Inquisitive. Vivacious. Ineffable: meet the new model of 21st-century eccentricity. Sequestered in the closet of his home in the Hollywood Hills, GQ talks fans, fashion and the magic of seduction with the Jurassic Park returnee. Warning: serious style envy ahead...
Aren’t film stars supposed to be dinky in real life? Like Elijah Wood? Or Sean Penn? All oversized, warped facial features, concealed stacked heels and a volcanic Napoleon complex? Well, Jeff Goldblum is a real film star and Jeff Goldblum isn’t short. Nor full of untethered rage and bile. Not in the slightest.
Jeff Goldblum is more like Buddha. Well, if Buddha was a grinning 6ft 4in Jewish man from Los Angeles – via Pittsburgh and then New York, a little transcendental meditation, plus a handful of the biggest (and silliest) blockbusters known to summer – with a voice that dips and fades in pitch and speed like a Sony Walkman (ask someone over the age of 30) running out of batteries. He is also, without question, fully awakened.
It’s Wednesday night in LA, around 9pm, and I’m not quite drunk yet but feeling the jet lag at Rockwell Table & Stage, a matchbox of a jazz club with a stage the size of a Fiat Panda located in the snug, creative (read: middle class, expensive) enclave of Los Feliz, just north of Silver Lake. The crowd this evening, some of whom booked tickets six months in advance, is just where Jeff Goldblum likes them: at his feet, in his palm and utterly enraptured.
They swoon at every Goldblum tic, mumble and observation like he’s some sort of holy man. A holy man in liquid black. This evening, His Holy Vibeiness is dressed in a skinny black suit, an arrow-slit neck tie and a dark trilby hat worn at a jaunty angle that, somehow, doesn’t make him look like a Tesco Value Don Draper.
Goldblum’s skin radiates good health and good vibrations. Up and under the spotlights, the 65-year-old actor – a 65-year-old actor you’d shop your own grandmother to look like, let me tell you – seems to be gliding about and calling the shots with all the anxiety of a good-natured dolphin on OxyContin. Throughout the three-hour show Goldblum doesn’t once stop smiling, a smile that seems to spew out of him like some sort of joyous, exuberant exorcism. No one is supposed to be this cheery in 2018.
Stooping and singling out squealing audience members, the actor’s hazel eyes are framed perfectly by his Sir-Michael-Caine-as-Harry-Palmer thick-rimmed spectacles. He’s myopic. This means when he is required to read aloud from a piece of paper – which he does with some frequency tonight; it’s all part of the comedy improv – he doesn’t take his specs off so much as balance them on his forehead. This makes him resemble a substitute teacher, one who is having trouble with the pronunciation of an Asian student’s surname.
Every Wednesday, for 20 years now, Goldblum has been up front and on the mic at Rockwell Table & Stage and for no other reason than to entertain. Entertain both himself and, if they fancy it, the audience. But mostly himself. He plays word association games; reads out text messages passed up on phones by the crowd; teases our knowledge about well-known but often misquoted lines of Hollywood dialogue; asks members of the audience to come up on stage to sing the Canadian national anthem; and hits the piano with his band, The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, to sing Thelonious Monk covers such as “Think Of One”. For a Wednesday night it’s nothing if not delightful. A serious hoot.
That is, until the hugging starts. The hugging isn’t so much disturbing as perplexing. Right at the very end of the evening Goldblum invites any audience member who so desires to come up to the foot of the stage for a photograph. In today’s age of hyper-narcissism and celebrity worship (especially in LA), this isn’t exactly unusual. It’s like one of those meet-and-greets pop stars do before their stadium shows, charging £200 a pop for a limp handshake, a two-second, blurry selfie and a rare unsigned copy of their ghost-written biography that came out five years ago.
What is unusual, however, is the ferocity with which both the meeter and the greeter embrace their separate roles this evening. Remember this isn’t Justin Bieber. There’s no merch being flogged, no endless tour to promote, no social media strategy to activate. This is Jeff Goldblum. It’s a Wednesday night. And to the observer it just seems, well, somewhat overly accommodating.
You’d think there might be only a handful of needy, snappy souls after such a photographic memento, right? Wrong. As I look about and try to get the busboy’s eye, what feels like the entire club stands up and makes their way towards His Goldblumminess. The line, mostly cooing women clutching cold Appletinis, scurries like a human centipede to the stage where the actor purrs and bows and hugs and enthuses like some sort of performing lynx.
He pulls the women in close and beams for their iPhone flashes, he listens intently to their advice about how he should raise his two small children (River Joe, two, and Charlie Ocean, four) and he gasps when one young lady lifts her skirt (with a delicate modesty) to show him a tattoo located on the back of her upper thigh. A tattoo of Jeff Goldblum’s own face!
It’s quite a scene. Can you have an orgy without the sex? Because this is what it must feel like. Dry arousal. One can’t help but think of The Sermon On The Mount. Or that documentary about the Rajneeshpuram cult. To be honest, if Jeff Goldblum were to move to a plot in the Oregon wilderness in nothing more than a loincloth and a designer trilby, I’d probably follow him into nirvana. The men and women here tonight certainly would. As I sit back and watch, for almost an hour, the assembled pilgrims paying homage, spilling my drinks off my centre table as they huddle and elbow their way to the front, I am utterly, totally, completely, spellbindingly mesmerised.
Goldblum’s charms go beyond pro; this is a deeper level of engaged charisma. He turns to his left, he turns to his right, he touches palms, he grins wildly, he laughs and rests his soft cheek on the crowns of their beaming heads. All the while I can’t help but wonder: why? Why, Jeff Goldblum, do you feel the need to do this? To be so tactile? So present? So touchable? I pay the tab and head outside, a doubting apostle turning my back, in need of some answers. Some answers and an Uber.
The following conversation happens in Jeff Goldblum’s closet the next day. Yes, his closet (or wardrobe if we’re being all British about it), the place where Goldblum hangs his clothes. The closet, a small white room with inbuilt arches that contain six or so rails, is just off his all-white tiled bathroom, which itself is in his large (but not ostentatious) house in the Hollywood Hills.
The house, which he has been living in for 30 years, is about a dog walk away from all the heady iniquity of the Chateau Marmont, a hotel where no one goes any more unless they’re from out of town and want to spot a Scott Disick type in gaudy athleisurewear hitting on women not old enough to be his daughter.
My conversation with Goldblum – well, this particular conversation – is about style and is one that flows quite naturally, much like when two creatures of the same species, and of the same sex, see one another out on the great plains and cluck and concur over certain world-views, colours and cuts. It isn’t peacocking per se and there’s no competition here, none that I can feel anyway, but more like being locked in a wardrobe with Tan France from Queer Eye. It’s a journey, man.
Goldblum has got a thing about clothes, you see. Like, a thing thing. It’s a love he’s always had, although, up until now, it’s not an energy he’s been able to harness – well, not fully. Four years ago, however, Goldblum was on a magazine shoot and he met a man called Andrew T Vottero. Vottero likes cycling – he has all the gear, even (whisper it) Lycra salopettes – and has one of the most impressive beards ever grown post the Neolithic period. Vottero is now Goldblum’s official stylist and the actor considers the meeting with this man so significant that when he talks about the day they met, the summer of 2014, he calls it their “four-year anniversary”.
First up, shoes. “So, I wore Chelsea boots for a while, but you know what I discovered? A three-and-a-half-inch heel...” Goldblum bends down and picks up what I already know are a pair of Saint Laurent Wyatt 30 Jodhpur boots in polished black leather. “Look at these,” he instructs. The actor’s enthusiasm for luxury craftsmanship would put the cold nonchalance of most shop assistants on London’s Bond Street to shame. His engagement, once more, seems to radiate from a higher power source. “It was a revolution, of sorts, yes.” Goldblum looks down at my own boots, a pair not too dissimilar, with a high Cuban heel. He smiles widely. “But I can see you already know of the advantages of being a tall man with an even taller shoe. Where are those from?”
“They are a Swedish brand,” I tell him, “Everyday Hero. A little less expensive than Saint Laurent but hard-wearing and just dirty enough.” He nods, sagely. We go to his footwear rack. Among the slip-ons, the loafers and patent Diors with the studs, I spot a pair of Balenciaga Triple S trainers, designed by Demna Gvasalia, the ones so wide, so ugly-beautiful, they make one’s feet look like those dodgem cars you ride at the fairground. He actually wears those things?
“Sure! Yes. Well, I did for a bit. I worked out in them for a while.” Jeff Goldblum must be the only man who has worn said fashion trainers to actually exercise in. “Although this morning, running my son to school, I wore these Rick Owens black boots. See?” He picks up an Owens number and spins it so we may observe it from every angle. Together, like style-aeologists, we admire the form. “It was a little drizzly, some moisture on the ground, so they seemed like the right thing do to, a little better for the variable weather...”
Do you know anyone else, other than Kanye West, so into contemporary style? I don’t. Not someone who doesn’t actually work in the fashion industry anyway. At this point I think it’s worth mentioning that not only am I almost the exact same shape as Goldblum – 6ft 4in with a long frame and wide shoulders – but our taste in clothing is disconcertingly similar. It’s a bit weird.
We continue through his rails: “These are my jeans. I wear Acne [Studios] mostly, in grey or black. These are white. I like them because they’re narrow and not too wide but have a slight” – and we say the next word in unison because, yes, I, too, wear black Acne jeans every single day – “stretch.” We look at one another and laugh a little nervously. A somewhat quizzical look flickers over his shiny, bright features, a look that wonders, albeit momentarily, “What is going on here?” I go coy, as though the cosmos has suddenly winked at me.
We move on to his suits. Alongside the six main railis of clothes, all pretty much compartmentalised – leather jackets, suit separates, statement tops, jeans and trousers, plus a two-foot pile of rollnecks – in the main bathroom is one of those foldable chrome rails on which hang two suits: one black by Saint Laurent; one a chalky, sky-blue three-piece by Tom Ford.
“I wore the black one last night for the show at the Rockwell, which you saw me in, and this blue one I got for a press thing I have coming up. I hang them here as these are the pieces that need a little attention. You know, some of those clothes, it’s like buying a sportscar, a house or a racehorse – you have to keep up with the maintenance all the time.”
Has he always been so into fashion? “Well, yes, let me tell you about it... But before I do...” Goldblum sashays back into his closet and plucks a trilby off the wall. “Do you like hats?” I have a big head, I confess; I’ve never had a hat that fits properly. “Oh, well, do you know JJ Hat Center in New York? This is a Borsalino. I wore it last night. It was given to me, and it was a little worn out, but I took it to JJ’s and they refashioned it, stuck a feather in the band – Gunner Foxx kind of vibe. You know Gunner? Or Nick Fouquet?”
Gunner Foxx is a hatmaker from LA, known for his traditional yet exquisite attention to detail and customisation. Fouquet is a blond kid who lives in Venice Beach, a new wave of hatmaker whose clients include “The Hat King” himself, Pharrell Williams, and “The Most Stylish Man In American Sports”, LeBron James. A note: the sort of man who knows about Gunner Foxx and Nick Fouquet is the sort of man who takes his hats, and his hat-wearing, very seriously.
“So clothes, style, yes, I’ve always liked them,” he confesses. “Not so much as trophies or things like that, but the power they have over the image one can project of oneself to the world. It’s like costumes for a film. ‘Who do I want to be today?’ Although it’s not so much smoke and mirrors, as just trying to be true to one’s inner monologue. I remember as a kid I would go to these painting classes and I would do sketches of collars and ties – I have no idea why.
“That was in the mid-Sixties and shortly after that I went out to get the appropriate hippie attires. I was in seventh grade, so about 13, and I would go to school in the Navajo jacket, the black rollneck, the John Lennon little round glasses and the medallion around the neck. Whoa! I was the only person dressed like this at school, let me tell you.”