Everybody has a car story. Mine is about a close encounter with a celebrity in a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce. I was five. He was 56.
I grew up east of Los Angeles in a glamourless bedroom community called Montebello, approximately 20 miles and 200 light years from the excitement of Beverly Hills. The pediatrician's offices were in the Hills of Beverly (actually its flats, to be exact). One particularly sultry July afternoon when my sisters and I had a mystery stomach bug, Mom drove us to see Dr. Tobias. It was before the introduction of air-conditioning and seatbelts in family cars. The windows of our Chevy Bel-Air (black with the white fin, natch) were rolled down. The air wasn't so Bel as my sisters and I had all been sick in the back seat.
When Mom braked for a traffic light on Little Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills, to her right was a chauffeur-driven Rolls -- a Silver Cloud, I would later learn -- gliding about a foot above our low-slung Chevy. The Silver Cloud's windows were rolled up. (Air-conditioning, Mom explained.) Glancing at the passenger in the back seat, his legs crossed behind the chauffeur, Mom sighed: "Look, girls, a symphony in gray." The passenger wore loafers of charcoal suede, socks of pearl gray, and his trousers were of some silvery fabric, maybe shantung silk, unlike anything I had ever seen. The symphony of gray extended to his gleaming hair, silvering at the temples.
Perhaps conscious that he was being stared at, the silver god in the silver chariot turned his attention towards us. The chaos in our back seat made him doubletake. First he recoiled, then turned away, nostrils flaring at the imagined stench. He had what looked like a hole in his chin. "Mommy, isn't that the guy in An Affair to Remember?" asked my sister, Lauren.