Yesterday was just a day like any other. Rendez-vous at the Plaza Athenée and the Bristol with Sean Penn and Paul Haggis, a premiere presentation on stage at a big theater on the Champs-Elysées, then a night cap at the Ritz with Sofia Coppola. Really just a typical day in the life of --- well certainly not me.
I don’t know about you, but my typical day doesn’t usually start with a private screening of Sean Penn’s latest film over two months before its release, followed by a meeting with Sean P. at the Plaza Athenée hotel then a quick meeting with Paul Haggis at the Bristol, an on-stage presentation of Monsieur Haggis in front of an audience of hundreds of oh-so-chic French media people at the UGC Normandie theater followed by a drink at the Ritz (featuring the world’s smallest cheeseburgers may I add) with Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars. (Okay, so admittedly I wasn’t actually WITH Sofia and Thomas, but the Hemingway Bar is so small that really it was like our own little private party, right?) (Don’t answer that, let me bask in my “I’m-not-actually-rich and famous-but-like-to-pretend-that-I-am” glory.)
So let’s start with Sean, shall we? Now, Sean Penn and I go way back to summer of 2003 when I was working part-time at the Soho Anthropologie store on West Broadway. Sean walked in with his daughter while I was manning the front of the store (yes, a scintillating, intellectually-stimulating task as you can imagine) and we exchanged words. “Hi” he said as he walked in, then “Bye. Have a good day,” he added on his way out. We were BFF from the getgo as you can see. So you can imagine Sean’s happiness when he saw me again in the last row at the press conference for “Into the Wild” then again on stage at the “In the Valley of Elah” premiere. I haven’t seen him so happy since he won the Oscar for “Mystic River.” He was simply glowing. After I presented Paul on stage at the premiere (then, may I add, translated what he said into French for the audience all while maintaining an impressive sangfroid despite the bright lights, tough crowd – well they liked the movie, but they’re French so that means SCARY – and the fact that I had to simultaneously translate a speech about the Iraq war into a language not my own before a crowd of hundreds of people.)
I sat down right in front of Sean (who, may I add, was AT the premiere thanks to MOI. Oui oui, I told the Warner Bros. publicist that he was in town so she called his publicist and invited him. He came, and will probably go on to make an Oscar-winning film with Paul Haggis all because of a young American girl who will get neither credit – nor financial compensation – for such brilliant intervention.) and said to him: “I loved the film this morning, thank you. It was truly amazing.” He smiled and said “thank you” then winked at me as if to say: “Thank you. You are so beautiful and intelligent and lovely and I am simply in awe of you.” (or that’s at least how I translate it from English to …ok, English.)
Earlier in the day, Monsieur Penn gave an Oscar-worthy performance as a typical French man at the press conference for “Into the Wild” following the morning’s screening. He sat at the desk on the stage smoking a cigarette and looking blasé and not very happy to be there. Très French, Sean, way to go! “We’ve become a country of fences… Alaska is as it claims to be, the last frontier,” he told us. “Everyone can relate some part of themselves to this film,” he told the crowd. (well not really crowd, I think there may have been 20 people there max.)
“This was a classic judge a book by its cover situation,” he explained. “When I got to the last page, I thought: ‘Did I just see a movie?’ So I read it again the same day.”
He added: “You write a movie three times – on the page, while making the picture, then again in the editing process.” (That Sean Penn is so profound right now.) The film’s star, the young (only 22, incredible) and talented Emile Hirsch was also in town for the event. While the questions were directed mostly towards Mr. Penn, Mr. Hirsch also got his two cents in. “I immediately focused on getting my body into shape for the role,” he explained. (And that he did ladies!) “Running stabilized me mentally and gave me endurance physically,” he said. Feel free to demonstrate said “endurance” on me any time, Mr. Hirsch. (KIDDING. Again, he’s the ripe old age of 22.)
After the press conference, I walked (yes, I know – crazy huh? My private jet was in the shop and my chauffeur not to be found, so I traveled by foot.) to the Hotel Bristol where I met the wonderful and talented Paul Haggis who was nothing less than a perfect gentleman – very professional and very nice. “I love French audiences. I love France. The film points the finger squarely at the US so it’ll naturally do better elsewhere. We all love to feel superior to another nation,” Haggis told me.
He also told me that the film is based on a story he read in PLAYBOY magazine. Speaking of PLAYBOY, the French version landed on newsstands all over the country yesterday featuring Juliette Binoche in the nude and the world’s ugliest photo of a certain Mademoiselle Rebecca Leffler on the contributor’s page (Ok so it is next to Bob Dylan’s photo and bio, but still … sacré bleu!) and my monthly film page on page 24. Check it out!
So back to my day ... Or actually, let’s forward to my night. After the presentation, I met a couple of friends at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz. Sofia Coppola and Thomas Mars had the same idea (so it IS true – great minds DO think alike!) and I sat and ate the tiniest cheeseburgers ever created while sipping cucumber-infused water and trying to avoid blindness from the light reflecting off of the enormous diamonds worn by the women around me.
And then I went back up my 81 steps to my 30 square-meter apartment and climbed up the ladder to my coffin/bed and went to sleep. I think I may have broken a rib or two on the steep fall back to reality. ;)
Quote of the Day: “Oh shit – I left my brain in the other restaurant!” –Fabien, after we accidentally left the brain (yes brain) I purchased at the Triperie during the filming of “Une Américaine à Paris” for the new show “Johnny Saucisson” last weekend.
Restaurant of the day/week/month/year/forever and ever: L’Altro
Now, this is against traditional culinary rules in Italy AND France, but let’s start with the chocolates served with the après-dinner coffee. They are simply divine. As many of you may know or if you don’t here it is: I DO NOT LIKE CHOCOLATE. Yes, it’s a handicap that has crippled me at dessert time since I was a child, but I have finally come to terms with my lack of affinity for the cocoa bean and embraced my difference. I have come out of the chocolate-hating closet and I am proud! Anyway, so back to the chocolates. For those of you who actually like REAL, dark cocoa-licious chocolate, stay clear. This is more hazlenutty/nutella-like then real chocolate but they are delicious. While we're on the subject of dessert...their panna cotta is light and delicious -- a sweet ending to what is without fail always one of my most delicious meals of the week (okay okay so sometimes I go 2-3 times in one week) and one of the most reasonably priced. About ¼ of the price of Armani Caffe around the corner, and equally if not better tasting, L’altro is one of my top choices to dine in my neighborhood. Not only are the staff welcoming and always greet me with a friendly “Buena Sera Rebecca!” but the food is wonderful. My staple is their “pennette ai bisi,” pennette with a cream of pea sauce and crispy ham. Other favorites include their smoked bufala mozzarella with grilled zucchini appetizer and their “pennette dell altro” (pennette with garlic, arugula, cherry tomatoes), pennette with lemon cream sauce and pennette with grilled eggplant, ricotta and tomato sauce (their version of “pasta alla norma” my favorite Sicilian memory!). Delicious parmesan cheese and crusty bread marry the decadent flavors of every bite here. The loft-like atmosphere makes for a cool, chic Paris-meets-NYC vibe. Buono appetito! (That is probably not how you say “bon appétit” in Italian but it sounds pretty, si? ;)