I spied on Pauline Kael. All through my brief tenure as a film writer, I spied on her. Each time she went to Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Blvd, it offered a chance to see her. Or, to use a metaphor suggested by an American film critic, it offered a promise of great sex. Like a great night at the movies.
Back in mid-70s I was working on my first film, and the only times I wasn't at home writing, I was in Musso & Frank Grill drinking black tea. Black tea was the cheapest item on the menu, and the only thing I could afford at the time. The waiters made no secret of being annoyed, but they let me be. Pauline Kael? She was having whatever she looked at first.
I don't know. I enjoyed sitting there for an hour or two, observing her from a distance. The way she talked to her companion (she always had one), the way she looked through the waiters, the way she chewed her food, the way she drank red wine she could never say no to. The way she sometimes almost looked at me...
All these years later, Musso & Frank Grill is still there. And all these years later, I still come to that place for a good conversation and a glass of red wine. Anything, really, anything that catches my eye.
And, occasionally, a cup of black tea whose price has gone way up since then. I guess it's for people not to waste their time. Not to annoy the busy waiters. Well, and also maybe to give more attention to the great line from Owen Gleiberman's classic autobiography: cinema is there to "hide from the world and spy on it at the same time".