It is, until the moment the Caveman walks in, just another Tuesday night at Ford's Filling Station, a moderately upscale and oh-so-modern bistro in Culver City, California, the kind of place that caters to middle managers out on the town. There are lots of guys with beepers on their belts, ordering blood-orange margaritas and brick-oven flatbreads, steak tartare with pickled fennel and truffle chips ($14), passing time after work or before they head over to the multiplex for a night at the movies. You can dine outside by the sidewalk, or in the dim-lit dining room with exposed beams and brick walls, fresh flowers and lit candles at every table, the salt and pepper in tiny wooden bowls with tiny wooden spoons. All very tasteful, in a suburban-chic kind of way.
They get a stray celebrity in here every now and then, the Sony Pictures Lot being just a few blocks away, but they've never seen a Caveman before, strolling in from Culver Boulevard in all his hairy-faced, ridge-browed glory, decked out in his H&M striped sweater, his Diesel jeans and his retro two-tone Vans, exactly the kind of thing you'd expect a small-town hipster of a Caveman to be wearing on his first night out in L.A.
"Hi, I'm Andy," he says, cheerfully, extending his fur-knuckled hand while the patrons, caught by surprise, put down their pomegranate martinis and, in the L.A. tradition, do their best to stare without staring, as if they're too cool to notice that a Caveman is in their midst. Or maybe they think it's Robin Williams. Hard to tell.
Andy the Caveman, friendly as can be, sits down at the table, orders some pea soup (because roast duck with a mango salsa is not on the menu) and an appletini, and starts answering questions about his life, his upbringing, the pros and cons of being a Caver ('cause that's what they call themselves) in a Homo sapien society. Turns out he was raised in a Cro-Magnon enclave outside of Pittsburgh (who knew?), in a lovely Colonial-style home "with architectural shingle, white siding, black shutters, a nice portico. I could go on."
We ask (and by "we" I mean me, a guy with a tape recorder and a pained expression, pretending to interview a guy who's pretending to be a Caveman) the important questions you'd want us to ask: whether people make assumptions about him because of his appearance, whether he knows where to find Osama Bin Laden, whether people ever say cruel things to him like, "Hey, Yabba Dabba Douche Bag!"
"No," he says, making eyes at the cocktail waitress, "that would be offensive."
"Every now and then, when I'm driving in my car, I'll get the occasional Flintstone reference. But I let it roll off my back. That a gigantic, probably four-ton stone car could be moved simply by the power of a family's feet, that's just absurd."
So you didn't watch The Flintstones when you were a Caveboy?
"It wasn't that I found it offensive," he says, tasting the pea soup ("This is delightful!"). "It just seemed like it was lacking in plot and structure."
Underneath all that latex and hair, which takes about three hours to apply, is actor Sam Huntington (who, if you could see his actual face, you might recognize as the guy who played Jimmy Olsen in last year's Superman Returns movie). Because he is willing to do anything for his art, and because the ABC publicity department kicked in some extra money for the makeup artist's overtime, he has agreed to leave the safety of the Sony lot and promote the new Cavemen TV series (premiering tonight at 8 pm/ET on ABC), the one that many critics, based on the premise alone, have already bombed back to the Stone Age. Trouper that he is, and in spite of the fact that his dental prosthetics prevent him from consuming anything but liquids (thus the soup), Huntington is doing the interview completely in character, while cameras record the event and customers steal glances behind his back.
On the show, Andy is one of three Cavemen who have just moved to San Diego, where they live in a condominium and interact for the first time with the non-Caver world. There's Joel (played by Bill English), who's dating a sapien woman, Nick (played by Nick Kroll), who's hyperaware of anti-Cave slights both real and perceived, and Andy, the youngest and most naive, who's just excited to be out in the world.
So, of course, he's thrilled to be having an appletini with a guy from TV Guide, to flirt with waitresses, to pretend that there's nothing at all strange about walking around Culver City looking kind of like a well-dressed homeless guy or a refugee from a Credence Clearwater tribute band.
"People think that we're primitive or that we're not smart," he says, working the premise for all he's worth. "That we're aggressive. But I tell you what, I'm an affable, friendly, very handsome person. And I mean handsome on the inside, too."
Andy, it turns out, went to community college. He's an accountant. He just broke up with his Cavewoman girlfriend. He was raised a Protestant, admires Hillary Clinton (because he "likes her moxie") and the Goo Goo Dolls, and would love nothing more than to get on America's Funniest Home Videos. (Just go with it. I did.) And, no, being in SoCal has not given him the urge to shave or, god forbid, wax.
"If I shaved, I would have a face full of ingrown hairs... pustules, really. It would look much like this soup. I'm a firm believer in, 'If it shows, let it grow.'"
We spend nearly an hour chatting in Ford's Filling Station, mostly being ignored. He ends up at the bar. A woman wants to stroke his hand hair. He has another appletini. "I love that there's a cherry on the bottom," he says. "Isn't that festive?"
And then the Caveman walks out into the night. The stares are less self-conscious now. One guy yells out something about saving a lot on his car insurance. Everyone goes back to what they were doing before. Just another night in L.A.
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