On March 21, 1990, the editor of American Way at the time met me for lunch. A hungry freelance writer (still am), I had a notebook full of story ideas (still do), one of them a suggestion for a service-oriented column combining the powerful forces of travel and celebrity. "Every two weeks we'll interview a celebrity about their hometown or city that they know and love " began my two-page query letter.
Proposing Jack Nicholson's Los Angeles as the template, we'd interview Jack at his favorite restaurant, where he'd reveal his deepest secrets. Not the typical Hollywood narrative of breakups, breakdowns, and breakthroughs, but secrets far more valuable to the inveterate traveler. Jack would give us his places: where he eats, drinks, dances, and dreams.
The editor loved the idea and assigned five test columns to gauge what caliber of celebrities would agree to interviews. Our wish list was formidable: Jack Nicholson's L.A., Oprah Winfrey's Chicago, Michael Caine's London, Gloria Estefan's Miami, Jackie Collins' Hollywood, and Paloma Picasso's Paris.
They all said yes - except for Jack.
Paloma Picasso met me at Tiffany's on New York's Fifth Avenue, where she told endless stories of the Paris where she grew up with her famous father, Pablo. Gloria Estefan wore all white to her all-white Miami recording studio and practically sang about the city. Michael Caine took a break from wine tasting in Bordeaux to toast his London. Jackie Collins chronicled Hollywood from her leopard-print living room in Beverly Hills. Oprah Winfrey had her calls put on hold as she talked up her adopted hometown, Chicago.
Eleven years later, we're still trying to get Jack to discuss L.A. But more than 250 others have told us about their now not-so-secret places. The list of names goes on and on, each person discussing wildly diverse destinations, but all sharing the singular passion that continues to hold the column together: Every soul has a home. Famous or not, we're all from somewhere, and we carry that somewhere wherever we go.
So, Jack, if you're reading, we still have a few pages reserved for you. In the meantime, here's a look back at some of our favorite Celebrated Weekends.
IN THE BEGINNING
Who: OPRAH WINFREY
When: March 1, 1991
Why: In the years it took her to rise from Mississippi-born anchor aspirant to media mogul, Winfrey fell in love with the Windy City.
"[I became a Chicagoan] probably the first week I was here. I fell in love with it by the first day. And by the week, I knew I belonged. I arrived Labor Day, 1983, to audition for A.M. Chicago. I didn't just fall in love - the city took my breath away."
When: February 1, 1992
Why: McCartney will forever be at home in the city where The Beatles were born.
"There's a basic bluntness that I like. Whenever I go [to Liverpool], I don't get any of that 'Morning, Mr. McCartney,' tipping-of-the-hat stuff. It's more a case of, 'All right, Paul, lad.' I remember that my father would always make us lift our caps to the ladies at the bus stop, saying, 'Good morning.' We'd say, 'Dad, do we have to do that? None of our friends do it.' And he'd just say, 'Yes,' and lift his own little hat."
Who: ROBERT REDFORD
Where: Sundance, Utah
When: June 15, 1992
Why: Sundance is more than just an acclaimed resort and a famous film festival. For its founder, Sundance is, first and foremost, a cherished place of nature.
"I came up from Heber City [a village 15 miles east-northeast of where Sundance is now] in the days when I used to hunt - many, many years ago. I was mountain-lion hunting and I came up over a ridge and - boom! - I saw that view [of Mount Timpanago]. It was like one of those instant things. And I said, 'This is where I wanna be someday.'"