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Salt Lake City Weekly Star Gazing

By Mary Dickson

JANUARY 25, 1999:  I saw Gwyneth Paltrow kissing Ben Affleck. The Salt Lake Tribune's Brandon Griggs and I spotted them after a press conference at the Yarrow Hotel last year. He had her pinned against the wall, where they were sucking face for anyone to see--a shot worthy of People or the Enquirer. Too bad we had no cameras. But we did get an anecdote for the easily impressed.

Talk to anyone who goes to the Sundance Film Festival and within minutes it's the topic of conversation: What star they spotted.

"Hey, there's Daphne Zuniga!" I heard someone whisper at a party.

"Who's that?"

"She was on Melrose Place before they killed off her character."

I've never seen Melrose Place, so I wouldn't know Daphne Zuniga if she bit me on the cheek. But she's apparently a big deal to people who spend evenings at Melrose Place. To me, she looked just like the teller at my bank. Show's what I know.

"Hey, it's Paul Mitchell!"

"What's he in?"

"Nothing. He's the hair guy."

Oh, the shampoo king. Are we supposed to know what he looks like?

A friend who shuttled Frances McDormand around town started referring to her as "Fran" after two days on the job. That's Sundance: a stargazer's delight. People parade around parties, ignoring whoever they dragged along because they're busy scouting for a brush with celebrity, or at the very least, a sighting. The real stars probably aren't at those parties. They're at their own private celebrations. That's the point--a falling star, a rising star, a has-been star or a cresting star are who the general public are likely to meet. Two years ago Ben Affleck was just a blip on the Celeb-o-meter. Now people can add him to their Stars Seen list--"Hey, I saw Ben Affleck kissing Gwyneth Paltrow."

Whom might you spot this year in the streets and restaurants of Park City? Watch for Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler and Chris O'Donnell who are in Robert Altman's opening night premiere, Cookie's Fortune. Even better, watch for the big surprise--Altman himself, who is set to attend. Laura Dern, who wins this year's Piper-Heidsieck Tribute to Independent Vision, will be in town, as will Isabella Rossellini, who's presenting the award.

Dustin Hoffman, who's producing A Walk on the Moon, has made his reservations. Also watch for Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Peter Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rosie Perez, Julian Sands, Rosanna Arquette, Ally Sheedy, Diane Lane, Sara Polly, William Macy, Frank Whaley, Tory Spelling, Gina Gershon, Ethan Hawke, Val Kilmer, Alec Baldwin, Matthew Willard, Brian Brown, Scott Wolf and Anna Paquin, all scheduled to attend the festival.

Bebe Neuwirth, who just backed out of the new Kander and Ebb play on Broadway, may be coming. Also on the "maybe" list are Stephen Rea and Madeline Kahn. One of the Kennedy clan, Rory (daughter of Ethel and Bobby Kennedy), will be at the festival competing in the documentary competition with American Hollow, a film about breaking the stereotypes of life in Appalachia. Personally, I want to meet Annabel Chong. The woman scares me. She's the 26-year-old subject of Sex: The Annabel Chong Story for her attempt to break the record set by an Amsterdam hooker by having sex with 251 men over the course of a 10-hour day. She's coming--to Sundance, that is.

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