It’s one thing when Halle Berry hits ’n’ runs, or when Nicole Richie heads the wrong way on the 134 freeway. It’s another when Mischa Barton rear-ends my father on his way to work — especially when, according to reports, it’s the third such accident she’s had since February 18.

An Austrian professor of architecture at UCLA, Dad was commuting to school on Sunset near Veteran when what he thought was an explosion rocked his green Saab. Thinking it was some kind of muffler blast, a little stunned and feeling “not coordinated very well,” he kept driving. But then he noticed that his back wheel was letting off smoke and that the Ford Explorer behind him had pulled over to the side. A young woman emerged.

“I thought she was some kind of college girl,” Dad recounted on the phone. “She put her hands over her lips, asked me if I was okay. Then she wanted to know if I had changed lanes or something. I said, ‘No, what happened is you just ran into me from the behind.’ ”

I wondered if Dad’s neck hurt, and how badly his Saab was damaged, but that could wait until the essential question was answered: What does Mischa Barton look like in person and what was she wearing?

“She had on a white nightie, like a summer festival dress that stopped above the knee, like a baby-doll nightie, and silver slippers. No makeup. I thought she was a college-girl-gone-wild going to USC. She looked like one of these girls the day after, when they are sober and dress nicely to forget what they did the night before.”

I should contextualize this by saying that my father has a very unorthodox, offensive sense of humor, and that sexual-harassment sensitivity training just doesn’t register with him. Underneath this bawdy, callous exterior is a very kind heart, a spotless morality, and respect for women when it counts.

I ask him to elaborate a little bit more about her facial expressions and skin tone. “She was making this face like [speaking in a shrill, girly voice], ‘Ooooops, what did I do now?’ ” He asked her if she had insurance: It was her mother’s car and she didn’t know. (Hmmm, it was Nicole Richie’s car she’d borrowed when she rear-ended another guy on Sunset on March 8.) She kept repeating something about her dogs, still in the car; she was worried about them and needed to get them home. What kind of dogs were they, Papa? “They were small boutique things, like Paris Hilton dogs. She was trying to explain to me that she was just ‘looking at her dogs’ right before she crashed. She said she needed to talk to her mom, so I asked if I could speak to the mom too, maybe she knows about the insurance. I got on the phone with her — she was a little hyper, with a British accent — and we figured things out.”

Even though there was a dark pool of radiator fluid gathering under her car, Barton asked if she could “drive home like that? I really hope I can make it home.” She was really in a hurry to get away, my father recalled. All this time, he didn’t realize that Mischa Barton was anyone remarkable. With his cell-phone camera, he began to take pictures of the license plate and the damage to both cars. Only when he got the mom’s last name and Mischa’s first name did he remember a tabloid headline he had read a while back, “about some kind of breakup.” He wanted to take a picture of her in the car, and motioned with his hand for her to lower her window, but she was already driving off. “She was too worried about her dogs!” he rationalized.

Later that night, my father sent me pictures of his totaled Saab next to the huge black Explorer with barely a dent in it. The caption read: “This is what happens if a SUV with a petite driver hits a Scandinavian small boy, oi weh!” He meant to write ‘Oy vey!,’ but that’s German transliteration for you.

A tow-truck driver, whose daughter studies architecture at USC, arrived at the scene and spirited my father to his architecture class, for which he was already an hour late. “I got a good excuse to be late,” he announced to his sullen students. “I was rear-ended by a celebrity.” And, for a moment at least, he was a celebrity too.

The Saab's story

It's only radiator fluid spilled on the pavement.

Quite possibly, that is one of Mischa Barton's dogs visible through the driver's side window

(Photos by Mr. Mack)

LA Weekly