In real life, of course, a fellow like Forrest Gump might not have become a war hero or gotten to shake President Kennedy's hand or founded a successful seafood company or inspired a movie that went on to win six Academy Awards.
He might instead have found himself standing outside Mortons, the West Hollywood restaurant, waiting for celebrities to climb out of limousines and then screaming and waving when they did. On Monday night everybody who wasn't anybody seemed to be doing it.
This second annual post-Oscars party, co-sponsored by Vanity Fair magazine editor Graydon Carter and "Forrest Gump" producer Steve Tisch, was "Hollywood's hot ticket," as the gossip columnists like to say. Hot, indeed: If you thought the Oscar-less actors looked disappointed on TV, you should have seen the faces of those not on the guest list at Mortons.
"I've heard more 'I'm so-and-so from so-and-so' than ever before in my life," said Joe Gooden, a tuxedo-clad security guard who had the thankless job of turning away over 100 uninvited limousines and their passengers from the checkpoint at Robertson Boulevard and Rangely Avenue.
One block to the north, blue, pink and orange lights swathed the restaurant's white stucco facade while a pair of 20-foot Oscar topiaries guarded the driveway. The crowd of about 200 bystanders, meanwhile, was kept behind police barricades on the far side of Robertson. One couple was so desperate for a better view, they climbed a nearby ficus tree, whose branches complained audibly about the imposition.
The onlookers watched the stars--Kathy Bates, Annette Bening, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Hamilton, Anthony Hopkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many others--emerge from limos, briefly pause to wave and then saunter past banks of television cameras and paparazzi. "Hey, Courtney, over here!" yelled tabloid photographers as rock star Courtney Love preened for the cameras.
It wouldn't have done Robert Mayer any good to have shouted, but he was happy just snapping some pictures from a distance. The Romanian immigrant stood on a stepladder behind the barricade and aimed his telephoto lens at every movie star in sight.
"I'm going to send some of these pictures back to old friends in Romania to show how close I am--they won't believe it!," beamed Mayer, who lives about a block away in West Hollywood and brought along his sister and 10-year-old son.
Yet the prevailing mood was far more yearning than festive. One middle-aged man dressed in formal attire was overheard talking angrily on a cellular phone. Suddenly, he strode over and thrust the phone at a reporter, whom he apparently mistook for a security guard. "Talk to them!" he demanded. "It's the people inside the club!"
Others just shrugged and accepted the oft-quoted folk wisdom from "Forrest Gump:" Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.
Three young women in evening gowns, unlikely wallflowers at any other event, lingered near the barricades and told listeners that one of them was supposed to be the date of a studio executive inside the restaurant. They had explained their predicament at the door but were turned away.
"They were so rude," one of the women said, flicking her cigarette. "I've never been so embarrassed in my life."