When people ask me where to meet stars in Hollywood, I will no longer send them to swank restaurants or glamorous hotel pools. Instead, I will send them to International Silks and Woolens – a non-descript fabric store in the middle of Los Angeles. That was the store where Kathy and her mom went to pick out fabrics for the Mag-let, “Maggie’s Official Drinking Blanket.” Kathy had planned to meet up with Lauren Conrad, who was sweet enough to drive down from the Hills to our D-List gathering at the fabric store. Little did we know that on a typical Tuesday at 2:15, IS&W would be the hotbed of celebrity-dom. You often hear stories about Hollywood stars and needles, but never needles … and thread.
For starters, you should know that our crew and the sales help were practically the only people in the place when Kathy and Maggie got there. So every time a new celebrity happened to drop by, it was like a sitcom, where the guest star ding-dongs at the front door and enters the set.
The first celebrity was none other than Brenda Vaccaro. For the youngsters (and by that, I mean anyone under age 45) Brenda is a gravel-voiced star who peaked in the early '70s with movies like Midnight Cowboy and then hit it big with a series of TV commercials for Playtex. Maggie was particularly thrilled at the sighting. Maggie’s a huge fan of all things Hollywood, and loves to recount her story of a near-miss meeting with Judy Garland back in the day. She and her husband, John, loved to accompany Kathy on set for all her projects, and adored meeting the talent. Brenda Vaccaro was no exception. But Brenda was on a mission to buy fabrics and didn’t have time for our cameras.
But Brenda was just a warm-up for none other than Academy-Award winning Helen Mirren, or rather, Dame Helen Mirren. Yes, star of The Queen, was buying fabric on a Tuesday for a wrap-around skirt. It was like bumping into Meryl Streep at the hardware store – only you happen to be with Lauren Conrad and surrounded by cameras. Helen was gracious and regal, meeting everyone, like the Hollywood royalty she is. Maggie was in heaven and Lauren too – once she figured out where she’d seen her. You could practically see the cartoon heart bubbles floating up from tour manager Tom, who tagged along for the trip. Helen looked beautiful, and it was clear from Tom’s face that he playing out his own May-December relationship in his head — just Tom, Helen, her Oscar, 4 Emmys, 4 Screen Actors Guild Awards, and his hands on her Golden Globes.
Of course, we filmed the meeting, since that’s what we do, and I politely approached her with our release forms that would allow us to show her on TV. She could not have been more lovely when she said no. So, somewhere Kim Kardashian breathed a sigh of relief that she was not going to have to compete with Dame Helen Mirren for ratings any time soon. Whew.
The next celebrity you won’t guess. OK guess. Give up? Billy Dee Williams. Yes, Lando Calrissian from the Star Wars series, star of Lady Sings the Blues and Mahogany, and the greatest TV movie ever, Brian’s Song, was buying fabric to makes his own silk scarves. Yes, he sews his own scarves. This sighting was the one where I had to remind the crew that they could not put down their cameras and ask for autographs, but they were giddy on the walkie-talkies — though somewhat baffled by the context. Scarves, huh. He actually did sign our release, but we didn’t have time to use him in the episode. Besides, it was getting a little surreal and hard to believe as a viewer. We were shooting the D-List, not Sewing with the Stars.
As I finish typing this, I know that the wild popularity of this blog will change International Silks and Woolens forever. Next time I go, it will be overrun with paparazzi and tourists seeking to meet their own handy celebrity. But that’s Hollywood.