by Bob Greene
Esquire, January 1983
Kristy McNichol, a cigarette dangling from her lips, fumed in the lobby of Los Angeles's Century Plaza hotel. America's pre-eminent cinematic symbol of youthful wholesomeness was clearly miffed.
"I look in my closet at home," she said. "The clothes are on the floor. I look for my Louis Vuitton bag. The Louis Vuitton bag is missing. I look for my two Sony Walkmans. The Sony Walkmans are gone. My videotape recorder -- gone. My alarm clock -- gone."
"Have you called the police?" I asked.
"No," Kristy said. "I called my accountant."
"You're going to have to call the police if you want to get insurance money," I said. "There has to be a police report."
"My accountant said I didn't have to call the police," Kristy said.
Her grandfather interjected: "If she calls the police it'll be in the papers." Her grandfather's name was Don Corey. A gentleman of sixty-four, he wore brown-and-white-striped pants, a yellow shirt that he had not tucked in, and running shoes.
Kristy took another drag from the cigarette. Her diamond earrings glistened in the artificial light. "I don't have to call the police," she said. "I'm just never going to talk to the person who did it again."
"You know who did it?" I asked.
"Maybe," Kristy said.
"Who?" I asked.
"Maybe an ex-boyfriend," Kristy said.
"Someone you went out with would do something like that to you?" I asked.
"You never know," Kristy said. She ground out the cigarette in a glass ashtray. She was clearly in no mood to chitchat.
Kristy decided that a remedy for last night's burglary of her condominium would be a shopping trip. A baby-blue limousine waited for her outside the hotel. She walked briskly to the car. Her grandfather and I followed.
The driver, a young blond-haired man named Jimmy, said, "Where to?"
"Century City Shopping Center," Kristy said.
Her grandfather started to tell a story.
"I was a winner on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts program," he said. "It was 1947."
He had to stop his story because we were at the shopping center. It was directly across the street from the hotel. We could have walked to it in less than a minute.
"Pull into the garage," Kristy said.
The chauffeur did.
In the Broadway department store, we rode the escalator. Kristy seemed to know where she was going. Her grandfather and I hurried to catch up.
In the electronic-entertainment department, she walked up to a salesman.
"Miss McNichol," he said. "How nice to see you."
"I'd like another VHS videotape machine just like the other one," she said.
"The big one?" the salesman said.
"The 250, like I had before," Kristy said. "Is it available?"
"For the next few days, we have a special on the 400," the salesman said.
Kristy's grandfather asked, "Does it have remote control?"
"That doesn't matter," Kristy said. "Bring me one."
The salesman went into the back room. When he came out he was carrying a videotape machine in a box. Kristy had not asked the price. She handed him her American Express Gold Card.
"Also I have to get one other thing," she said. "Do you know the Sony Walkman with the case on it?"
"I don't believe we have cases for the Walkman," the salesman said.
Kristy's grandfather said, "Not a Walkman case. A whole Walkman."
"It's nice that you keep us in business during these times of economic stress," the salesman said with a laugh.
Kristy lit another cigarette. "Jimmy," she called.
The chauffeur appeared.
"I want you to carry this videotape recorder to the car," Kristy said.
"Joey is the person who is closest to me," Kristy said. She referred to Joey Corsaro, a Beverly Hills hairdresser who was twenty-six. Kristy was nineteen.
"Joey knows that I can't be tied to one person, though," she said. "For instance, I just got back from a trip to Hawaii with [?] Hutton."
"What did Joey say?" I asked.
"He didn't say anything," Kristy said. "He knows it's my business. I'm free to go out with other people. To meet, and talk, and exchange ideas."
"A trip to Hawaii sounds like quite a place to exchange ideas," I said.
"Yeah," Kristy said. She smiled. "I know."
We were walking through the shopping center. Kristy entered a store called Leather Bound. She walked directly to a large suitcase.
Her grandfather said, "Where do you kill the cow for this?"
"These are almost all calf," the salesman said.
"I love leather," Kristy said. "Don't you have anything bigger than this?"
"That's the largest one we have," the salesman said. "It is three hundred ninety dollars."
"I wish you had a bigger one," Kristy said, and left the store.
She walked into a shoe store. She gazed around for a second or two.
"Nope," she said.
"What didn't you see?" I asked.
"I didn't see quality shoes," she said.
In a clothing store called Judy's, she led her grandfather to a display showing a skimpy garment made of leather, festooned with metal zippers.
"Can you see me in this, Grandpa?" she said.
"Good," her grandfather said.
"It's not good, it's disgusting," Kristy said.
"I was just thinking of your great-looking legs," her grandfather said.
She reached towards her grandfather's mouth. She took the cigarette he had been smoking. She put it in her own mouth and inhaled. She handed it back to her grandfather. She also handed him her purse. "Carry this for me," she said.
She wandered around the store. She saw a woman's tuxedo suit.
"Let me have this," she said to a saleswoman. She handed the woman her Gold Card.
"Aren't you even going to try it on?" I asked. "How do you know it fits?"
"It probably fits," Kristy said.
"But what if it doesn't?" I said.
"Usually I can tell," Kristy said.
Kristy was hungry. So the three of us went to Lindberg's, a health-food restaurant in the shopping center. There was a brief wait for a table. A young man who also was waiting, not quite able to believe that he was standing next to Kristy McNichol, got up the courage to talk to her. He asked her what her next movie project would be.
"It's about a handicapped girl," Kristy said.
The boy said, "Do you become handicapped during the movie?"
Kristy's grandfather said, "No, before the movie I break her legs."
The young man blushed. "The only reason I asked is that I work with handicapped people. I work with blind people."
"Is that right," Kristy said.
"Have you ever worked with handicapped people?" the young man asked.
Kristy looked to see if our table was ready. "I've thought about working in an orphanage," she said.
"Do you know places?" the young man said. "Because if you don't, I could suggest some places."
Kristy's grandfather said, "Give us your name, maybe we'll call you."
For lunch Kristy ordered a dish called The Health Nut. Kristy said that she would like to be with regular people more, but that she rarely got the chance.
"I was on a cruise with Joey once, and I wanted to get a little lunch, so I went down to the dining room without him, and some people recognized me," she said. "They asked me if I wanted to join them. They said, 'Sit with us.' That was nice."
"Did you do it?" I asked.
"No," Kristy said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"I was in a hurry," Kristy said.
I asked her why she thought so many people felt such warmth toward her when they saw her on the screen.
She ate. "I don't know," she said. "People say I invite people into my eyes. That's what I've been told. Maybe that's it."
I asked her how she met young men.
"It isn't hard," she said.
I asked her to give me an example.
"All right," she said, "I was at this club called the Lingerie. I saw this guy wearing black leather pants and an Elvis rockabilly shirt. I thought he was hot. I danced with him."
"Did he call you after that?" I asked.
"I called him," she said. "I don't give out my number."
"Was he surprised to hear from you?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said. "I just said, 'Hey, this is Kristy.' We got together."
"So what happened?" I said.
"I think he was trying to get me in the palm of his hand," Kristy said. "I think he thought maybe I would be weak. I'm not."
She said that she almost never read any of her fan mail. I asked her why not.
"I get a lot of feedback just walking around," she said. "I hear so much from people on the street, from my family. I don't need to go home and read letters saying how great I am."
"She doesn't have the time," her grandfather said.
"I just don't feel like reading them," she said.
"'I adore you,' 'I love you,' 'I want to marry you,'" her grandfather said.
"'I'll jump out of a window for you,'" Kristy said. "I don't need that."
We were in the parking lot that was constructed beneath the shopping center. Kristy had forgotten on which level the limousine was parked; we had not seen the driver since he had been dispatched to carry the videotape recorder.
All around us people moved toward their cars or toward the passageways into the shopping center. I suggested that we go down another level to look for the car.
Kristy just stopped walking. She stood in the garage and put her hands on her hips. She began to shout:
There was no answer. She shouted again:
Still no response. She shot a stare at her grandfather, who had been standing silently. He caught the look. In a second he was shouting, too:
"Jimmy! Jimmy! Jimmy!"
The next day Kristy had a lunch date with Joey Corsaro at Benihana of Tokyo, on La Cienega Boulevard. When I arrived they were already eating.
Joey wore a white sleeveless T-shirt. He was brown and lean and quite handsome. Between bites of food he reached over to rub Kristy's leg, or caress her arm. He said nothing.
I asked her if she ever had trouble with people envying her.
"Not women," she said. "Just the guys. I can see it in their eyes. It's males."
I asked her why she thought they felt that way.
"Probably because I've done more in nineteen years than they'll do in their lifetimes," she said.
She reached over to run her hand up Joey's forearm.
I asked her what she thought the greatest public misconception about her was.
"That I'm the all-American girl," she said. "Perfect and cute and good and level-headed."
I noticed that Joey was wearing a clear-jeweled earring in the lobe of his left ear. I asked him if it was a diamond.
"What, do you think Kristy would give me a piece of glass?" he said.