Richard Pérez-Feria recalls his encounter at Chateau Marmont with rock legend Paul Simon.

By Richard Pérez-Feria

When I first moved fulltime to Los Angeles (from NYC) in 2006, after several decades of spending considerable time there and thinking “One day I’ll make the move,” I hired a young, ambitious, extraordinarily bright guy named Shawn to be my executive assistant. I needed someone I could trust, with a strong, can-do work ethic and Shawn couldn’t have been a better fit. And he was nice. He also happened to be an old soul quasi-obsessed with all things classic Hollywood (“Bette Davis ate dinner here after she won her first Oscar”). It was endearing and at times, frankly, a tad much. Shawn also loved classic rock music and musicians, no one more than Paul Simon.

A few days after Shawn revealed his love for all things Paul Simon, I, of course, happen to spot the rock icon alone and slumped in a chair directly across from my usual perch on the back wall sofa at Chateau Marmont’s fabled shabby chic lobby. I sent Shawn a text to come over right away (it was around 7pm on Wednesday and he was still working in my home, two short blocks away). In what seemed like 30 seconds, there was Shawn, flashing an endearing smile from ear-to-ear. “Now what,” he asked?

Since I have very little interest in meeting any more celebrities (I’ve met, befriended, interviewed and partied with literally hundreds of said famous folks throughout my life) and Paul Simon held zero fascination for me, I walked over to the tiny legend and said, “Mr. Simon, my dear friend is a lifelong fan and would like to say ‘hello;’ would that be OK?” He looked at me quizzically and slowly sat up in his chair and said, “So, you don’t want to meet me?” I laughed out loud, and said, “I just did.” Shawn and his hero chatted for a few minutes, and all was right in the world. Shawn was in a good mood for weeks.

I thought about that anecdote when we first conceived this very special issue of The Mountains featuring a deep dive on all things music (Paul Simon and his wife, singer Edie Brickell, recently sold their Connecticut home). More than a mere “music issue” as so many magazines have invariably dubbed their accumulation of summer concert dates, my team and I took the assignment seriously, most particularly our music writer Sean McAlindin and his nothing-short-of-incredible report that serves as the storytelling heart of the issue. Another standout is my exclusive cover story with the planet’s most influential musical conductor—and annual summer neighbor—Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who helms both the Metropolitan Opera as well as the epic Philadelphia Orchestra. Like Paul Simon, Nézet-Séguin, too, is a diminutive genius. And a fascinating, chatty one. I do believe a low-grade theme was totally emerging…

I’m so genuinely happy I was able to run interference for Shawn that night so many years ago in advance of him meeting his musical hero—you know what they say about meeting your heroes. But in my informed opinion, I think meeting one’s hero is a relatively harmless bucket list item to be pursued. Donna Summer, my personal musical goddess, couldn’t have been more gracious, funny and engaging in our long, way past midnight chat I was lucky enough to experience with her. Man, I loved that night.

My extraordinary maternal grandfather—whom I loved very much—Nicolás Rodríguez, told me something while I was in high school that I still think about to this day: “Richard, no one ever believes they have bad taste in music. And they don’t. It’s just different than yours.” Boy, that man did know everything. I so look forward to hearing your thoughts on our labor of melodious joy.

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