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In search of Brangelina in T.O.

Ashton, Kevin, Ben and Joan, okay — but the true star seeker hunts for Brad Pitt in Yorkville

By MICHELE MANDEL -- Toronto Sun

Desperately seeking Brad Pitt.

And Ashton Kutcher, Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gylenhall (hey, wait a second, is he even at the Toronto International Film Festival?).

No matter. Even the rumour of a star sighting would do yesterday for the hundreds of fans who converged on Yorkville with cameras and autograph pens in hand.

The wet sidewalks were thick with the craned necks of the curious hoping to see a real live movie star in the flesh.

It was almost enough to make you seriously lament the sorry state of our celebrity-obsessed culture, that is, if we weren’t just a little guilty ourselves.

You see, my name is Michele and I have a (until now) secret addiction to Access Hollywood, Extra and People magazine. It has been exactly five minutes since I last googled Brad Pitt.

There, we feel much better. And since we’re already down here, we might as well try to catch a glimpse of that hunky father of the year.

We’re not alone.

Antonella Celucci has driven down from Vaughan with her girlfriend, Lauretta Avedian, and their daughters to sit outside the Four Seasons Hotel in hopes of seeing Angelina Jolie’s beau. “You see?” she says proudly, at which point she pulls up her sweater and reveals that her belly is labelled “Brad Pitt.”

Okay, maybe that’s going a tad too far.

The photographer standing next to me expects to get $5,000 for the picture he’s just snapped of Lindsay Lohan — at least he thinks it’s the teenage party queen but she looks too puffy to us. But the real money is in a photo of Pitt and his lady love. “Now that would be worth $10,000 to $15,000,” he sighs.

A group of Japanese women studying English here would love to see it. “He’s hot,” explains Chle Takahashi, already demonstrating proficiency in Paris Hilton English.

But still no sign of our heartthrob. Even social activists/Hollywood icons have to eat, so we head down Cumberland Ave. to the red-carpeted hotspot Sassafraz. Affable manager Ofer Sher offers a tour of the swanky white-draped private dining room upstairs that is a favourite hideaway for A-listers during the film festival, including U2 last year. Michael Keaton has been in twice this week — in a hat and sunglasses — and Sher expects many more stars will be in during the festival.

Of all the celebs in town, who does he most want to drop by?

“Hopefully, Brad Pitt,” Sher says.

We’re off to check out whispers that the elusive Mr. Jolie may be staying at the Park Hyatt Hotel.

“That may be a rumour. I certainly can’t confirm that for sure,” hotel manager Paul Verciglio demurs. “The Park Hyatt is not in the business of flashing names of who’s sleeping in our beds.”

Now why do we get the feeling that’s a dig at the competition across the street? Back outside the Four Seasons, the crowds are now so large that barricades have gone up to keep the driveway clear. Joan Collins emerges from the hotel and waves to the fans. “For an older lady, she looks pretty good,” notes one.

“You’d look good, too, after $100,000 in plastic surgery,” quips a photographer.

Alana Appleby and Thea Justein, two 14-year-olds from Forest Hill, have just breathlessly arrived. “I want to see Rachel Bislon, Zach Braff and Brad Pitt,” Appleby explains.

They admit it will be tough to match last year, when they saw Orlando Bloom, Gwyneth Paltrow, Adam Brody, Dakota Fanning and the Olsen twins, but they do have a secret weapon: The tweens have a 2:45 p.m. reservation in the hotel restaurant.

Two other BFFs (best friends forever, silly) are not as lucky. Erin Levy, 15, and Katie Kirby, 14, are outside the hotel pressed against the barricades screaming at anyone who remotely looks like Lohan or Pitt. Who would guess Levy would get excited when filmmaker Michael Moore steps outside?

“Oh, I love you,” she yells. “You’re actually my hero. I came here just for you.”

Kirby is less impressed. “Who was that?”

Before she gets a complete rundown of the documentary maker’s credentials, the crowd is screaming again. Here comes a tanned, smiling Kevin Costner strolling our way. “Kevin,” Levy screeches before he’s whisked in the other direction. “You’re my hero. I came here just for you.”

Ben Mulroney and Ashton Kutcher are greeted with the same exuberance. “Let me just see Brad Pitt and my life is complete,” Levy exclaims.

Instead, we have to settle for the flexing muscles of Zanta, otherwise known as Dave Zanica, the eccentric 38-year-old bare-chested, Santa-hatted character around town.

Forget about Pitt, he tells us, popping a bicep for our inspection. “I’m the man,” declares Zanta, who has already managed to get his picture in the papers this week with Keaton and Penelope Cruz. “I want to make a mark on this world. Check out my website. I’m a legend.”

Just like Brad, only more accessible.



This story was posted on Sun, September 10, 2006