January 23, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Sometimes It Only Takes a Moment…

By Steve Stajich

 

Actor Martin Landau has passed and I think his life and career say quite a bit about the term “working actor.” I’m recommending that actors and especially my own actor friends take time to read the obits and follow the often uneven path his career followed. Not always in demand and not always able to take the best or most artistic roles, Landau finally got an Oscar for his best supporting work in “Ed Wood” as, of all things, the struggling actor Bela Lugosi.

I want to share one moment where Mr. Landau overwhelmingly impressed me with his generosity and kindness. I have, over the years, recounted the story whenever people were talking about bad behavior or a lack of gratitude on the part of successful actors. The moment left me forever convinced that just because acting requires a certain amount of inner reflection and self-absorbed discipline doesn’t mean that one must inevitably live only in the realm of self.

Years ago I was asked to do something at an evening event during the Denver Film Festival because at the time I was performing regularly in Denver as a stand-up comic. Specifically, they wanted some presentational means of making a mention of all the sponsors contributing to the event and not just have somebody read it. That would likely be deadly. So I decided to sing the sponsor credits. That had every possibility of also being deadly; there were at least 25 sponsors.

But I connected with a great piano player and we arranged a sequence of very short song parodies that replaced the lyrics with funny business about the sponsors. Want a taste of this highly artistic concept? One of the sponsors was a French restaurant called La Coupole, pronounced (especially for purposes of my gig) “La Coo pole.” I sang about various entrees to the melody of Sam and Dave’s classic “I’m a Soul Man.” (The chorus: “La Coupole, man…”) It worked, nobody’s feelings were hurt, and that piano player was fantastic at shifting in and out of the melodies.

The guest of honor that evening was Martin Landau. I was a fan, especially of his work in Woody Allen’s chilly “Crimes and Misdemeanors” where Landau’s character literally gets away with murder. I was also of the generation that grew up watching Landau rip-off rubber masks after yet another successful deception on TV’s “Mission: Impossible” so… I really did need to meet him.

I had not been able to meet Mr. Landau before the event, charged through my portion of the evening, and later sought to shake his hand in the lobby after the show. In those days, pictures were taken mostly by photographers and there wasn’t the fever to get a selfie that would have pervaded the lobby scene had it taken place today.

But when I got to the lobby Landau was surrounded by a circular phalanx of well-wishers three or four humans deep and I was standing back, not wanting to contribute to the crush. I watched him as he engaged everyone seeking some contact, and was impressed by his gentle personality and openness. But alas, I was just too far away to make eye contact.

And then… Landau looked up, locked eyes with me and extended his arm through the crowd and even over the heads of a few folks much to their surprise. He looked me right in the eye and said, “You were terrific.” We shook hands and he slowly worked his way to the door of the theater.

It was not something he had to do; it was certainly not something that he had to say. His compliment so surprised me I just stood there for a moment, absorbing the reality that Martin Landau – “Mission: Impossible” team magician Rollin Hand – wanted to say something to me. He had flipped a short moment of encounter into something else entirely. Of course, I promised myself I would never forget it. There was no photo, not even a girlfriend to witness that exchange. But I have the memory, and I wanted to share it here despite the risk of a level of self-indulgence.

There it is again, that word “self.” We have been drowning in it since the election, even being encouraged to pay more attention to our national self-interest and put America first. We are drowning in “selfies” and our expanded and annotated existences on social media. Some are in up to their waist in a pool of self-improvement and finding inner self, which may bode well since these days it can feel as though a lot more of us will soon be self-employed. Martin Landau took a moment, while encircled by admirers, to reach far out of himself. I wanted to let you know that, years ago, this guy knocked me out by acknowledging what I then called “my work.” I deeply respected his work, but what lingers is that moment. I like to think that, for as many times as he peeled off a mask, that night I saw his real self. And that guy will be missed.

in Opinion
Related Posts

Santa Monica’s Future: Will Developers or Residents Rule? – Part 3 Our Boulevards

January 21, 2022

January 21, 2022

This is the 3rd of a 5 part article outlining serious issues that Santa Monica residents and the City Council...

Letter to the Editor: A Solution for Drivers and Mountain Lions Alike

January 21, 2022

January 21, 2022

The recent story, Local Mountain Lions Show First Reproductive Effects of Inbreeding, highlights a study that found mountain lions in...

Opinion: Housing Battle Heats up in Signature Season

January 21, 2022

January 21, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Even before a proposed homeowner-inspired measure aiming to restore full zoning powers to local governments hit...

Santa Monica’s Future: Will Developers or Residents Rule? – Part 2 Our Downtown

January 14, 2022

January 14, 2022

This is the 2nd of five weekly articles looking at the history and current condition of Santa Monica’s beachfront environment...

Column: Let’s talk About the Soil

January 12, 2022

January 12, 2022

Everyone knows that we are undergoing a climate change not seen on the earth before. We all understand what is...

A New Years Glimpse Into Santa Monica’s Future: Will Developers or Residents Rule?

January 7, 2022

January 7, 2022

It’s a New Year, a make-or-break year for Santa Monica!! How much do you care about your city and it’s...

Opinion: Attorney General Spurs on Big 2022 Housing Battle

January 7, 2022

January 7, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist There will be plenty of political battles next year, starting with likely reelection challenges to Gov....

Should California Have a Formal Right to Shelter?

January 3, 2022

January 3, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist On a de facto basis, Californians have had a right to shelter for many years. But...

SM.a.r.t Wishes for 2022

January 3, 2022

January 3, 2022

We wish for: All California residents to gain back the control of their Cities from Sacramento’s draconian power grab by...

SMa.r.t. 2021 Christmas Card

December 22, 2021

December 22, 2021

Dear Readers, SM.a.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow) wish you all a joyous Holiday Season and a Wonderful...

Seismic Water Resiliency

December 16, 2021

December 16, 2021

This is the 2nd part of two-part article  (see smmirror.com/2021/12/sma-r-t-column-its-not-your-fault/ for the first part) Last week we wrote about the...

SMa.r.t. Column: It’s Not Your Fault

December 13, 2021

December 13, 2021

This is a two-part article Two large tectonic plates are engaged in a titanic multi-million year battle to slip past...

One of LA’s Best Omakase Counters is Tucked Away in a Santa Monica Hotel Lobby

December 8, 2021

December 8, 2021

Sushi Chef Masa Shimakawa’s Soko restaurant offers an extraordinary culinary experience By Sam Catanzaro Tucked into the lobby of a...

Building Conversion in Today’s Market Environment

December 3, 2021

December 3, 2021

Adaptive reuse, repurposing, and up-cycling of industrial and commercial buildings (“Conversion”) for greater in-demand uses are rapidly becoming the direction...

Opinion: Shore Hotel and Unite Here Local 11

December 3, 2021

December 3, 2021

By David G. Brown  While reading one of the mass text messages recently sent by Unite Here Local 11 in...