Before They Were Stars

Before They Were Stars
Benjamin McKenzie
Dana Bateman/Camera Press/Retna

03/03/2005 06:00AM

Sure, they're famous now, living glamorous celebrity lives. But what about that very first acting job? We just had to ask:
Benjamin McKenzie (The O.C.): "My first paid acting gig was an off-off Broadway play called Life Is a Dream. I got $750 for a six-week run, or something like that. It was about enough for a sandwich and orange juice at the deli in the morning and a bottle of beer at night. So I did a little bit of almost unpaid theater in New York – and I am so thankful I had the experience, a little taste of the experience of what it is to be an actor trying to make it because it has really high highs and really low lows."
Vivica A. Fox (Ella Enchanted): "Mine was running from zits on Melrose Boulevard for a Clearasil commercial. 'Don't let the zits catch you! Don't let the zits catch you!' I was running from this imaginary thing. It was scale pay, about $400."
Kevin Bacon: "My first paid acting gig was a recruiting film for the military. My mother was a very, very staunch antiwar activist, as I am now, and she basically said, 'You can't do this.' And I said, 'I am an actor, I have to work.' And it was a very seminal point in our lives. She didn't talk to me for days."

Where's Brenda?
Ever since Luke Perry showed up on former Beverly Hills, 90210 costar Jennie Garth's WB show, What I Like About You, we've been wondering, What is Shannen Doherty up to? "I did a treatment and sold a show to HBO," the actress, who played Brenda on the teen drama, told us recently at the Belvedere Bartenders Bash at the Shore Club in South Beach. "It's called Socialite. That's all I can say." As for the mini 90210 reunion between Perry and Garth, "I did hear about it, but I didn't see it," said Doherty, who doesn't foresee making an appearance on the show herself. "Right now I'm concentrating on my own stuff. If there was ever a show I would cameo on it's 24. Best show on TV." Catch that, Kiefer?

No Hard Feelings
Even though pop stars Ryan Cabrera and Ashlee Simpson are no longer an item, he still has nothing but niceties to say about the whole Simpson clan. "We make fun of each other all the time," he says of his relationship with Ashlee. "That's what's fun. We realize that you can't take yourself too seriously." As for her older sis, Jessica, with whom Cabrera toured as her opening act last summer, "She could never do any harm. She's just too sweet," he says. "I backed into Jessica's car once. I had just moved in to her family's house two years ago and one of the first things I did was back into her car. I used to live with the family. I had a rental car. She was awesome about it. She was like, 'It's okay. I didn't really like that car (a silver Mercedes) anyway.' "

Caught in the Act
Spotted Recently:
Robert Downey Jr., sitting in the waiting room at a Beverly Hills dentist's office, bouncing his leg nervously as he waited to be called. He smiled and said hello when a fellow patient strolled by and greeted him, says a spy.

• By JOANNE FOWLER, JON WARECH, SUSAN MANDEL and CLARE KLEINEDLER

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