How does it feel 30 years later? soundbite, and ends by asking where Tatum is, as if hoping for a whiff of scandal. ONeal waves the query away, Tatums always late, then darts into the lobby, Bogdanovich at his side.
Theres a pause, then a stir as the autograph freaks turn and take flight, for there is Tatum ONeal, brilliantly blond, half a block down, getting out of an SUV with her three teenage children. A brief signing frenzy ensues, right there next to the car, and then shes under the marquee, looking slightly bewildered but lovely nonetheless in a black pantsuit. Just then, a taut, 40-something woman blocks Tatums path (theres zero security here), hands her a small pink-wrapped package, and when the actress thanks her, the woman shakes her head. Oh, no. Thank you, she says, and locks ONeal in a gaze of such alarming telepathic intensity that I think: Thats what John Lennon saw.
Suddenly, Ryan is at her side, his bearish arms wrapping around her, and as her forehead falls forward to rest briefly on his shoulder, I hear her say softly, Daddy.
Soon after, star and co-star, along with Paper Moon cinematographer Lazslo Kovacs, are kneeling, legs ungracefully akimbo, as they sink their outstretched palms deep into the Vistas pavement. Flashbulbs blind, photographers shout, and those of us standing just behind the stars take a half-step back, stunned a bit by the force of those flashes.
Inside the theater, the ONeal clan settles into one row, and Bogdanovich sits between his two stars. Griffin splits early, Ryan holds court for well-wishers, and Tatum heads for the lobby, her eyes rolling as her son calls out, Mom! Get me a hot dog! The lights finally dim and the movie begins, preceded by its original trailer. On cue, the audience applauds the directors name, cheers Ryans, and takes a collective breath, then claps firmly at the sight of Madeline Kahn. And maybe were thrown into sudden grief for Kahn, because no one applauds the words Introducing Tatum ONeal. Theres an awkward silence, until her father exclaims, loudly, Yeah! and throws his hands together, initiating a swelling round of praise.
Im standing in line at the Farmers Market Starbucks, one person in front of me, and out of the corner of my eye I see Al: former Vice President Al more people voted for Al than the current leader of the most powerful nation in the history of mankind Al. He had ordered already and was waiting alone. I must have walked right by him on my way in and didnt notice, which starts me wondering if it really was Marlon Brando I saw in the H2 on my way here this morning.