It's happening all over Washington. Wherever, he goes, the women behave the same. At Tiberio's during dinner time.At the Watergate restaurant during lunchtime. And now - in front of the Justice Department - it is movie time.
In front of the Justice Department, Anthony Quinn stands talking to Edward Albert before the cameras roll. He is disappointed in the steps at the side entrance. The steps are not imposing.
They're doing a scene from "The Greek Tycoon," a movie in which Quinn, all blue sunglasses and dark tan make-up, is made to look, sound, and behave like the late Aristotle Onassis. Except, of course, that's not who he's playing, precisely.
Everyone on the set will tell you that Jacqueline Bisset is not playing Jackie Onassis any more than Quinn is playing Ari. Never. "The character's name is Theo Tomasis," Quinn deadpans. Then he roars with laughter, and slaps a nearby back. "That's as close as we could get, dear."
In front of the Justice Department the ladies queue and coo. They take in the silver-gray wig, the silver-gray tie, the light gray suit. They stare at the heavy, dark sexy-ugly face - the face that appears capable of anything - no matter how bad, no matter how good.
"A face," breathed a lady the night before when she saw Anthony Quinn at Tiberio's "a face that looks brutal. You know, Brutal, but untamed."
"Well, I am untamed," Anthony Quinn concedes, "but I'm not brutal. I don't like my face. I have never liked my face. When I was a kid when I was about 20, I went to a plastic surgeon. I didn't think I could make career out of that face of mine.
"I went to this surgeon and I said, 'Listen. I'm not being successful as an actor. My eyebrows are too thick."
"He says, 'The eyebrows, I wouldn't change.'
"So, I said, 'But look at my mouth. My mouth - it's too small.'
"He says, "The mouth I wouldn't touch.'
"So I said, "Well then - what's wrong with my face?'
"He said - 'My GOD! It's THAT NOSE!'"
The nose, the big bent, flattened nose was the one thing Anthony Quinn happened to like about his face. But it's the eyelashes you notice first - long, thick Bambi-lashes that are wildly at variance witht the mutiny in his face.
Quinn shakes his head in wonderment. "I have no idea - no idea at all - what Anthony Quinn looks like. It changes, depending on what I do. When I sculpt, that's my relaxed face. I have no faith at all in my face. I never know what is behind this face of mine. So I have to hide behind the characters I play.
"But you know it's a very interesting thing to accept your face." He falls silent, think about that, and for a while all you can hear is Tony Quinn munching on his steak sandwich. "Most actors - they love to see their rushes. Me - I never do that . . . The other day I was talking to someone, Roger Moore - or someone like that anyway - I forget. And he was apologizing for playing himself all the time.
"Imagine Apologizing. They're CRAZY. The most difficult thing you could do is play yourself. I could NEVER play myself."
Anthony Quinn is 62, and he thinks it's "nice." He thinks it's wonderful." Right now he's writing a book about being 62 called "Suddenly Sunset," and it's quite clear he enjoys all the breathy ladies who pester him for autographs and think to themselves, "My God. He's 62," and he would like to give hope to all the men who would think, in his words, "If he can do it, so can I."
Anthony Quinn is 62 and has a jealous Italian wife named Iolanda.
"At my age," he is sights gratefully, "it's a compliment. It's a &? ! breaker, but it can be complimentary.
He chuckles, delighted. "She always with Jacqueline Bisset? I don't want you ever to have dinner with her again.' I say, 'Darling, Jacqueline wouldn't even LOOK at me.'" wants to know whom I'm working with. Now she's upset Jennifer O'Neill whom I'll be working with in Caravans.'"
Anthony Quinn is 62, "three times a grandfather," and so he has "A grandfather," and so now he has "a new career as an old man. Now I am not uptight about playing people's fathers." Now he is playing Edward Albert's father, and his son will die in crash. Now he is, in other words, an aging Greek tycoon.
But if he isn't uptight about his new role, there are, to put it mildly, others who were.
"I'd just closed in Tennessee Williams' play, 'The Red Devil Battery Sign,' which ran two weeks in Boston. And you know when you sign for a Williams play, you expect to be occupied for a year, so you don't make plans. And then along came the idea for "The Greek Tycoon.' And I said - 'Love the idea.'"
"Onassis and I had met. And he said, 'I understand they've offered you the Greek.' He said, 'Do it. What the hell.'
"And I said, 'Well, it might not be very complimentary.'
"And he said, 'You'll be nice to me.'"
That was six months before Aristotle Onassis died.
"Well then, Jackie Onassis called, and she said, 'You're NOT going to do that terrible picture, are you?' She said, 'I'd be grateful if you wouldn't do it.'"
So Anthony Quinn, who had, after all, once stumped for JKF, decided, no, he wouldn't do that dreadful picture.
This did not please Iolanda Quinn.
"Who the hell is SHE to tell you what not to do?" Iolanda Quinn wanted very much to know.
"The next thing that happened," continues Quinn, "is that my wife and I were in France, in St. Paul de Vence with Simone Signoret and Yves Montand at La Colombe d'Or. And who walks in, but Mrs. Onassis.
"She walks in and she wants right by me.
"My wife ways: 'THAT'S the lady you gave up your picture for?'
"Well, my wife and Simone - they ride me and ride me.
"So I said - Yes. I'll do the picture."
You look at Quinn's career, and you see that he is forever playing Greeks (as in "Zorba, the . . .") or Arabs (as in "Mohammed, Messenger of God") or Italian (as in "Shoes of the Fisherman"). He was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, "but I came here at the age of 1 . . ." He shrugs and grimaces. "I guess if you're looking for an Arab, Greek or Italian, it's inevitable that you'll think of me. Let's face it - I'm not the typical American."
And then he says, "Let's face it. Nobody sits around and worries about Anthony Quinn's career. It's not like the old days, when the studio did everything for you. Most of the pictures I was in, I had to generate myself. "Zorba" I created for myself. I plan things for myself."
He lives in Rome "to get away from all the horse/ 3&4 & 1/2," as he puts it. He's been living in Rome for the past 15 years, if you don't count four intermittent years he lived in L.A.
"But four years ago, I walked out of Hollywood. I thought I could handle it. But my wife couldn't handle it." He shakes his head, his face softening. "Poor lady. She thought friends were really friends.
"I said, 'Not in Hollywood, honey. Friends are measured by your last picture in Hollywood.'
"When everything's hot, your house is full of people. But the day my TV series ("The Man and the City') was canceled, very few people showed up for dinner. I hated for my kids to see that."
He smiles bleakly. "It's not so very different from Washington, is it?
"Here the name of the game is power. The power. The power."
He repeats that several more times in the conversation. Washington fascinates him for that reason. He reads everything he can about the city. "I'm a very political animal, you know," he says, by which he means that once he was asked to run for governor against Ronald Reagan, "but my wife talked me out of it, thank God."
But actually he means more than that when he talks about politics and power. He suffered from both.
"I was on the 'gray' list for ears," he says. "I had enlisted to fight in the Spanish Civil War as a kid. But I never fought because I had no passport." He hadn't realized he wasn't a citizen. Shortly after that, he became nationalized.
"In those years," he sighs, "in those years if you were anti-Nazi, they thought you were a Communist. And then there was guilt by association. I'm more interested than most actors about that gray-listing. Most of them would rather not talk about it."
He pauses. When he speaks again, it's about Cesar Chavez whom Quinn invited to Mexico on his last - his 62d - birthday to meet the people in power there.
"It was," he concludes, returning to the McCarthy era, "it was a very interesting period." But there is no anger in his voice. Far from it. It's as though he were talking about someone else. Someone he scarcely knew at all.
A group of middle-aged ladies approaches him at his table, just as the waitress hands him the check, along with a request for an autograph.
Quinn complies cheerfully.
Then one of the middle-aged ladies speaks up. "Hello, baby," she says brightly, her voice strong with bravado.
Quinn smiles, his entire face an offering, a submission to her whim.
"You drive all the ladies crazy here," she says.
"Great," says Anthony Quinn, "Great."