By COREY LEVITAN
One day, you’re watching a celebrity on your living-room TV. A week later, he’s watching that same TV with you, as your dog humps his leg.
My wife spotted George Maloof, multimillionaire tabloid fixture, at a media party in his Las Vegas casino, the Palms—recognizing him from a commercial in which he co-starred with a pig. She broke away from the chat I was conducting with other journalists and introduced herself to him as my wife.
I interviewed him a few times, and he told me he enjoyed a column I wrote in the local Las Vegas newspaper. But I didn’t know George Maloof. I had what I imagined to be the same telephone/email relationship with the man that hundreds of journalists enjoyed.
My wife thought that was sufficient to invite him to dinner at our house. She related the story after returning to me and my friends.
WTF? Did she ask if Britney Spears could come, too? The fact that Maloof accepted the invite was irrelevant. “Of course he’s going to accept!” I berated this poor woman during the car ride home. “You cornered him and asked an inappropriate question! You don’t do that!”
Two days later, I received an email from George Maloof. “What’s a good night for dinner?” Was this some game of politeness chicken? The only next move I could think of—checking with my wife regarding her schedule—led to variations on “You need to learn to respect my judgment more” every day for the next week.
On the agreed-upon night, I waited until the last possible second to purchase the ingredients for our celebrity dinner, because there was no way George Maloof wasn’t calling to cancel, apologize, and leave us with an abundance of expensively fresh organic ingredients we would never purchase for ourselves.
“On my way,” came the text on my drive home from Whole Foods. If this was only a show, I thought, this guy sure is going to great lengths to make it appear real. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
A half hour later, a limo pulled into our driveway and I wondered whether George Maloof had a stunt double, like Sadaam Hussein used to, for dispatching to trivial functions at which he might be assassinated.
Our dinner guest, cradling a bottle of wine with one hand, hugged each of us on his way inside. I returned to the kitchen to finish cooking and my wife made small-talk while seated at the dining-room table I purchased on Craigslist for $100 less than his wine was worth. (We looked it up online the minute he left. Oh, come on. Like you wouldn’t?)
George gave a thumbs-up to my stir-fried tofu and Chinese veggies, then said, “I need to start eating healthier.” My wife kicked my shin under the table, suggesting that she was right and I should have cooked something tastier.
We didn’t ask for a photo together, of course. The kind of people who regularly dine with celebrities that we were pretending to be would never do that. But I couldn’t resist at least one mention of the elephant in the room.
“So why did you decide to slum it with us tonight?” I asked.
The kick in my shin was much harder this time. But George had an answer I didn’t expect.
“When you live a life like mine, everyone wants something from you and you’re always trying to please people,” he says. “You don’t get to hang out like a real person anymore.”
I suddenly remembered Monique McMahon. The only fashion model in our ninth-grade class, she stunned hallways of pimply males with her un-obtainability. But she never had a boyfriend, or even a date I can recall. Years later, she told me that no guys at our school had the balls to ask.
My wife asked George about settling down. Women always ask about that. He replied that he’s searching for the right woman, but that finding her is more challenging than he thought.
My reply—that at least there’s no type of unsuccessful searching that’s more fun—resulted in the biggest shin kick of the night and, perhaps, my life.
After dessert, we moved to our living room, where our Dachshund mated with George’s leg and our guest excused himself to answer a text. “I have to take this,” he said. “It’s Britney.” (Ms. Spears was performing at the Palms that night.)
So I guess he did bring Britney to our house after all.
Two days later, a Fed Ex driver handed me an envelope from the Palms. It was a thank-you card that ended: “Now it’s my turn to treat!”
Holy crap, was there no limit to this guy’s kindness? Still, I assumed the offer was rhetorical. There was no dinner-return obligation for someone who caused the coolest thing to ever happen to our neighborhood just by entering it.
Then came the second what’s-a-good-night email.
When my wife and I, wearing our casual Kohl’s attire, told the Maitre D‘ at Alize—the five-star French restaurant on the 56th floor of the Palms—that we were waiting for the third member of our party, we received friendly treatment.
When our third party arrived, that treatment was upgraded to insane. A torrent of staff members, each assigned a different highly specific task related to food or wine, flowed steadily from the kitchen, and one guy stood beside us the whole time, refilling our water glasses after each and every sip.
While cutting up a $60 filet mignon, George told us he sometimes dines here by himself, after long workdays, because he never knows when he’s leaving the office until a minute before.
This made me realize how similar being famous is to not being famous. Sure, there’s the torrent of people lining up to treat you different, but you’re not. There’s still the same occasional disconnect from your life, the same wondering if things were different.
In fact, there’s probably more of that, because it must be difficult making real friends with people you can never be sure don’t only like you because you’re famous.
The beauty is that you can find out for yourself. Ask the next celebrity you meet to dinner and see what he or she thinks. It just might just be a rare enough proposal to work.
By the way, does anyone know where Scarlett Johansson is filming right now?