Call it gilt by association, the glitter that adheres to ordinary citizens who serve the stars. Star restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, for example. Or Nolan Miller, star designer. Ditto Jake “Body by Jake” Steinfeld, star personal trainer. Now add to their celebrated ranks…Chuck Pick, car parker to the stars.
When 20th Century Fox chief Barry Diller has a party, he calls Chuck. When Joan Rivers needed cars parked for mourners returning to her home after the funeral of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, she called Chuck. And who handled the cavalcade of stars at Swifty Lazar’s behemoth post-Oscar bash? Chuck. Says composer Henry Mancini: “The true mark of having made it in this town is when someone from Chuck’s service says, ‘You don’t need a ticket, we’ll park your car right up front.’ ”
A 30-year veteran of the biz, Pick parks quick. “I’ve seen fabulous half-million-dollar parties where guests had a great time but the only thing they remembered was waiting forever to get their car,” he says. But success depends on more than speed. “We’re the first to greet the guest and the last to say goodnight, so it’s important to set a mood.” He coaches his fresh-faced attendants, many of them actors, on style. “I’m not looking for a good driver, I’m looking for a good parker. If I can get them to smile, they’ve got a job.”
Caring for the wheels of fortune is not without peril. Back in the days when Pick’s valets left keys on floors of cars, there was the small disaster at veteran director George Cukor’s house involving five identical black Lincoln Continentals awaiting Glenn Ford, Billy Wilder, Rosalind Russell, Jack Lemmon and Warren Beatty. “Some dope stole the keys,” says Pick, 46. “We had to send everyone home in taxis. To this day, every time Lemmon pulls up, he yells, ‘Hey, Chuck, did you find my keys yet?’ ” Worse was the night at Chasen’s when someone knocked over the peg board that held some 200 sets of keys. “Maybe a hundred of them were Mercedes,” he says, “and those keys all look alike.”
Pick, who grew up in L.A., was 16 when he got a valet parking job at Romanoffs, the legendary, and now departed, Hollywood eatery. Peter Lawford, the late Rat-Packer, had an office next door and took a liking to Pick. Lawford hired him as an assistant, eventually putting him in charge of parking when Lawford and some friends opened a private club, the Factory, in the late 1960s. Pick expanded from there; his company now handles some 1,200 events a year.
After a hard day’s night parking German heavy metal, Pick climbs into his ’87 Ford Aerostar and heads home to Encino, where he lives with Gayle, 42, his second wife, and their children, Blake, 8, and Carly, 4. “As much as he loves the party life, that’s how much I love staying home,” she says. “It works out fine.”
Pick sees nothing strange about his unlikely road—er, driveway—to success. “When I was younger, people used to ask me, ‘Are you going to park cars all your life?’ ” he says. “Well, it’s a pretty nice way to make a living, going to parties.” And getting good reviews. “I always use Chuck,” cracks valetomane Joan Rivers. “He parks me even when I’m not having a party.”
—Tim Allis, David Marlow in Los Angeles