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Rambling Reporter

Jessica Chastain Meets Her Obsession: In between shooting various movies -- she's got six on her slate -- Jessica Chastain took time off in December to meet her acting idol. During a holiday party for The Help at Soho House, she told THR: "I've always been obsessed with Isabelle Huppert and want to emulate her career." The famed French actress, 58, has starred in more than 90 film and TV projects, including Madame Bovary (1991) and The Piano Teacher (2001), and she's a tiny redhead just like Chastain. "So I e-mailed her," Chastain says. "She was doing Hedda Gabler onstage in Paris, and I asked if we could have dinner. I was nervous as hell and totally intimidated. But I flew over, saw the play, and well … it was one of the coolest dinners I've ever had. We talked like mad; now I hope we will stay friends."

Stars' Sergeant Signs Off

L.A. County Sheriff's sergeant-to-the-stars Steve Wheatcroft hands in his badge Jan. 6 after 24 years on the force. Wheatcroft, who runs the department's Security Operations Unit, has been the personal escort for Lindsay Lohan during her paparazzi-mobbed courthouse dashes and oversaw the jury field trip to Vitello's restaurant during the Robert Blake 2004 murder trial. But his work on the Phil Spector and O.J. Simpson cases stands out. When the jury visited Spector's house with the record producer in tow, Wheatcroft says he was concerned about Spector being able to get at his rumored gun stash. So he took the unique step of having the Alhambra mansion declared a courtroom for the day in order to keep the defendant on a short leash. And during the Simpson saga, he recalls taking him to Cedars-Sinai for surgery to remove a small growth under his armpit. "I do remember asking the doctor jokingly if he was going to be receiving any sodium pentothal [truth serum] for the operation," Wheatcroft says. "O.J. didn't think that was very funny."

Warning: More Obama Jams Ahead

Still on the hunt for Hollywood cash, Barack Obama's 2012 campaign is planning another round of L.A. appearances -- which will mean more of those notorious traffic jams. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to be in town in late January, followed in February by Michelle Obama, who raised more than $1 million for her husband during an appearance in June at the Bel-Air home of White House decorator Michael S. Smith and his partner, HBO exec James Costos. Locations and hosts for both events will be disclosed later. A well-placed source tells THR that the headliner himself will arrive for a "major event" in March.

Power Lunch

Ewan McGregor in for lunch one day at Cube on La Brea, The League actor Nick Kroll on another. … Kevin Huvane has become something of a regular at recently opened Italian restaurant Mercato di Vetro, a breadstick's throw from Dan Tana's. … Katie Holmes and a companion at Soho House for lunch on the same day over the holidays as Omar Epps, and Hilary Duff and husband Mike Comrie lunched there as well. … Amy Pascal and director-producer Grant Heslov at Craig's, separately. … At Il Covo on various occasions: Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Mike Medavoy and wife Irena, and James Caan with a few friends. … Evan Rachel Wood and Sofia Coppola at the Chateau Marmont on the same night, both with different yet glamourous posses. Coppola was taking meetings about new projects, she told THR. … Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito taking a seat at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills. … Producer Avi Lerner popped into The Cantina on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv for a meeting during one of his many regular visits to Israel. … Closer to home, Tobey Maguire, done shooting The Great Gatsby in Australia, tucked into some hummus at the kosher Little Tel-Aviv Cafe in Beverly Hills on the sixth day of Hanukkah, accompanied by a tablemate wearing a yarmulke. … Take a Bao in Studio City, with its contemporary spin on Asian cuisine, has emerged as a staple for Johnny Knoxville. Other recent arrivals: Kiefer Sutherland, Sharon Osbourne and Eastbound & Down's Andrew Daly, each in separately. … Likewise, The Mentalist's Robin Tunney is making a habit out of dining at Cooks County on Beverly Boulevard. … Eastside magnet Little Dom's lured Jon Hamm (almost a regular at this point), Kate Walsh and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. ... Jodie Foster munched on a veggie patty at O! Burger.

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