Just then the door pops open and in waltzes a flamboyant publicist in a blazer. It seems that the industry juice that landed us in the private dining room lasts only until 9 p.m., after which point the novelist Bret Easton Ellis will host a dinner after his reading, which the publicist announces is going on in the Penthouse Bar and Lounge next door.

Without knowing precisely how we've been lured there, we find ourselves in the back of Ellis' event, where a handful of blonde actresses are taking turns reading aloud Ellis' 1994 short story "Letters From L.A." Brilliant as the writing may be, it's not exactly riveting theater, especially given that one of the actresses, Malin Åkerman, seems to be having difficulty reading. "I'm a little bit dyslexic," she explains to the hushed crowd. Efron motions to the door and we exit. Blazer boy somehow manages to usher Efron up into the crowded roof bar and deposit him like a prized bone in front of a group of strangers smoking in the dark outside. "Do you all know Zac?" the publicist asks.

A pretty British blonde on the end reaches up for Efron's hand. "I'd shake your hand, but I have poison oak," he says.

She laughs uproariously, and, unnerved, he shows her his wrists as proof of his honesty. "Oh, God," she says. "Did you touch it on purpose?"

After politely excusing himself, Efron asks, "Who were those people?" Efron says that much of life in public is a blur of such random publicists, and he's often forced to fake comprehension. "Yeah, it's every bit as awkward as that just was," he says. "You're always missing some important piece of information. From a one to ten, that was just about a five."

Efron leads the way down the stairs to the first-floor lobby. "You play pool?" he asks, motioning over to the empty table. The moment we rack up, a young guy dashes up breathlessly. "Zac!" he says and introduces himself as someone who works for the director Bryan Singer, who was apparently upstairs in the bar. "You passed Bryan Singer on the way out."

"Oh, I did?" Efron says. "I'm sorry."

"No, no, no! That's fine," the guy says. "He just thought you might want to join us—whenever. Literally, he just wanted to catch you on the way out."

"Oh, that's very cool," Efron says, grabbing a cue stick. "You know what? I'll come up and say hi before I leave."

I go on to nearly smoke Efron, leaving five of his balls on the table. He grins uncomfortably when I tell him that he was lucky he was too young to be considered for Singer's Superman Returns, considering that since its 2006 release (and subsequent box-office spanking) its young star, Brandon Routh, has seemingly relocated to Krypton. He'd rather just compliment me on my pool skills. Then I scratch on the eight ball. "You schooled me tonight," he says, even though he's just won. Because of his poison oak, he's not feeling so hot, he says, and he thinks it's time he goes. He gives me his cell-phone number, in case I have more questions, and outlines his schedule for the next several days so I don't call and find him away from the phone. "Believe me, I know we didn't get much time, and I'm so sorry about that," he says, despite the fact we've been talking all night and my body has been crying out for bed for some time. Then, before departing, he pulls each pool ball out of the table's pockets and arranges them in the rack for the next player. He does not, however, go back upstairs to bid adieu to Bryan Singer. Even the nicest guy in town has his limits.

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