Thursday, June 30, 2005
  The Fourth Circle of Cage
Should we just rename the blog "All About Nicolas Cage and Cars?" Today's mailbag bears yet another story involving the bug-eating, car-collecting star of "Vampire's Kiss." Well, as Keith observes in the following anecdote, "Nic is not a secret celebrity." Amen to that. Note also that Keith has perfectly summed up the jaded Angeleno's attitude toward fancy cars.

I was working in a high-rise building on Sunset in Hollywood. One day as I walked through the garage on my way to lunch, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the most beautiful Ferrari I've ever seen.

Now, in L.A., exotic cars are a dime a dozen. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Aston-Martin, Bentley, Rolls, Porsche, yeah, yeah, yeah ... who cares. I usually see two or three in an hour of driving, and in certain areas more. If you live in L.A. it's really no big deal, and warrants nothing more than a quick side-glance and a mental note, "Oh, Ferrari."

So if a car stops me in my tracks then it must be a beauty. I walked around it, trying to think which model it was, but I hadn't seen one of these before. Liquid red paint gleamed as if had been waxed constantly since it rolled off the assembly line.

"Wow!" I thought as I walked to my car. "I wonder who can afford a car like that?"

As I was driving out of the garage my question was answered. "Oh, here comes the owner." I watched him approach the car and thought, "He looks familiar ... oh, that's Nicolas Cage."

Nic is not a secret celebrity. I see him around occasionally associating with us regular folk. I didn't recognize him right away, as he had on some very large, gold "pimp" sunglasses and appeared to have his arms almost completely tattooed.

I waved as I drove by, and he waved back and smiled.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
  Cage, Vol. 3
At the risk of incurring a lawsuit from the apparently ubiquitous Nicolas Cage, PaCarazzi! brings you yet another automotive sighting, and yet another set of questions about the behavior of the rich and/or famous. This post is courtesy of writer Andrew Tonkin.

I'm not one for star-spotting -- I typically go out into the world for things, not people -- and I never look at other drivers when I'm on the road, except to give dirty looks for ill-considered maneuvers.

But I do have one celeb tale that's vaguely car-related -- if you're reading this, I guess it qualifies.

I met my wife at 5931 Franklin in Hollywood. When I say "met," I mean that's where I first laid eyes on her. Back then it was an "industrial maltshop" called Raydion -- I was a waiter and she a customer. 'Twas 1987 and the Smiths had just broken up. We mourned the loss.

Cut to the year 1999 or so. We took a "sentimental journey" pilgrimage to the same address, which had turned into (and remains) a fine, funky coffeehouse called The Bourgeois Pigg. Back then, it was extremely dark inside, even during the day. On our way out, we noted a tall, thin-haired dude in a leather jacket sitting in a pool of light, flipping nervously through mass-market car magazines -- Car & Driver and the like.

It was, of course, Nicolas Cage.

I made eye contact on the way out. Without lifting his head, he turned those baleful eyes on me and gave a look that said, "Oh man, please don't bug me, I'm just sitting here trying to be a NORMAL FRICKIN HUMAN BEING ... if that's O-KAY-WITH-YOU ...."

I left him to his relative anonymity and we continued on down our lover's memory lane.

Two questions, one answer:

1) If he really wanted to be left alone, why was he sitting in such a conspicuous spot? Bourgeois Pigg has many discreet tables in the back, but he was sitting between the service counter and the front door, where he could scarcely be missed.

2) Why was he reading such mainstream magazines if his taste in cars is so exotic? Perhaps he was boning up on street rods for "Gone in 60 Seconds," which would have been shooting around then.

  Miles of Smiles
PaCarazzi! is happy to bring you this vintage sighting from Bram. It's not L.A. and the car could not be less exotic, but it's so short and sweet and posthumous, you barely notice.

A number of years ago my brother was standing in front of a building on Central Park West in NYC. A cab pulled up and Miles Davis got out. My brother was startled to see the bebop king and started to greet him by raising his hand and saying, "Hey you're --"

Before he could finish, Miles gave him a glare and said "I AIN'T SIGNING SHIT."

  The Private Dick
The car in this story isn't truly exotic, and the "star" is hardly a household name, but the spectacle was perfect Hollywood. Perfect PaCarazzi!

One weeknight last year, my girlfriend and I were standing outside Spaceland, that hipster haven in L.A.'s inverse-chic Silver Lake area. Land of millionaires in ripped jeans and secondhand shirts. Fake secondhand shirts. Whatever. The AC was set to "Arctic Winter" inside, so we'd gone out to thaw. There we were, chumming it up with the tattooed, mohawked doorman, when a Humvee lumbered to the curb just up the street. Then it lumbered backward. Then forward. Backward. Pause. Forward again. Back. Someone unconcerned about global warming was unable to park.

Finally, the behemoth jerked away from the curb and headed toward us, coming to rest in the loading zone just a few feet from where we stood. Its doors opened and out spilled Andy Dick and three tiny perfect people of indeterminate sexuality. Squabbling ensued. The driver looked about 15. He was artfully mussed, but inartfully frazzled. Driving a Humvee badly with a screaming celebrity backseat driver is no picnic ... especially when you can't really reach the pedals or see over the steering wheel.

The other two members of the Dick party were a beautiful girl and a beautiful boy, dressed indentically in head-to-toe denim and unable to keep their hands off each other. They stared blankly while Dick and the driver carried on sniping. As the heavy drama unfolded, our doorman friend provided well-informed sotto voce commentary. Eventually, the driver and his tantrum returned to the car and drove off to try to park, and Dick, trailed by the denim kids, approached the entrance for their free admission. The doorman smiled and in they all went. Several minutes later, the little driver showed up and followed them in, heavy of breath and moist of forehead.

That's the story. It was a memorable little episode.

Note: Some years ago, I saw Andy Dick perform his solo show at the Key Club (formerly Billboard Live, formerly Gazarri's) on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. He was inspired, bitchy, and hilarious, and I laughed a lot. If you don't know who he is, I think he came to fame, as they say, on TV's "Newsradio."

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
  Volunteer Post 1: 'Cruisin 2'
And the checkered flag for first volunteer post comes down on our alliterative cousin Colleen from Coto de Caza, who reports a perfect license plate sighting a few years back. Coto de Caza, by the way, is a sprawling high-end subdivision in the deepest reaches of the OC. She writes:
I saw Tom Cruise in a Ferrari of some sort -- "Cruisin 2" was the license plate -- driving down Coto de Caza Drive. I used to think he was so hot -- but now that I've seen him open his trap, I think he might have a chemical imbalance -- and that is entirely unattractive.
Colleen continues in a reflective vein on her neighborhood and its high-end vehicles:
I see the coolest cars here, but the kind of entertainment people who live around here are "behind the scenes" types .... The more secluded nature of this area lends itself to people who keep to themselves.

Most people haul their cars out and parade them on the weekend. What really really really kills me is when we take our cars to the car wash on the weekend, and -- with scores of people in line -- we'll see a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or a Rolls there. I don't get it. Why would you risk a car wash in public like that, where these cars could be scratched, they're not given the individual attention they need, and so on? The only explanation: the owners want to be seen. Which I find highly amusing.

  Caged Heat: Part Deux
Sam recently found himself in that part of the world where you can walk past a car that costs more than a jet plane and then sit down to supper near the real-live movie star who owns it. Yes, he found himself in Beverly Hills. Here's Sam's story.

I just had dinner at Madeo's (Mateo's??), that nice, show-busy Italian restaurant under the old ICM building on Beverly, west of Robertson. As we pulled up to the valet parking, I noticed (too mild a verb, really) a 1960 Ferrari 250GT California Spyder parked at curbside. I almost broke my ankle jumping out of the still-moving car (don't worry, I was the passenger) to get a closer look at this rarely seen million-dollar-plus beast. Turns out our old car-pal Nic Cage was having dinner there. Can you believe that -- a movie actor driving around in a vintage twelve-cylinder Ferrari convertible? What is our nation coming to, I ask?

Once inside, and not too far from the luminary's table, I recounted the story you told in your blog to the restaurant's owner and my friend Jean-Louis. I think (no, I am sure) that you did a better job of it. (Note to self: stick to selling old Swedish vases.) Actually, I can be forgiven my inadequate rendition of the D-Type tale, as I was momentarily intoxicated by the recent whiff of the interior of the old Ferrari, made up of a perfect blend of Poltrona Frau cowhide and Castrol 20W-50.


  Caged Heat: The D Type
Several Saturday afternoons ago, a red light held me at bay just across Sunset Blvd. from the gates of Bel Air. Nestled between Beverly Hills and Westwood, Bel Air is home to an exclusive collection of mansions and movie stars. As I faced its imposing limestone entrance, a river of cars flowed past en route to the beach, the freeway, the movies, the mall.

I was looking forward to flowing past those gates myself. As anybody who lives in this city will tell you at the merest hint of provocation, L.A. traffic has become almost unbearable. In fact, talking about traffic has become almost unbearable, as conventional a conversational leveler as weather or sports. I was looking forward to flowing onto the freeway and back to my own ungated neighborhood and an air-conditioned couch; to drink, perchance to pass out.

As I waited, gaze drifting restlessly from car to tree to driver to light, a long-nosed, low-slung convertible glided out through the gates and came to rest in the right-turn lane just across Sunset. Suddenly, I was awake. In fact, I was riveted. That was no run-of-the-mill Maserati or Aston Martin. Its lines were familiar yet maddeningly unrecognizable, and the throaty engine roar floated easily across four lanes of traffic.

Let me, as they say on TV, set this up. Whenever I see a car I don't recognize, I speed up to get a better look. In this way have I gazed upon such elusive vehicles as the Facel-Vega, the Qvale Mangusta, and more recently, a very early Chrysler Crossfire. One bored afternoon years back I even tracked a new Hyundai Tiburon to a remote Laurel Canyon cul de sac. I'm no snob. This Angeleno take on trainspotting may be a juvenile pastime, but it's one of my few hobbies. (In New York I used to do the same with elderly bicycles, inspecting frames and front gears to separate the Rudges from the Humbers, the Raleighs from the Chinese knockoffs.) I've never kept a record of such sightings; it's just something I do once in a while to break up the day.

I've seen hundreds of Jaguar XKEs, but I still gape and turn green whenever I see one. That legendary machine has topped my dream car list since I was a lad, way back when it was still in production. I can't even explain why I like the car so much. I'm well aware of its miserable service record, having suffered through a few costly years with a lesser Jaguar of more recent vintage. A car enthusiast magazine once described the XKE as "the most thorough-going phallic symbol on the road." That Freudian tribute cooled my jets a little, but not for long. Who cares what those magazines say, anyway?

My friend Sam cares. He runs a small but well-respected shop several miles from Bel Air, where well-heeled patrons pay dearly for mid-century esoterica. Unlike the character in the old song, Sam knows a lot about a lot of things, because when he takes an interest in something, he learns everything he can. He and his brother inherited a shared passion for performance cars from their father, a Long Island podiatrist. (Who knew podiatrists drove Ferraris and Gullwings? There's gold in them thar bunions!) Over the course of his reckless life, Sam has crashed more Porsches than I've sat in. A few years ago he succumbed to his own XKE lust and then, a few months later, nearly succeeded in selling that same car to me. I screeched to my senses just in time when a mechanic noted that it would cost $3,000 every 18 months just to keep the carburetors working. To say nothing of the infamous Lucas electrical system. I accepted then that even on my dot-com salary I was not to own an XKE.

But let us return to Sunset Blvd., where the mystery car sat idling at the light. Unable to identify the make, I eyeballed the occupants. Behind the wheel sat what I judged to be just another rich guy out for a posturing weekend drive. On his head: sunglasses and a sporting cap; on his right: a latter-day Kim Novak two decades his junior. She was young and icy perfect, eyes behind shades and hair upswept in a scarf. There they sat, three perfectly matched cliches newly descended from the green, green Bel Air hills, and they, like the rest of us, were stuck in traffic.

But what the hell was that car? It looked a lot like an XKE, yet the front fenders flared preposterously, and below each diminutive door gleamed an enormous chrome muffler. As I pondered, the light changed and the enigma swept regally into traffic. Enormous mufflers notwithstanding, it was louder than bombs. And it was going my way, toward the 405. The light changed and I followed that car.

Within moments, I'd drawn close enough to peer at the insignias. Nothing! I called Sam for backup. He was at his store, watching dust sparkle and settle on the inventory.

"I have a car question for you," I blurted, swerving through the four-wheeled rank and file for a better look.

"Is it about your wagon? If you had listened to me and not bought that overpriced German --"

"No, no -- it's not about my car this time. I'm behind something I've never seen before." I described it.

"Wow. That's either a rare car or a very rare car," he declared. "It's an XKSS or a D-type. Performance cousins of the XKE. What do the insignias say?"

"If it had any insignias I wouldn't be calling you."

"OK, then tell me more. Better yet, see if you can get closer. If I hear the engine sound I'll recognize it."

"Stop showing off. Okay, there's a white coat of arms with an 'X' and --"

"A-ha! That's the shield of Ecurie Ecosse, a Scottish racing team that fielded the D-Type at Le Mans in 1957. Only ten of those cars were ever imported to the United States. Steve McQueen had one. I wonder if that's his. If I'm correct, the car you're looking at sells for about a million dollars . . . when it sells, which it rarely does."

By now we were on the freeway, the car and I, and Sam asked me again to open my window and hold the phone up so he could hear the engine. I complied. Yes, he determined, it was almost certainly a D-type. I was driving with a measure of paparazzo-like abandon, trying to keep my prey within view. Sam and I were giddy with the chase and yet a little embarrassed. He'd been bored in his shop and I in my car, and within moments, thanks to a whim of traffic and a shared interest, we'd found ourselves smack in the middle of a weird L.A. confection, equal parts Bel Air bucks, car fetishism, freeway stalking, and frenzied cell phone chatter.

It was about to get better.

"Ask him if that's Steve McQueen's car," Sam cried.

That seemed like a good idea, but nearly impossible to execute. Traffic on the 405 was grinding to a standstill, and in a matter of moments I'd fallen far behind. Just then, the car's lane slowed to a crawl and mine opened up. I slid forward until the cars were abreast, then drew my brakes to pace the D-type. Its racket was deafening. I tossed the phone onto the passenger seat and shouted my question.

"Is that Steve McQueen's car?!"

The blonde looked over first, slightly annoyed. I shouted it again, pointing at the car. Blank look. She tapped the driver on the arm and pointed at me. He looked over. It was Nicolas Cage.

I tried again, suddenly aware that I was pestering a celebrity. On the upside, I was pestering him about a better celebrity. "Is that Steve McQueen's D-type?" I shouted.

He shook his head and mouthed "I can't hear you." He didn't seem to want to hear me. I didn't blame him, but I didn't care. I repeated my question, really yelling and enunciating. He heard me.

When I tell this story in person, I drop my voice about three octaves and let my face hang slack as I repeat his reply.

"Noooo," he fog-horned. "Steve had one like this, but this wasn't his car."

"Thanks," I chirped. I waved, we all smiled, and I rolled off down the hill, leaving the movie star and the blonde stuck in traffic in a million-dollar car.

I called Sam back for the recap. He was satisfied, and so was I. Do I love L.A.? Let's just say I could love that car.

  What Is PaCarazzi?
PaCarazzi! is where you read about stars and cars!

PaCarazzi! is a response to the intermittently bizarre reality of driving in L.A., where you really can see a movie star in a car worth a million dollars stuck next you at the light. As Andrew noted recently in response to the D-Type story (see next post), "There's only one Sunset Blvd. -- and Cage and Spielberg and all the other glitterati get stuck in the same traffic as everyone else .... Public roadways [are] the Great Equalizer."

Sure, tourists go ga-ga for this stuff: A single star sighting can elevate a Hollywood vacation from "memorable" to a major life highlight. But even some of us who live here year 'round never quite get used to seeing rare cars piloted by rarer stars. Thus, PaCarazzi!, a site for car-lovers with a sense of the absurd.

This blog is a group effort that will only work if people contribute, so write up your best star car accounts and send them in. Note: The car doesn't have be rare and expensive if the story's good. We're 99% likely to post your story, unless you're a big dope or it isn't worth the pixels it's burning on. We like photos, so send those in too (even though you can probably get more for them from the Star).

Viva PaCarazzi!

What Is PaCarazzi!?

PaCarazzi! is where you read about stars and cars!
PaCarazzi! is trainspotting for the auto-besotted.
PaCarazzi! is bird-watching for asphalt-dwellers.
PaCarazzi! is the easiest place to get YOUR star car story published!

Viva PaCarazzi!

Confused? See the first post on this blog.

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