Totally True, Wholly Uncorroborated Benicio Encounters

Oscar-winner and hubba-hubba hunk Benicio Del Toro is in Portland, and there hasn't been this much ado in Stumptown since last year's Rose Queen tore off her brassiere and ran shrieking from her float and court. The Oregonian and Portland Tribune have been breathlessly reporting Benicio sightings for weeks, and it seems that everyone has a friend who has a friend who knows someone who's had a close encounter with BDT. Well, we know people too, and we've been taking notes. What follows is a comprehensive list of unsubstantiated, third-party Benicio sightings. (Dates are for narrative purposes only, and in many cases are entirely bogus.)

March 13:
Benicio is spotted at a Blazer game at The Portland Rose Garden. In town to film The Hunted with Tommy Lee Jones, BDT seems to enjoy the game despite the aggressive advances of several Blazer Dancers. The plot of the movie is hush-hush--though local media coquettishly report that Tommy Lee Jones plays someone "good," and Benicio plays someone "bad." The Blazers lose.

March 14:
This girl that a friend of ours knows spots Benicio at Powell's. He is squatting to look at a lower shelf and she almost steps on him. He looks up and says something like, "Excuse me." She proceeds to browse recklessly above him. Then she hears her name being paged over the intercom. She picks up a nearby phone, and her friend, who works at Powell's, says something like, "Omigod, Benicio Del Toro's in the store," and then The Girl says something like, "Oh, really?" and then has to carry on a whole conversation right next to Benicio Del Toro about Benicio Del Toro without letting him in on that fact. Then she sees him again when she is in line. She tells the cashier that she likes Robert Mitchum and Benicio Del Toro looks right at her and nods his approval.

March 15:
That same girl, according to another friend, knows another girl who says that she ran into Benicio Del Toro at Saucebox (where, according to our sources he's eaten FOUR times). According to our friend's friend's friend, she went up to him and said, "You're my screensaver." (Good line.) Benicio's reply? "Don't waste your time with me, sweetheart." (Better line.)

March 15:
A waitress at Muu Muu's reveals a different twist on the SAME story. Version # 2: Benicio and Joaquin Phoenix are sitting at Muu Muu's bar. A woman approaches BDT and says, "You're my screensaver!" and Joaquin says (with a "what-about-me?" gesture), "Uh, I was in Gladiator," and the waitress's boyfriend (the bartender) says (to Joaquin), "You're MY screensaver."

March 16:
Benicio is spied at a screening of Chinatown at groovy Cinema 21. Patrons see him both inside the theater and leaning casually against the wall outside. Incredibly, none of the theater staff recognize him and he pays to get in. (But they say they'll let you in free next time, Benicio! Just ask for Anna.)

March 17:
An acquaintance says that her friend who bartends at Saucebox said that Benicio asked her to call him a cab one night. She very generously and graciously offered to give BDT a ride home herself. Perhaps she said something like: "Baby, you don't need a cab--check out these headlights," or maybe, "I like your gear shift." But she probably just said, "I'll give you a ride." In any case, he took the cab.

March 19:
The Oregonian's
Jonathan Nicholas reports that Benicio has been spotted at Mary's Club. Further investigation reveals the following: BDT did visit Mary's, accompanied by Joaquin Phoenix and Gus Van Sant. The three sat down, watched the show, and bought a dancer a drink. She joined them for a chat. Everyone was very civilized. It might have gone something like this:

GVS: "Doesn't this place have a great atmosphere, guys?"

BDT: "Mmhphp esp fruupph."

JP: "Intellectually, I appreciate that many might suppose that this objectifies females, but personally I purport that nude dancing, when discerningly undertaken, actually empowers the object of the spectator's fancy."

DANCER: "Can I have another drink?"

March 20:
Another acquaintance of a friend runs into Benicio Del Toro at a local coffee shop. She cannot be located to confirm the name of the specific coffee shop, though it was definitely a coffee shop in the Portland metropolitan area. In a possibly related sighting, this girl we know tells us that her hairdresser said that another client told her that she saw BDT at the Starbucks near the Fremont Nature's. He was waiting behind her in line, and when she didn't notice that her coffee was ready, he said, "Ma'am, your coffee is ready." She didn't know who he was (it was very early and he was very scruffy), and was all, like, whatever. After he left, everyone in the Starbucks turned to her and said, "Do You Know Who That Was?" Well, she could have died. According to the girl we know who talked to her hairdresser.

March 21:
More movie news is revealed! City council minutes reveal that The Hunted has been approved to use Portland Police Department uniforms, badges, and insignias in the film. The film puts out a call for local cops and FBI agents to act as extras. Rumor is Chief Kroeker auditions, but is found "unbelievable" in the role.

March 26:
A Recap Of The Evolving Plot Of The Hunted According To The Oregonian. On March 7, The Oregonian reports that The Hunted plot involves Tommy Lee Jones as a wilderness tracker on the trail of a killer, played by BDT. On March 20, The Oregonian reports that BDT plays a killer who hunts deer hunters, and that TLJ has to catch him. Today, The Oregonian reports that TLJ trains trackers used to hunt down prisoners, and that BDT is a tracker who has gone bad and TLJ has to come out of retirement to catch him. Our sources at the Mercury tell us that the movie is actually about a cop (TLJ) who goes undercover as kindergarten teacher in order to catch another kindergarten teacher (BTD) who is actually an international terrorist/ super-spy.

March 27:
The recording of Benicio's noshing continues! Portland Trib adds the Veritable Quandary to the growing list of go-go restaurants that our hero has visited. (Où est-ce que l'heure bleue est?) A visit to the VQ reveals this sighting to be bogus, though the bartender says that she's heard that he works out at The RiverPlace Athletic Club. This gossip is confirmed by a waitress.

March 28:
More Powell's skinny! Employees confirm that he has been to the store twice in the past two weeks. Want to know more? We thought so!

You: What was he wearing?

Us: "Hollywood shabby chic" (sweatpants and baseball cap).

You: What did he buy?

Us: The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann.

You: That sounds fancy.

Us: It is! Here's a description of The Magic Mountain according to amazon. com: "In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps-- a community devoted exclusively to sickness--as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death."

March 29:
A sister of an old classmate claims that Benicio Del Toro saved her life! Apparently she was stepping onto Northwest 23rd Avenue attempting to cross from Renovation Hardware to The Pottery Barn, when a black Chrysler PT Cruiser came careening out of nowhere! It stopped just shy of her platform slides, and there at the wheel was (she swears) someone who looked just like Benicio Del Toro. If he hadn't stopped, our old classmate said her sister said, she'd be dead.

March 30:
A cousin of some guy a friend knows sees Benicio at local hotspot necking with a strange woman who he later identifies as looking very much like another celebrity whose name he can't remember. The canoodling couple leaves as soon at they are recognized. They are later spotted by an off-duty postal service worker, who claims that he saw them walking hand-in-hand at a local park. Both are wearing baseball caps and Gucci sunglasses.

April 1:
A neighbor says that her boss's cop friend said that Benicio stopped a robbery in progress today at a downtown bank. Apparently there to cash a money order, BDT reacted quickly when a young man pulled a gun and threatened a teller. Our neighbor said that her boss said that the cop told him that BDT wrestled the gunman to the ground, comforted the frightened teller, and gave a man who had had a heart attack CPR until the EMTs arrived. Another friend of a friend says that she saw Benicio at the same time our neighbor's boss's cop friend did, only he was at Nike Town buying air pump sneakers and a sweatband.

Do you have a spurious, innuendo-soaked rumor about Benicio that you'd like to spread?

Send it to:"The Benicio Del Toro Squad," c/o the Portland Mercury. We keep track of the gossip, so you won't have to.