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Luna Vista 

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One hundred and fifty or so movie geeks, including myself, have come on a mercifully cool summer night to Silver Lake’s Vista theater for a 30th-anniversary screening of Peter Bogdanovich’s 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 O’Neal 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 Exorcist’s 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 hasn’t 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 Vista’s own eclectic Walk of Fame, right above those of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen and the cast of Swingers.

Unexpectedly, Griffin O’Neal, 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, he’s 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 O’Neal glossies inside to be signed by Dad.

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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. O’Neal, 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, What’s 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 O’Neal 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. O’Neal waves the query away, “Tatum’s always late,” then darts into the lobby, Bogdanovich at his side.

There’s a pause, then a stir as the autograph freaks turn and take flight, for there is Tatum O’Neal, 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 she’s under the marquee, looking slightly bewildered but lovely nonetheless in a black pantsuit. Just then, a taut, 40-something woman blocks Tatum’s path (there’s 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 O’Neal in a gaze of such alarming telepathic intensity that I think: That’s 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 Vista’s 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 O’Neal 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 director’s name, cheers Ryan’s, and takes a collective breath, then claps firmly at the sight of Madeline Kahn. And maybe we’re thrown into sudden grief for Kahn, because no one applauds the words “Introducing Tatum O’Neal.” There’s an awkward silence, until her father exclaims, loudly, “Yeah!” and throws his hands together, initiating a swelling round of praise.

—Chuck Wilson

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