By Jeff Pearlman
May 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The brownies must be perfect.

Dyan Cannon is a woman of few rules and fewer regulations. She is not a stickler, not obsessive, not one who allows details to rule her life and times. Yet the brownies -- those thick, rich, delicious, scrumptious chocolate brownies -- are required to meet her standards.

Her very high, very precise Los Angeles Lakers standards.

For the past 12 years, Cannon -- an Academy Award-nominated actress whose film credits range from "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" to "Heaven Can Wait" to, ahem, "Caddyshack II" -- has never attended a Lakers home game unaccompanied by the homemade brownies she and her assistant, a lovely woman named Martha Cabrera, make from her West Hollywood home. The tradition began accidentally -- one day Cannon, a Lakers season ticket-holder for four decades, arrived at the Forum with a bushel of goodies to share with the other court-level fans. "We had some left over," she says. "So the ball-boy brought them to the Lakers locker room, and they were a hit. I was asked to bring more for the next game."

Cannon did as she was told, and made more brownies.

And more brownies.

And more brownies.

And more brownies.

And more brownies.

And more brownies.

Former Laker A.C. Green holds the NBA's consecutive games played record with 1,192, a mark that is undeniably impressive. Yet in all those years, Green never needed an oven pre-heated to 425 degrees or enough chocolate chips to fill a Costco warehouse. Cannon, on the other hand, is a genuine craftswoman.

The brownies are baked the night before every game, and arrive neatly packaged in decorative plastic wrap. Adding to the magic, Cannon doesn't merely strive to feed Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. Upon arriving at the Staples Center's VIP entrance roughly 25 minutes before tipoff, she exits her black SUV with a bag loaded with trays. The first person she turns to is the night's valet, who stretches out his hands and received his sweets. "Thanks, Ms. Cannon," he says, placing a gentle kiss on the actress' cheek. "You're a sweetie."

Cannon proceeds to walk briskly down the stairs, past a lingering Penny Marshall and Jack Nicholson and onto the court. As she approaches the scorer's area, Cannon reaches into the bag and hands another plate to Lawrence Tanter, the team's longtime P.A. announcer. He nods appreciatively. The brownies will be shared by everyone at the table. The final plate is handed to a ball-boy, who brings the brownies into the locker room for the Lakers. "And on Sundays I'll bring brownies for Dr. Buss (team owner Jerry Buss)," she says. "He always likes them."

Though she is 75, Cannon is the loudest and most passionate of loud and passionate Laker fans. Her seat along the baseline allows her perfect eye-level access to the action, and her whoops and hollers come in high-pitched bundles of glee. Cannon never boos a Laker, even when the nights are long and the plays are boneheaded (Read: World Peace, Metta.) When her team trails by 20, she still holds out hope for a triumph. When her team leads by 20, she still fears defeat. "My love for the Lakers is unconditional," she says. "I've often thought about moving to New York, but I don't know how I could leave my Lakers. It'd break my heart."

Through the years, Cannon has often been listed -- somewhat mindlessly -- along with Nicholson, Marshall, John McEnroe and myriad others as "celebrity" Laker fans. It is, at its core, unfair. Cannon does not attend games to be seen or to peacock the perimeter of the court. There are no bodyguards or handlers. She welcomes all comers, and will talk endlessly (and joyfully) with strangers about Derek Fisher's departure and Byron Scott's heyday.

A native of Tacoma, Washington, Cannon attended her first Laker game in the early 1970s when Mike Frankovich, the head of Columbia Studios, innocently asked whether she'd like to see some basketball. "I'd been a Sonics fan in Seattle, so I was quite excited," she says. "I told him I'd love to go, and the next thing I know I'm sitting at the floor of the Forum. The game wasn't televised, because the NBA wasn't as big as it is now. And I was drinking coffee and Jerry West came charging into my lap. It spilled all over me and all over him, and they announced it on the radio."

Cannon was both burned, and hooked. In the ensuing years, she has struck up friendships with everyone from Magic Johnson to James Worthy; from Kobe to Bynum to Fisher. She struggles to pinpoint the greatest moment, but hardly flinches when it comes to the lowest. "I was filming in Los Angeles, standing in line to get food, and someone told me Magic had HIV," she says. "I had to go to my trailer by myself. It was devastating."

Two weeks ago, Cannon's best-selling autobiography, "Dear Cary," was released in paperback. The story of her three-year marriage to Cary Grant (who was 33 years older than Cannon), the book is artfully written and uniquely engrossing. Before she was the ubiquitous Laker fan with bouncy blonde curls and bottomless brownies, Cannon was an aspiring actress living under the thumb of a loving-yet-domineering husband. Cannon says the project was beyond torturous; the cinematic equivalent of filming a love scene in the nude before a million oglers. "You feel naked, and insecure," she says. "But I wanted to tell my story, and at the same time pay homage to Cary. I've never done anything more difficult."

As she speaks, Cannon is standing in a Staples Center hallway. The Lakers are trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder at halftime, and her voice is hoarse. She pauses for reflection, then cracks a quick smile.

"Well, maybe not as difficult as a Lakers loss, she says. "But awfully close."

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