Star sightings and gas prices

Oct 16, 2012 By Walter Cook

A few people in this world have been selected -- for better or worse -- to serve as the representatives of our collective humanity.

They appear in movies, sitcoms, reality shows, and music videos. They remind us of the incredible talent and intelligence, overvalued mediocrity, and flat-out freakishness (yes, I'm talking to you, Snookie, and parents of Honey Boo Boo) that can be found within humanity.

Christopher Lloyd is one of these people -- one of the good ones, that is. He played the wild-haired, eccentric professor Doc Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy in the 1980s and 1990s, and in doing so became an iconic figure in my childhood.

So when I saw him earlier this month while eating lunch with my girlfriend, Melissa, at a Mexican restaurant in Montecito, Calif., I couldn't help but smile and feel fortunate.

Lloyd caught my attention after he mentioned something to his two dining companions about sitcom star and producer Larry David. Lloyd was facing me in the next booth and was settling his check. He appeared tall and surprisingly solidly built. What's left of his white hair is a little shaggy.

Being discreet, I sent Melissa a text message informing her who was sitting behind her. She let out a shriek that can only be described as a 1960s teenage girl's reaction upon seeing the Beatles in their heyday. Actually, I jest. Melissa, ever the lady, is very reserved and thinks nothing of seeing celebrities. She reminded me of this as she smiled and waited for Lloyd to come into view.

Neither am I the kind of person who gets star-struck (this is very apparent to me now that I live in Los Angeles and have seen numerous actors), but I do think it's a special thing to occupy the same space and time as one of the representatives of our collective humanity, especially if you appreciate that person's work.

As Lloyd got up to walk out of the restaurant, I heard someone behind me tell him something like, "I loved you in that one movie." I turned around, expecting to see some autograph-seeking fan, and noticed a sarcastic Billy Baldwin.

Unlike Lloyd, Baldwin hasn't done anything that has left a lasting-impression on my life (the closest thing is the horrible 1990s action flick "Fair Game" that briefly caught my attention simply because it featured a beautiful Cindy Crawford in her prime in her first starring role). Nonetheless, Baldwin's celebrity presence spiced up the only-in-Southern-California afternoon scene.

Melinda and I simply kept our silence and observed the interaction.

The strange thing about Lloyd, is the Montecito sighting marks the second time I've seen him. The first time was a little over a year ago, when I was at a coffee shop with my friend Mike in Malibu, Calif. Like Montecito, Malibu is a scenic place near the Pacific Coast that's a haven for the rich and famous.


Shortly after my Montecito celebrity sighting, I once again had an encounter with one of humanity's collective representatives.

The day was rough for me, financially speaking: I paid $100 for a five-quart synthetic oil change (a personal record) and $50 for 10.7 gallons of gas to fill my Honda Civic, also an unwanted record.

Due to what seems like price-gouging to this Californian of modest means, average gas prices rose 50 cents in less than a week in California. As a result, I was forced to pay nearly $5 per gallon to fill my empty tank.

Anyway, Melissa and I were in Santa Barbara, hoping to secure last-minute tickets to see MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow speak at the Arlington Theater. We showed up only to discover the venue was sold out.

We were then approached by a nice middle-aged guy who seemed to know everybody in the crowd. He was a banker at the local branch of a ubiquitous large bank. He had two spare Maddow tickets as the result of two of his clients being unable to attend the event. He said we could be his replacement guests if we were so inclined. His seats were just a few rows back from the stage.

As I looked at the two $50 tickets he placed in my hand, I realized the universe sometimes has a way of making things work out.

And I was thankful for it.


Editor's note: Former Ranger reporter and Fremont County native Walter Cook is a business writer in Los Angeles.

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