Exploring the City of Lights with Karen and Michael Douglas
Karen, our founder, and lead guide extraordinaire (and the rest of us here at Sight Seeker’s) had one of those “pinch me/slap me” moments over the summer: she had the honor to have toured with the great Michael Douglas! Yup, you read that right, we walked around Paris with the star of movies like Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and the series The Kominsky Method.
This isn’t the first time we had a star on tour with us but this time felt different. Mostly because Karen has admired Michael Douglas’ work for years now. And the opportunity really did come out of nowhere — she found out about the tour the night before it happened!
As our resident Sight Seeker’s blogger, I had to chat with Karen about what it was like to wander around the City of Lights with an actor she adores. Read on to find out more.
Molli: How did Michael Douglas find out about Sight Seeker’s?
Karen: Michael Douglas has been in Paris for several months filming a new TV show in which he stars as Benjamin Franklin. It’s an eight-part Apple TV series. And James, one of my former guides, happens to be lucky enough to be Michael Douglas’ personal assistant while he’s in Paris. So when Michael was looking for a walking tour, James knew exactly who to connect him with!
As you can see in the photo below Michael Douglas makes Benjamin Franklin look hot…which he’s not (laughs).
Molli: What did it feel like when you got that call? When did it hit you that you would actually be spending some time with one of your favorite actors?
Karen: For at least an hour, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. I still can’t believe it happened. As a tour guide, you wait your whole life to get some A-lister to come and watch you in action. And so I really tried to use the best “Kominsky Method” that I had (laughs).
I’ve always been a huge fan of Michael’s work, from Romancing the Stone to The American President…I could go on. But of course, when my 12-year-old son asked me who it was, I had to reference his most recent movie Ant-Man, his 2015 crossover to movies for kids. When I show his photo to anyone under 20, they don’t really know who he is unless I bring up Ant-Man…or mention his beautiful wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones (laughs).
I found out what was going on around 9pm the night before the tour. So I only had 14 and a half hours to freak out about it. Which was better in the long run — because if I would have had more time I probably would have made the effort to dye my hair, get my nails done (laughs), and the whole shebang.
Molli: So after you got that call, did you feel like you had to do more than usual to prepare for it? Or did you try not to overthink it?
Karen: I always try to prepare myself before a tour, no matter who’s going to be on it! But I did some extra homework about Michael so that I could add some fun things to the tour. At one point I let him know that I had three brothers like him. I also knew that his father portrayed Vincent Van Gogh in the movie Lust for Life. So as we were touring through Montmartre and we got to Theo Van Gogh’s house in Paris where Vincent lived for some time, I mentioned something like, “Oh, if your father really was Van Gogh, this is where he would have lived!” And I think he really appreciated that I had done my homework. He was very receptive to the little extras that I knew about him, which made us both (I think!) feel good.
He also loved when I talked about Steve Martin, who wrote a play called “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” another place in Montmartre that we walked by during the tour. He even said, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” In the back of my head, I was like, “Yeah, you should probably call him and let him know I’m promoting his play.”
When I talked about Andy Garcia playing Modigliani in a movie, Michael said he didn’t know that but that he had worked with Andy in Black Rain. I wanted to create an ‘in’ for him to feel more connected to the city, while also giving him a lot of space to tell a great story. Which he did. Which was fabulous.
Molli: So, what tours did he go on?
Karen: He was supposed to go on Time Travel to Montmartre and Père Lachaise, which is what happened. But that morning James called and said, “I have good news.” I thought to myself, “Well, what could be better news? I’m spending the day with Michael Douglas.”
Well, originally there was supposed to be a break in between the two tours. I recommended this great little place in Montmartre called the Terrass for Michael to have lunch. It’s a hotel that has a wonderful rooftop restaurant. James had called to let me know that Michael was inviting me to join him there — before even meeting me. He really was a mensch.
Molli: What was he like? Was he friendly, easy to talk to?
Karen: He was absolutely lovely. So cute. I really tried my best not to gush because I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable, so I hope he appreciated that…if this blog ever reaches you, Michael, I hope I did you a solid.
He was there with his two beautiful children, Dylan and Carys. One of them had just graduated college and they were both here visiting him while he was filming.
Molli: Did you find yourself feeling star-struck?
Karen: I really tried to act like I was meeting any other client. I had my little sign with Michael written on it at the meeting point, and I just kind of tried to get over the fact that I was actually going to be spending the entire day with Michael Douglas. We had just gotten over one of the worst heat waves of the summer, but I did bring along a little fan just in case I needed to cool down. I’m in my early 50s so I’m going through my own private summer all the time, so I can never be too careful. If you get that, you get that (laughs).
I pulled out the fan and I let him know that I needed to use the fan during the tour — but not to worry — it wasn’t him that was making me sweat (laughs). Something I really loved is that he laughed at everything: all of my little jokes, stories, everything. At one point, I suddenly went from calling him just Michael to “Michael Douglas” and I just hope he appreciated my sense of humor. For a tour guide, when anyone laughs at your jokes it makes you feel good. When it’s a movie star…well, the feeling is just priceless.
Molli: Were there any unforgettable moments that you’d like to share?
Karen: Well, there was one moment at lunch — I was already trying my hardest to be cool and actually chew my food — when he called his wife. He leaned over to me and into the phone he said, “Here, say hi to our guide!” and I was like, “Hi…Catherine..Zeta..Jones” (laughs). I may have held back on the “Zeta-Jones” but I for sure wanted to say it at the moment. I think I probably said something like I was so happy to be with her family and I hope to meet you soon. What I really wanted to add was, “Don’t worry I’m not going to boil a bunny in your kitchen Catherine Zeta-Jones.” (laughs).
Which is so funny — he definitely told a Fatal Attraction story. At one point on every tour, I have to talk about somebody’s mistress. Whether it was a king, a president, or just any French guy (not mine). Statistically, it’s one of their things. And I talk about this at Place Marcel-Aymé (a sculpture in Montmartre as seen below. Legend has it the man was spying on his cheating wife when he got stuck in the wall. You’ll have to join our tour to find out what happens next 😉 )
Then Michael talked about when Fatal Attraction premiered in Paris. He said that a lot of French men weren’t very happy about it, for obvious reasons (laughs). I can only imagine that French women were pulling their men by their scarves to rush and go see it. What’s funny is that, per capita, it ended up being one of the more popular American movies in France.
He had a driver who was really nice — it started to rain at one point and he was really helpful. And I will say that only two women approached him the entire day. If any stars happen to read this: the tourists in Paris were classy. They tend to be a bit more respectful than tourists in the States. That being said, I tried to keep us in a bubble because I could feel that everyone recognized him. But only two people actually went up to him to ask for a photo.
Of course, I had to ask for my selfie at the end of the tour and he happily obliged. I waited until the last few seconds of our day together to ask. I asked him to hold my phone so I could fluff my hair, and then he fluffed his hair (laughs). You can even see in the picture that his hair looks great (laughs). I still can’t believe I fluffed my hair with Michael Douglas.
When we got to Jim Morrison’s grave in Père Lachaise he told a little story about how he saw Jim in concert before he died. I also just want to make a note that the fact that he did my two physically hardest tours made me realize what great shape he’s in. For anyone else who’s almost 80, this is your sign that you might be able to do it too. I hope I romanced his cobblestone (laughs).
He also asked me if I needed a ride home, and I said, “No, Michael Douglas, I’m a Parisian so I can find my own way home. But thank you.” Later, James reached out because Michael’s son wanted to come on another tour with me but sadly my Versailles guide Stephanie was in Italy so we couldn’t do it. It broke my heart to say no, but at least I knew that he liked me enough to call again.
Molli: Do you have big plans to turn Sight Seeker’s into a walking tour company for the stars?
Karen: Well, I treat all my clients like stars, so I already consider it a walking tour company for the stars!
Make sure to check out all of our walking tours if you have a Paris trip in the works! Not only will you get to walk the same streets as Michael Douglas, but you’ll also get to learn the same hilarious and informative stories about our favorite city. We’ll meet you there 🙂