elebrity watching is the unofficial sport at the big
L.A. antiquarian book fair, recently held in Beverly Hills. People are too
cool to bring it up, but everyone rattled off a list of stars as soon as
The best-known book collector–actor is probably
John Larroquette. He won four Emmys playing a boorish prosecutor on the
1980s sitcom Night Court and now stars as a defense attorney in a series of
made-for-TV movies. He was at the fair, but I’m told that he’s
not really adding to his collection of modern first editions. Taking his
place among TV star–collectors may be Sarah Michelle Gellar, who
played Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. She once told an interviewer, “I
cannot go into the Heritage Book Shop without buying something. I joke that
it’s my church. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I can go in
there and look at these books and get completely lost in the old,
illustrative art.” At just 29 years old, you have to appreciate her
There were lots of screenwriters and producers at the
fair. One inconspicuous-looking fellow told a dealer that he was looking
forward to attending the Academy Awards. “I think we might win
something this year. We helped finance Brokeback Mountain,” he said.
I tried to figure out who he was later on, but the film had ten
producers—a testament to Hollywood’s wariness about investing
in a film about gay cowboys. In the end, he lost out to Crash. Bookseller
Larry McMurtry (see “Quotes & Comments,” FB&C 20) and
co-writer Diana Ossana did, however, take home an Oscar for their Brokebackscreenplay.
Ricky Jay is probably the most accomplished
actor-collector. He’s a magician who has played memorable roles in
several David Mamet films. Last year, a San Francisco museum exhibited his
freak-show–broadside collection. The accompanying book Extraordinary
Exhibitions is a perfect example of how someone with insight and imagination
can take seemingly random bits of paper and turn them into a compelling collection.
Another character actor, Michael Lerner, attended the
fair. I always think of him as the show-stealing movie executive in Barton
Fink. There’s a great scene where he introduces himself to a new
screenwriter. “The writer is king here…We’re only
interested in one thing…Can you make us laugh? Can you make us cry?
Can you make us want to break out in joyous song?” I think only a
book lover could have delivered those lines with such conviction.