Michael Douglas's Second Chance
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Credit: Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images

What does the Fox reporter want? To ask about nuclear proliferation? Unlikely. To ask about Douglas's son? Perhaps.

Douglas doesn't wait to find out. He avoids eye contact and jumps into a closing elevator. The door opens 30 seconds later into the plush, overheated apartment of John Catsimatidis, a puffy grocery store magnate and almost–New York mayoral candidate. He seems an unlikely host to a room full of anti–nuclear weapon lefties. There's a Renoir on the wall, Yoko Ono by the fireplace, and a hyper hostess in Douglas's private space. It's Catsimatidis's wife, Margo.

"Michael," she whispers, "could you just talk to Fox for a second?"

Douglas declines and moves away. Margo pursues, a cheetah marking a wounded antelope. The Catsimatidises are a socially agile couple – their 20-year-old daughter is engaged to Richard Nixon's grandson – and feeding the media beast is in their best interests. Douglas tries to shake Margo by taking a hairpin turn around a startled broker type – who whispers, "It's Michael fucking Douglas" – but Margo remains in pursuit. Her husband addresses the crowd.

"I would like to welcome Michael Douglas to our home, otherwise known as Gordon Gekko."

Everyone laughs. Douglas smiles, but you can tell he hates it. Sure, there are a lot worse fates in the world, but Douglas has heard "Gekko" shouted at him every day for a quarter of a century. It gets old. An elderly survivor of Nagasaki begins to speak. Douglas tries to concentrate on her story, but Margo keeps whispering in his ear.

Eventually it's his turn to talk. He gives a shout-out to his friend Jonathan Schell, a longtime writer on nuclear proliferation who is in the crowd. "The issue of taking care of this by 2020 is so important; we're racing against time," says Douglas. "You can't keep this genie in the bottle forever."

He speaks for the length of a Beatles single. Yoko is next. She speaks for the length of an Ono album. Yoko goes into a dream sequence of a monologue that detours into a fuzzy anecdote about a British minister making his son publicly eat meat during the mad cow scare. By now, the jewelry-rattling crowd is swooning from the heat. Yoko finally finishes, and Douglas makes a dash for the elevator, leaving Margo and the Fox guy's predatory grin on the other side of the door.

The whole scene is an apt metaphor for Douglas's life – keep moving, a shark maneuvering through a heavily traveled channel. But he's older now and even the shark gets tired. Back in the air-conditioned cocoon of the SUV, Douglas exhales. "I wonder if someone gave Yoko the wrong information about what she was going to be speaking about." He straightens his tie. "But she looks unbelievable! She's got to be 75, 80!"

I ask about Margo and the Fox guy. Douglas lets out a mournful laugh, contemplating Rupert Murdoch's far-reaching empire. "The Post has creamed me repeatedly about Cameron. It's enough that Fox is releasing 'Wall Street 2.' I'm not gonna talk to Fox News."

He stares out the window. For a moment, Michael Douglas's public cool deserts him. As the car pulls into heavy traffic, he just wants to go home.