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October 14, 2004

I Have Met My Match at Celebrity Impressions

by Ron Hogan

Actually, to hear the Significant Other tell it, most of my celebrity impressions stink, although she does admit that my Peter Bonerz is eerily accurate, and I think the reason she hates my Walken is that it's so good it reminds her of Walken, who she finds annoying. (My Yoda as the Alec Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross makes her laugh, but I don't know that it's a "celebrity" impression, exactly...) But on to the main event...last week I had the opportunity to see Peter Bogdanovich speak to a couple hundred fans at the Union Square Barnes & Noble about his latest book, Who the Hell's In It. The book is a collection of profiles and personal reflections on several Hollywood legends, and he told a couple tales from it, which provided a perfect opportunity to do his impressions of Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, and Alfred Hitchcock. That last one was the funniest to me--Bogdanovich visited the set of Torn Curtain and found Hitchcock in a foul mood. "Paul Newman sent me a memo," the director finally said. "An eight-page memo." Well, I guess it loses something on the page...

So Q&A time rolls around and nobody bothers with the question part; we just toss out celebrity names and put the poor guy to work. Jimmy Cagney! Frank Sinatra! John Wayne! (Which also led to a Howard Hawks impression, the accuracy of which I cannot judge, but will assume to be just fine.) The Dietrich impression I personally found a bit shaky, but, hell, it's more than I'd even try. After it was all over, and he'd signed about a gazillion books, I tagged along with his dinner party to a nearby restaurant, where he and I tag-teamed his publicist with stories about Richard Bennett and Orson Welles on the set of The Magnificent Ambersons (I'd just finished a biography of the Bennett family) and then I pretty much let him run with the ball because I really wanted to hear the stories about Welles as a houseguest, and they were just as funny as I thought they were going to be.

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