gor[b] Paul Gorbould: Words and Pictures


Man of Steele

Right, I've managed to get away with half a dozen easy one-off posts, so it's time for a rambling anecdote. To wit: the long-awaited (and possibly final) entry in my Brushes with Fame series.

After my installment on a close encounter with Prince Charles, I posted a poll asking which celebrity encounter to write about next. In a battle of aging dreamboats, Pierce Brosnan lost out to Russell Crowe, 11 votes to 12. So now it's time for my rendezvous with Pierce Brosnan.

No, not the James Bond Brosnan. Not even the Thomas Crown Brosnan or Grey Owl Brosnan. That'd be cool, but not as kitschy and retro as my encounter. I got to meet Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele!

Pierce Brosnan poses with my family in 1985

(Yes, that's me, the pimply runt on the left, age 15. If you are sniggering, post your teenage photos.)

Back around 1985, my family took a trip to California for the first of many house exchanges.

We stayed for a month in a house in Concorde, near San Francisco. I was 15, and thought it was the trip of a lifetime simply because I could swim in the pool and watch Live Aid on MTV. But we also took a few days in Los Angeles, and that's where this story begins.

Back in the day there was a nifty service called Hollywood on Location, which published a daily listing of what TV shows and movies were being filmed on location in the L.A. area. For about ten bucks, you'd get a list of what was being shot, where and when, who the stars were, and a map – then it's up to you to drive around and find the sets, and see what you can see.

Here's how the New York Times described the service in 1988:

The problem: How to discover where and when on a particular day your favorite actors and actresses are apt to be performing. The solution: Hollywood on Location, a company with offices on Wilshire Boulevard and an inside line to the movie and television studios.

Each weekday, starting at 9:30 A.M., Hollywood on Location dispenses a $29 package of materials intended to point the way to the stars. The centerpiece is a single sheet of paper that lists the names of the productions being shot on location that day, their stars, the actual locations, the time frame in which filming is scheduled and the kinds of scenes planned. A map of the Los Angeles area is provided, along with detailed blowups of the areas in which filming is planned. Numbers on the blowups correspond to those on the information sheet. A seven-page introduction offers sensible advice on how to use the maps, how to organize the star search, what to expect at the locations - and what not to expect.

The company does not, for example, guaranteee that the stars of a film or TV show will be in attendance on any given day. The odds are pretty good - as the introduction points out, ''It's impossible to make a film without the stars'' - but you may have to spend hours waiting. Nor can you expect to watch the shooting of interior scenes on location, though they are included in the Hollywood on Location listings.

(There's a website for a company called Hollywood on Location, but it's pretty crappy and I don't think it's the same company.)

So, we bought our temporary map of the stars and started exploring (fortunately, both my parents were geography teachers.)

Remington Steele CadillacOur first stop was a warehouse district where Remington Steele was being filmed. There was some initial excitement when we saw the famous R Steele Cadillac parked among the trailers, but otherwise there was nothing to see. We milled around for a while and talked to the crew, and found out that the filming was going on deep inside the building, and we weren't allowed in. We made a show of looking crestfallen, and were promised a heads up when any of the cast were coming out.

Pierce Brosnan as Remington SteeleA few minutes later, out walks Pierce Brosnan, unaccompanied.

Since we were the only members of the public within five miles, he came straight over and talked to us for a few minutes. No idea what he said – there's a certain deafness that comes with being "star-struck", I guess. (Maybe Alison remembers, but I doubt it. She was uncharacteristically giddy.)

Pierce Brosnan autographAnyway, he humoured us for a while with small talk, signed an autograph (made out to my father, the least-interested of the four of us) and posed for the above photo. And then he scooted away.

You'd sort of expect a ring of bouncers to keep away those meddling kids - and I bet there would be today - but that wasn't the case. Our next stop was in a location where we could have used some: a taping of Hill Street Blues.

The scene being shot was an arrest in a seedy part of town. To achieve that look, the crew shot… in a seedy part of town. We, the chipper Canadian family of four, parked our rental car nearby and walked over to gawk at the actors. But after a few minutes we noticed that we were being sized up by numerous shady characters. Given the fact that there were no real policemen in sight, we took a snapshot of Charles Haid and hightailed it out of there.

After that, we drove to a rural location outside L.A. to see The A-Team being filmed. No Mr. T to be found, sadly, but we did se his stunt double leap off the hood of a Jeep. And I got to play with the rubber machine gun props, before being told to buzz off.

And the final stop of the day: a house being used to film Pretty in Pink!

(C'mon, this was 1985, and anything John Hughes was monstrously exciting.) Again, we struck out with celebrity spotting, but my parents did manage to chat up the properties manager, who happened to be Canadian. He took a shining to Alison and I, and offered to let us sit in Molly Ringwald's pink Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Score!

Pierce Brosnan crossing the street, 1985So, there it is. Another fawning ode to the cult of celebrity… sorry. I'm a little disappointed to see there's no mention of me on his website – perhaps he hasn't got around to blogging it yet. It could use a Brushes with Obscurity section.


Next celebrity encounter I should write about?

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