In the year after Katrina, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their giant brood of multi-racial children lived in New Orleans’s French Quarter. This seemed a very strange move, as the rest of New Orleans outside the Quarter was a disgusting mess, to put it so very mildly. Even directly gazing upon it would give you PTSD. But the ultra-famous couple moved here to help, financially, with housing issues (for better or worse). As a side bonus, craven paparazzi inadvertently helped keep the spotlight on suffering New Orleans, by constantly hounding these two gorgeous actors.
Many locals derided Pitt’s post-K housing project, Make It Right, from the start, for populating the decimated Lower 9th Ward (where one of two levees broke) with modern shotgun homes filtered through a Los Angeles design lens. And the project eventually did turn to official shit. Yet I still give Pitt the benefit of the doubt. He obviously saw an important cause and (sloppily) threw himself and his money at it, while trying to simultaneously live the world’s most complex celebrity life, and also make some OK art. He really had nothing to gain from Make It Right.
Thinking this way, I turned down a $750 tabloid gig, reporting on where Pitt and Angelina Jolie were hanging out in New Orleans — plus extra money if I snapped a photo of them (in pre-smartphones times), and even more dough if my pic included their kids. I did really need the money; there was little money around the city right after Katrina if you weren’t a contractor or construction worker or landlord, Still, I turned the parasitic gig down, and I remain morally opposed to taking photos of people who don’t want their photo taken — with exceptions made for politicians and others in real power.
And wouldn’t you know: Not two jobless days after I turned down that shit job, as I sat just inside the front door of Envie coffeeshop on Decatur St., tapping my petty, unprofitable feelings into my laptop , I felt a tall, beautiful woman pass me on my right. I remember Angelina Jolie wearing a tight black dress, with just her perfect head, arms, and concerningly skinny ankles uncovered. She led a single child to the table directly across from mine, where they both sat facing me. It was hard not to stare.
Brad Pitt followed her in, towing the rest of their other five beautiful children. He sat across the table beside his wife, so that most of the family faced me like The Last Supper, just 8-feet away — straight-up posing for a photograph. Together, the family looked like an old Benneton ad. A real paparazzo would have lost his shit.
Instead of photographing them, I felt the desire to just say thank you. When Angelina looked up at me and made a good five-second eye contact through her lightly-tinted aviator sunglasses (surely she smelled The Media on me) I felt an equally strong, embarrassing urge to tell them how I turned down that $750. YOU’RE WELCOME!
Instead I said…
I continued my generosity, by leaving them be. I thanked them with my silence.
Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.