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Star-watching becoming a popular local pastime

It wasn’t so long ago when a celebrity sighting in Spokane could be defined as, say, bumping into Charles Rowe in a Rosauers.

Then local film producers North by Northwest turned my hometown into Hollywood of the Hinterlands.

Thanks to the company’s recurring movie shoots, we’ve been up to our clock tower with honest-to-gawd stars.

I’m talking names like: Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Hartnett, Burt Reynolds, James Woods, Peter Coyote, Chuck Norris, Angie Harmon …

You wouldn’t know it by me, of course.

I have yet to see anyone more famous than mayor whatshisname. And my Friday star search through downtown was yet another bust. The closest I came to making contact with a “celebrity” was sitting on a bar stool that once cupped the butt cheeks of John Ratzenberger.

You know. Cliffie from “Cheers.”

The Davenport Hotel’s Tom McArthur directed me to the end stool closest to the Peacock Lounge entryway.

“Right there,” he told me. “I saw him with my own eyes.”

Rumor has it that The Davenport is housing all the actors who are in town for the filming of “End Game,” a thriller about a presidential assassination.

If it’s true, McArthur ain’t saying.

Need I remind you that the “D” in Davenport stands for “discretion”?

To toss me a bone, McArthur borrowed a key and unlocked the lobby grand piano. He raised the lid. Inside are the autographs left by three heavyweight guests:

Tom Jones, Yanni and Neil Diamond.

Yanni? Ooh. No wonder they keep the thing locked.

Striking out on celeb sightings, I opted for the next best thing: Talking to people who have seen them.

The baristas at the Brews Bros. Espresso Lounge, 734 W. Sprague, for example. They’ve had so many famous faces drop in that they’ve started snapping photographs and displaying them on a wall.

With luminaries like Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and TV icon Dick Van Patten, however, the Brews Bros. gallery falls short of a “who’s who” A-List.

Hunky Josh Hartnett should be there. The actor came into Brews Bros. three times when he was here last spring filming “Mozart and the Whale,” says Shae Obando, one of the owners. Alas, the young women behind the counter were too flummoxed to beg the heartthrob to say cheese.

“We were, like, freaking out,” affirms Marie Ferrante, 20.

Hartnett and quite a few of the Mozart crew and cast members spent a lot of down time at Far West Billiards, 1001 W. First. That apparently hasn’t happened yet with the “End Game” bunch. But Cuba Gooding Jr. did pop his head in the door the other day for a brief look around, says bartender Matt Reed.

That was a positive sign, but Reed is keeping his fingers crossed for a James Woods sighting.

“I’d love to meet that guy,” he adds.

If I had my pick, I’d want to spend some face time with Burt Reynolds. Sure, maybe he’s older. Maybe his days as a box office sex symbol have long passed.

But with movies like “Deliverance” and “The Longest Yard,” the man defined “hip” in the 1970s. And “Boogie Nights” proved the guy can still act with the best of them.

Barkeep Reed, 26, is no star-struck kid. He says he grew up in Malibu, Calif., where seeing Mel Gibson shopping was no big whoop. Once while working as a lifeguard, he says he shared a moment with Anthony Hopkins.

“He was so human,” says Reed. “He was sitting at the shallow end of a swimming pool with full wet suit on.”

Maybe the bigger question is not what we nobodies think of all the somebodies, but what they think of us.

I have a suspicion they probably think we’re quaint.

“Spokane is still that ‘Gosh, what are they doing in my world?’ gee-whiz kind of town,” says McArthur.

No paparazzi. No stalkers. Spokane must be showbiz paradise for them.