Friday, August 01, 2003
It seems that everyone in New York is sitting around and staring at each other. Since those of us who find ourselves held against our will in Los Angeles are terribly sensitive about feeling left out of any East Coast fun, I thought it prudent to import a diluted, West Coast version of the hipster-ironic Stare-Off competition to LA. Beer-pong, it seemed, never really got a foothold out here.
I invited my good friend Christopher Walken (and about thirty percent of the current Hollywood B-List to observe the throw-down) to a locked-gaze duel. Chris and I had first met at a "Get Unexpectedly Struck in the Hindquarters" Party that he threw at his mansion in the Hills, when he quite stealthily managed to smite me with an aluminum replica of a fraternity paddle that he'd had custom-made for the event. It made a "ping" sound similar to a baseball being hit in a Little League game by a Dominican kid lying about his age when he cranked me across my rump while I was whispering something filthy in Elizabeth Shue's ear. Once I'd stopped vomiting from the pain and surprise, we played some eight-ball (he's a shark, naturally) and became fast friends while getting shitcanned on mojitos and ketamine.
I returned to Walken's house as he graciously offered to host our contest. We sat cross-legged across from each other on the floor of his living room as the other guests circled us. Michael Bay had volunteered to direct an eye-popping, CGI-enhanced production where our contest would be projected on the walls around us and simultaneously on the Diamondvision at Dodger Stadium, but Chris and I are nothing if not old school. We eschewed the Hollywood foofaraw in favor of a bare-knuckles version that inexplicably required that I wear a Hello Kitty thong ("House rules," he explained -- but I wouldn't be cowed by bush-league mind games). Our ground rules: first one to break the gaze or smile loses. The room started to quiet down as we were ready to engage each other in a stare that couldn't be broken, but soon the chatter around us started to take on an uncomfortable Thunderdome quality. Walken slashed a finger across his throat and the hum was instantly silenced.
Somewhere, an egg timer jangled. Game on.
Looking into Walken's eyes on an ordinary day is not an exercise for the squeamish. His stare, intense and barely concealing the Rube Goldberg clockwork of his mind, has been known to cause incontinence in rookie directors. But in a staring contest, his eyes are a literal weapon. When first we joined our gaze I felt a sensation in my lower abdomen that I somewhat hysterically believed to be my testicles liquefying.
Some say his eyes are dead. They are wrong. You can't know this until you sit across from him joined in competition.
I did not look away.
After a minute or so of uninterrupted staring, Walken made the first move. He raised a hand to his mouth and simulated fellatio, his tongue poking at the inside of a taut cheek as an invisible cock readied to drop its salty payload in The King of New York star's throat.
No reaction from me. I wasn't going out like a punk on some feeble blowjob pantomime. I counterattacked with an admittedly weak move where I pretended to pull an invisible piece of string through my ears. I just needed to get my stare-legs under me.
Walken snapped his fingers. Verne Troyer waddled just to the side of our sight-line, wearing a tiny grass skirt and a Carmen Miranda fruit basket hat. I felt a twinge at the corner of my mouth, the birthing of a smile. But I swallowed it down as I wondered if the Mini-Me move was even legal.
My countermove was no move at all. I was going to take him on with the bored stare of a starlet bent over the desk of a producer who promises a shot at a SAG card.
We sat there for an eternity. He was content to fight back with the slumped eyes of a disappointed parent. Damn him for being so brilliant, I thought.
Then he made a move. Using only the muscles around those crazed, yet supremely expressive, eyes and some carefully considered body language, he managed to convey to me the thought of Kathy Bates in a carrot-eating contest.
I was floored, a glass-jawed victim of Mike Tyson in his prime. My eyes wildly panned across the faces in the rapt crowd, all of whom looked away as if I had just splatted on the sidewalk smoking area outside their office's high-rise.
Walken wins, someone shouted, Walken wins.
I stood up and started toward him with an outstretched hand, the gracious loser approaching the net.
"You never stood a fucking chance," his left eye said. "Show yourself the door, pussy," said the right.
We smiled and I headed for the door, still disoriented enough to forget that I was wearing skimpy underwear with a cute Japanese cat stretched across my package.
I spent the rest of the night bobbing slowly on the edge of my bed, clutching a handheld mirror, practicing the arched eyebrow of Jack Nicholson after eating out a woman thirty years his junior.
I'll be back, Walken.