I have, in a series of columns, let my mind and keyboard wander across some of the destinations in which I’ve experienced some situational sweetness.
I froze in my tracks in the golden California morning sunshine to stare at the driver behind the wheel of a big SUV. She was, admittedly, nice to look at – a glamorous blonde in bright pink – but I was more interested in whether she saw me. Not to make a good impression…but to keep from becoming an impression…on the sidewalk! I was strolling near the intersection of Hollywood and Vine – in fact, along the embedded stars of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, while the woman was attempting to pull out of a driveway.
I have always laughed about being “invisible to women,” but wearing a purple blazer and waving through her windshield, I managed to catch her eye. It provoked a smile and a shrug from both of us. Then I went on my merry way, it would turn out, to the same place she was: a Hollywood Walk of Fame press conference on the rooftop of the Aster.
Stars in the Sun
With the 100-year-old Hollywood sign in the background, the fourth-story Aster rooftop event space is in the shadow of another iconic Hollywood landmark: the 13-story, cylindrical Capitol Records Tower, which looks like a giant stack of albums or vinyl 45s.
It was on that rooftop deck, an event space with a bar, umbrellas, tables and couches, I was formally introduced to Ellen Kost – known by her on-air moniker “Ellen K” to legions of Los Angeles radio listeners – instead of encountering her from under her SUV.
“I did not see you. Did I look as lost as I was?” she laughed. “I was one driveway away from here and talking to the location about where to park and using my GPS. I looked up and there you were in your purple blazer. You were probably pissed off?
“One move of your stiletto and I would have looked like a giant, squashed grape!” I joked. Then I assured Ellen K I was not upset. Conversely, I was happy to meet her.
“We bonded over that borderline catastrophic event,” she posed.
While I would have been flattened on the Walk of Fame, radio and voice-over-talent Ellen K was enshrined, in 2012, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I asked her how that feels.
“It feels like it is not real. My star is right across from the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. I have a couple of friends who will mess with me. They will go by and bring Windex and clean the star. Family members will drop by it and send me photos of it. It just feels…not real,” Ellen insisted.
Ellen K’s very real radio career has included co-hosting national with shows Rick Dees and Ryan Seacrest in addition to working with Wayne Brady. She is the Hollywood Insider; the voice of the Grammy Awards and friends with many of the stars on the Walk of Fame.
“I cannot believe how long I have been in radio. The lesson, I think, is, ‘put it out in the universe and say it. Raise your hand.’ So, I did,’” said Ellen, who has five siblings. “Radio has the excitement of being able to connect with people live. You can take a call from a listener who is crying about something and share the experience.”
As we connected before the press conference started, I asked Ellen, who attended Purdue University in Indiana, what her first, memorable, “I’ve arrived in Hollywood moment” was.
“My most Hollywood moment happened at a valet stand where I was waiting to get my car,” she recalled. “A car pulled up, unlike any car I had ever seen. It was some kind of weird color with tinted windows, so I could not see who was in it. The gentleman got out but, gesturing to me, told the valet, ‘Help her first.’”
Ellen explained it was her most “I’ve arrived in Hollywood moment” because she recognized the man who emerged from the custom car.
“It was Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt let me go ahead of him at the valet. He was in a hurry, but he let someone else go first before they took his car.”
I could not help but connect the dots: “So your Hollywood career began with Brad Pitt yielding to you with his car…and brought you now to you yielding to Michael Patrick Shiels with your SUV!”
“You really brought that full circle,” Ellen remarked while laughing.
Giving Birth to Dancing Stars
Ellen K also serves as chair of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Selection Panel, and, in that role emceed the press conference I attended to announce the new class of star honorees. She hovered near the podium under an umbrella in front of a tent full of camera crews from media outlets such as “Access Hollywood” and the Los Angeles local affiliate TV stations…and me.
While we waited, I chatted up an amiable, stately man who was conservatively dressed, by comparison, in a professional suit and tie, as Ellen K wore pink and I wore purple. Plus there was a digital reporter named Heather Wilson, wearing a leopard-print body suit, who goes by the Instagram name “MyChocolateChipChick.”
While the gentleman and I sought shade under the small tent, he asked me about my media outlets, and I explained that I was a travel writer and syndicated talk radio host. The gentleman seemed interested in the type of radio program I hosted, especially when I explained that my interviewees were often elected officials and business leaders. I decided to turn the conversation to local California politics.
“Do you think Governor Gavin Newsom will run for president?”
“Eventually, but not this time. I think he will run in 2028,” he answered – and then told me Vice-President Kamala Harris, who most presumably was also to be a contender, was a friend of his.
Love and Politics
Then I asked the gentleman if U.S. Representative Adam Schiff would win his bid for the open California U.S. Senate seat. “Well, he’s officiating my upcoming wedding before his election to the Senate,” he answered with a smile.
It turned out the gentleman was Steve Nissen, former head of government relations for NBC Universal. After retiring from a job that had him bouncing between Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, he is now settled in as the president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. And Nissen is also settling down with a marriage via the upcoming wedding he mentioned, which will take place at a friend’s home overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“With such a romantic setting, maybe you should stay right at their home for the honeymoon?” I posited.
“They were generous to suggest we have the wedding at their home, but I am not sure they’d go that far,” he laughed.
I love engagement stories, so Nissen was generous enough to share his, and even showed me proposal photos on his phone. It was another exquisite setting for the surprise at a catered, private lunch in the vineyards of Ojai, with the entire scene scored by a strolling violinist Nissen secretly hired.
“She may have been a little suspicious because, for once, it seemed important to me that we be on time. I am typically very easygoing,” he admitted.
It was then time for Nissen to take to the podium and introduce Ellen K, who would read the list of the new class of Hollywood Walk of Fame Star inductees.
It was a very exciting and timely list of celebrities who would be honored with star ceremonies over the following year. Recent Oscar-winner and former 007 Bond girl Michelle Yeoh and Wonder Woman Gal Gadot were action-packed choices, while television’s Eugene Levy and Kerry Washington were sure to be crowd-pleasers.
In music, Sammy Hagar and Dr. Dre were among those who made the list; in sports: tennis star Billie Jean King and Carl Weathers, who boxed as Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” movies and played a golf pro in Adam Sandler’s “Happy Gilmore.”
Ellen K is friends with many of the inductees – and then she announced the name of a friend of mine: Jim Nantz. Nantz is television’s most significant, respected, indefatigable sports broadcaster. He has, for years, been the play-by-play voice for golf’s Masters Tournament; the NFL and the Super Bowl; and the NCAA’s “Final Four” basketball tournament.
The versatile Nantz, with his professional demeanor and deep knowledge, has also been called on for duties as diverse as hosting the CBS Early Show and delivering the eulogy for Arnold Palmer.
Spilling the Beans
I immediately texted Jim a photo of Ellen K at the Walk of Fame podium making the announcements with the words, “Congratulations, Star!”
Jim Nantz responded: “What’s that?”
“I am at the press conference announcing the honorees,” I texted back. “You’re getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”
Almost immediately my phone vibrated with an incoming call from Jim. I answered by offering my congratulations.
“Michael Patrick, is this some kind of gag? Are you joking?”
“No, Jim, I thought sure you would have already known. They just announced the names here in Hollywood. You are getting a star.” (Ellen K later told me Nantz’s nomination was strongly supported by the selection committee.)
Nantz wanted to know some of the other names announced. I looked down at the press release.
“Chris Pine, Gwen Stefani, Mario Lopez,” I told him. “You know, the kind of names you think of when you think of ‘Jim Nantz.’”
“I thought you’d know before the announcement,” I continued. “I hope I didn’t spill the beans or jump the gun on telling you?”
Jim Nantz answered generously, as is his nature.
“I am honored to receive this news from you. You have got to be at the ceremony.”
The Hollywood Walk of Fame, free to all, is a legendary attraction at which stars, with celebrity names on them, are embedded in the sidewalks through the central Hollywood area. The Walk connects landmark businesses such as the iconic Chinese Theater (with its hand and footprints in cement); Dolby Theater (Where the Oscars are handed out at the Academy Awards Ceremony); and other theaters such as the Pantages and El Capitan.
Costumed characters pose for photos for tips between the hot dog carts, souvenir shops and hotels such as Loews, which is connected to Ovation, with its tiered, outdoor shops with a view of the Hollywood sign. Jimmy Kimmel tapes his nightly, late-night ABC talk show in front of a studio audience right on Hollywood Boulevard and is known to frequent Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, Musso & Frank Grill (since 1919), seen recently in the film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Read more of Michael Patrick’s work at The Travel Tattler and contact him at [email protected]
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