The New York Times - ARTS & LEISURE
Lock up the Food. Here Comes Richard Osterweil.
RICHARD OSTERWEIL HAS THIS thing about celebrities, having made an avocation of crashing their parties and funerals to sample hors d'oeuvres, eavesdrop on conversations and be photographed in the vicinity of Jacqueline Onassis.
"A compulsion is a compulsion," this sneaky, driven yet charming interloper says with a shrug in "Painting The Town," a film about his life that began a limited run on Friday at the Village East Cinema.
Mr. Osterweil has had friends pose as paparazzi to swarm around him as he sweeps past gatekeepers. He has dressed as a telephone repairman to get into the Dakota, the elegant apartment building on Central Park West, in order to crash a small gathering after Leonard Bernstein's funeral. He has crashed the socially prominent Barbara de Portago's wedding--twice. His disguises are so elaborate, he was once mistaken for Greta Garbo at a funeral.
He has performed these meaningless miracles for at least 15 years while working at jobs that range from cabdriver to shoe salesman to coat checker-- and spending almost every night painting pictures.
Now comes this 80-minute film that he alternately hopes and fears will make him sufficiently famous to be pursued by pests like himself. The 40 year old Richard Osterweil, who claims to have once sat near Elizabeth Taylor as she ate an enormous plate of whipped cream, has, finally, done his own star turn. The experience has already been considerably more rewarding than the time he stole Katharine Hepburn's garbage, only to find it depressingly like his own. It might even compare to the thrill he felt when Imelda Marcos complimented him on his shoes.
Never mind that the movie was made on a budget of around $60,000 by Sara Sackner and Andrew Behar, two former neighbors. And so what if he is a cast of one?
Ms. Sackner, who produced the film, and her husband, Mr. Behar, who directed it, were in the business of making audio-visual displays for museums, as well as corporate documentaries and music videos. They had long thought it would be a swell idea to do a movie on the eccentric party crasher who lived below them in Greenwich Village. But he always refused.
Then they sold their loft and moved to California. With the proceeds from the sale, they had a little money to spend. They asked again and he said yes. "We flew all the way across the country to make a movie about our downstairs neighbor," Ms. Sackner said. The first idea was to use Mr. Osterweil's story as the basis for a fictional film. But that meant losing what the producer calls "the best part, Richard's uniqueness." Mr. Osterweil also had an impossible and surely unusual demand. He insisted that the only person who could properly portray him was Audrey Hepburn. Back to Home Page.