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Excuuuse Me! But could Biter just have a vacation without running into Steve Martin?


One Wild & Crazy Vacation

By Loren Stein

WHAT CAN BITER say about the week we vacationed with Steve Martin? Well, not really vacationed with him, more like stalked him. OK, not technically legally stalked him, more like kept showing up. Actually, it could be said that Steve Martin stalked us. Mercifully, Biter's not sure he ever noticed, regardless of who stalked whom, but we sure did.

Steve Martin is a big-name guy; he's all over the place. Multitalented, a man of the arts, a Renaissance man. He's a gifted comedian and comedy writer. He's an accomplished banjo player. He stars in movies (comedies and dramas); he writes books and plays and New Yorker pieces; he's on Saturday Night Live reruns. He's recently onstage at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre conversing with a mathematician (then Robin Williams shows up and steals the show). He's a sophisticated art collector. And come March 23, he'll be in his black tux hosting the 75th Academy Awards, for the second time, spinning out his droll wit and crack comic timing for a worldwide audience.

"I'm pleased to be hosting the Oscars again," said Steve Martin, "because fear and nausea always make me lose weight."

We like Steve Martin. We respect him for surviving and, moreover, thriving in the cutthroat cultures of Hollywood and Broadway, not to mention the publishing business. He seems like a classy guy--smart, sensitive and thoughtful.

So there was Biter, on vacation in St. Bart's, the tiny 8-square-mile Caribbean island in the French West Indies. People speak French there; women in sarongs go happily, lazily topless on the white-sand beaches; residents zip around the narrow, winding streets on little scooters with dogs holding on for dear life on the back. Boats rock back and forth anchored in the lovely harbor, framed by brilliant red sunsets. Grand villas with spectacular views dot the hillsides. The air is soft and warm; the water dazzlingly blue and so clear that Biter can see straight through to the sand and to the fish swimming below.

But despite all this solitude, we could never shake Steve Martin. We'd go to a restaurant and, lo and behold, he'd be there at the next table, dining with his girlfriend (we're pretty sure) and another couple. We'd go to a secluded beach, and Steve Martin would show up and, stripping down to yellow and black striped trunks, energetically body surf 10 feet from us. We'd walk to a parking lot along a dirt road and turn around, and Steve Martin would be one step behind us.

One day, Biter was reading Elmore Leonard's Be Cool on the beach in front of our bungalow, after having once again had dinner, the night before, at a table next to Steve Martin. The book, amazingly it seemed, suddenly referenced Steve Martin. Biter exclaimed, "My book has Steve Martin in it!" Biter looked up, and there was Steve Martin striding down the beach directly in front of us, not more than 15 feet away. Was this fate or what? What did this cosmic collision course mean?

Biter doesn't really know, but we do know that it's hard to overlook Steve Martin. He has a shock of thick white hair. His face looks lived in, but he's in excellent shape for a 57-year-old. He looked serious and contemplative almost all of the time, at least when we saw him. People seemed to leave him alone, although they must have recognized him. He's undeniably a world-famous person, a fixture in our collective consciousness.

What does that feel like? Biter wondered, while watching him slyly from the corner of our eye after the fifth time we ran into him. Does it feel powerful and thrilling to know absolutely that you are known (and, hopefully, loved) by so many people? Or does it feel profoundly alienating, make you feel perpetually self-conscious and watchful, moving through the world in a brightly lit bubble of notoriety?

Biter sure noticed him. We felt giddy and star-struck when we were around him. Look, there he is! Steve Martin! A bona fide star! Then just as quickly, we felt dopey and immature. Can't we be more grown-up about this? We hemmed and hawed over whether we should say something to him; we rehearsed our opening lines. How would he react? "Boy, isn't it weird how we keep bumping into you?" "We'd just like to say we really admire your work. We loved you when you were the wild and crazy guy with Dan Aykroyd." Or maybe, "How does it feel to know that wherever you go, nearly everyone knows who you are, that you are an indelible part of so many people's lives?"

Biter elected not to say anything to Steve Martin. Why intrude on his privacy? We thought, he's due a vacation from it all, too.

So on Biter's last night on the island, eating at our new favorite restaurant right on the water overlooking the dreamy harbor, we said, "This won't be a fitting last night if we don't see Steve Martin." And wouldn't you know it, as we leave we walk right past Steve Martin eating dinner at his table, happily--we hope--oblivious.

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From the January 30-February 5, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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