Saturday, January 12, 2013

Celebrity Encounters #2: Stallone, Nielsen, Zsa Zsa Gabor

Sylvester Stallone, Bridgette Nielsen, & Zsa Zsa Gabor
Sometimes you run into celebrities right where you would expect to: a concert, the Academy Awards, the Playboy Mansion, or the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Such was the case when I had a chance encounter with Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, and Zsa Zsa Gabor at a Polo match. 

It was the Spring of 1986. My family (Mom, Dad, and youngest sister Yolanda) had gone to visit my sister, Debbie, and her family in Hollywood, which was just a short jaunt from our home in Vegas.

Celebrity Encounters #1

The evening after our arrival, Debbie invited us to go watch a polo match with her at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. She had been taking equestrian riding lessons and had gotten quite good at it. In the process, she had gained an interest in polo and acquired season ticket passes. She only had three tickets, so we did what any other normal family would do; we held an Indian leg wrestling match. Not really, but that would have been fun to watch. Actually only Yolanda and I showed any interest in going, so off we went.

Me, Justin, and Ogbar the Boxer on my sister's boat - circa 1981
I suppose by Hollywood, CA standards, my sister and her family were considered middle-class, but from my perspective they were bazzilionaires. Debbie was an executive assistant at a law firm that counted Johnny Carson, NBC executives, and other celebrities as their clients. She and her husband, Bobby, also owned and operated a respectable and well established dry cleaning business in the area. In their garage they had a Mercedes and a BMW 635SCI (sweet ride). On the ocean they had a 36’ California class cruiser (which I had the pleasure of swabbing the deck on a few times).  

I’d say they were doing alright. Nothing that I was accustomed to. 

That night we took the Benz to the country club. We were riding in style, and blended right in with the regulars. What didn’t blend in was my attire. I wore my least worn best pair of 501 button-fly jeans (an 80’s fashion staple) and an off-brand polo shirt that my Mom had picked up from the thrift store that she worked at. For my footwear I chose a pair of K-Mart brand Top-Siders (boat shoes – remember those?) that were made of some weird fabric-plastic material instead of leather. My sisters, on the other hand, looked marvelous. Yolanda, like me, didn't have a lot, but as a veteran beauty pageant contestant and clothes model, she could make anything look good. And of course Debbie had no trouble fitting in.

My program and ticket from the big night.

As we made our way to our seats, I couldn't believe my eyes. I don’t know how Debbie did it, but somehow we had slightly better seats than Rocky Balboa and Red Sonja. Yeah, that’s right. Sitting directly behind us, and a few rows up, was Sylvester Stallone and his new wife (and soon to be ex-wife) Brigitte Nielsen. For a kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s watching (and idolizing) Rocky, Rambo, and the Conan the Barbarian series (Red Sonja included for illustration purposes only), this was a serious geek moment for me.

Mind. Blown.

Stallone was dressed sharply in black (shocking, I know) and Brigitte was wearing an elegant short dress. She looked stunning. Given her proximity, the shortness of her dress, and her elevation relative to my eye-level, I couldn't take my eyes off of her baby maker. What? I was an adolescent young man nearing his sexual prime. These were actions beyond my control; natural forces genetically designed into my fragile teenage boy DNA. Also, she looked hot.

For reasons I can only assume were designed to keep rabid fans (like me) away, no one ever claimed the seats between us. This was okay by me. I got a clear view of Brigitte Nielsen’s baby maker my childhood hero. Let’s face it. Other than maybe Arnold, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, and Molly Ringwald, there was no bigger action movie star at the time. I guess the tactic worked because I never did approach Stallone or Brigitte for their autograph, which I could have done easily by just stretching out my arm. As you soon will discover from this series (and later in this post), I’m normally not one to shy away from approaching celebrities. I guess I was just too mesmerized by being in such close proximity to Brigitte Nielsen’s baby maker the Italian Stallion that I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

At the first intermission break, Yolanda and I decided to take a stroll around the grounds and see what else of interest we could find while Debbie held our seats. We both loved horses, so we made our way to the stables. There seemed to be some special event going on at the stables when we arrived. Apparently, for that evening at least, we were considered “special” because we managed to get in somehow.

The stables at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (C) 
There were a number of people dapperly dressed standing around talking and sipping on wine and champagne. It made for an interesting blend of high-class and barnyard etiquette. Granted, they were nicely maintained stables, but stables nonetheless - complete with a mixture of trampled hay and horse nuggets lining the ground, and all the pleasant smells of a well used barn.

We politely acknowledged the post-Oscar-party-like atmosphere, but quickly gravitated towards the horses in the stables. I spent a good portion of my youth at the horse track (Hollywood Park, Santa Anita Park, Los Alamitos) with my parents back when we lived in LA. My parents were natural born gamblers. I suppose that is how we wound up in Vegas. I spent many weekends picking up discarded wagering tickets for fun and helped my parents chase down Lady Luck with wagers of my own. The terms Daily Double, Trifecta, Quinella, Parlay, and Exata were all part of my everyday vocabulary by the age of seven, so I was somewhat familiar with the thoroughbreds they were using for the polo matches - knowledge that would prove to be keenly useful in short order.

As we made our way through the stables, visiting with all of the horses we came across, I spotted something sparkly from the corner of my eye.

It was Zsa Zsa Gabor.

I knew immediately that it was Zsa Zsa and not her nearly identical younger sister Eva, because Green Acres was (and still is - I know all the words to the theme song by heart) one of my all-time favorite comedy TV shows. While both were gorgeous women in their day, Eva had a slightly thinner face, and dare I say, was slightly prettier than her older sister Zsa Zsa.

Eva Gabor and Zsa Zsa Gabor

Zsa Zsa was dressed in an elegant baby-blue evening gown, the kind you might find on the red carpet of the Academy Awards, and layered in fine jewels from head to toe, talking with a gentleman (whom I would later find out was a famous horse breeder – his name escapes me at the moment) in a black tuxedo. They were sipping champagne and, from what I could gather, discussing the finer points of horse breeding.

I pointed Zsa Zsa out to Yolanda. Her full attention had been admiring the beautiful horses and hadn’t noticed her. She didn’t believe me at first, but as I drug her closer she gave me a wide-eyed smile.

“Oh my God, it is her!”

Mom, Dad, and my 70's porn mustache - circa 1986 
We played it cool and casually walked closer until we were standing right next to her. Before we knew it, we were elbow deep in conversation about horses with Lady Zsa Zsa Gabor and her famous breeder friend. Sometime in our conversation a waiter came by with a tray of champagne. Yolanda happily obliged, but I wasn’t quite old enough, even though with my 70’s porno mustache I could have easily passed for someone in their 20’s, as my drinking high school friends could attest to.

Just a couple days earlier I was back home, sharing a one-bedroom apartment with my parents (and Yolanda – she was staying with us for a spell) in a rundown complex (now since torn down) located in a seedy part of downtown Vegas (back then ALL of downtown Vegas was seedy), and here I was hob-knobbing with Hollywood royalty. 

It was surreal.

I guess time had slipped away from us, because while we were chatting it up with Zsa Zsa, I could see Debbie walking down the corridor toward us, and she looked none-too-pleased. As she got closer to us, her facial expression morphed and contorted between anger, relief, and finally surprise. Taking the cue, we politely excused ourselves from the conversation and caught up with her.

“I’ve been running around looking all over for you guys, worried sick that something happened to you, and here I find you rubbing elbows with celebrities. The polo match is over you know!” Her displeasure with us was short-lived once she realized we were okay, and we revealed what a fun time we had.

I don’t remember too much from the polo match, obviously. Who cares, right?!? I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to swap horse stories with celebrity elite and to sit near Brigitte Nielsen’s baby maker one of my childhood heroes.

Celebrity Encounters #1: Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers

What celebrities have you met? Any interesting stories to share?

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination 
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WilyGuy said...

How very fortunate to have seen Stallone and Zsa Zsa (the woman, not the Panda) and what may have been the legs of Brigitte Neilsen. Did you really actually look up? In fact how do you even know it was Stallone? We know what you and the 70s porn stache were gawking at....


Ken said...

I've never met any celebrities that I can remember. But then,I don't really live in an area where they like to hang out.

Although, they are beginning to make more movies up here to save money. Maybe one day I might bump into one. And who knows, they way actresses seem to show off their baby makers these days, I might just see that too.

Youngman Brown said...

Awesome story. I wish that I was able to cross paths with beautiful celebrities.

Barb said...

Stallone! How awesome!!! And Zsa Zsa in the same day at the same event. You rock.

I once shared an elevator with Harry Caray, but was too giggly to actually say anything (I was 17), and that same year (1986) I literally ran into Mike Singletary and nearly bitched him out for not watching where he was going, even though I was the one who wasn't watching. Then I realized who it was. I actually thought I ran into a brick wall.

Anonymous said...

Mind. Blown.
I'm only 31, but I grew up watching every Rocky movie every single day and still know every word, I swear. I was Stallone obsessed, so this chance encounter of yours is MOST impressive (and I'm normally not impressed with celebrity.)

I wish I had something similar to share, but I've got nothing quite this impressive. However, I'm a huge sports nut and have met various athletes through a couple of internships. While most people wouldn't care, those were truly my "Stallone" moments ;)

Steph said...

This is hilarious. I'm amazed that you tore yourself away from B. Nelson's you know what to take that walk. Lucky that you did. Very funny story and you told it well. You had me laughing. I lived in LA for a long time so I've seen a lot of celebs but never made friends with any.

Unknown said...

What a great story. Can't wait to read more from this series

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