“Oh. My. God. I just, like, walked into George Clooney. George. Cloooooooney!” Rebbecca was so excited she nearly tossed her venti caramel machiato onto my white winter coat. “Aaaaaaaaaaand I got his autograph! Swooooon.”
I looked at Rebbecca with envy. For someone that’s spent 25 years living in and around star-studded New York City, I never meet anyone famous, let alone get their autograph.
Actually, that’s not true. I have “met” famous people. I once practically crashed into Tino Martinez, one of my all-time favorite Yankees, walking to MoMA. Even though my latte splashed on his running shoes, I never thought to ask him to sign the baseball and glove I keep in my purse. My celebrity encounters, like probably most people’s, are generally awkward and typically fall into one of the following categories:
1.Famous People I went to School With — Columbia is a magnet for famous people, but my grade school boasted a few future celebrities… too bad I didn’t get them to sign my yearbook.
2. Famous people I’ve tripped or nearly tripped — Vera Wang, Fern Mallis, and Ronan Tynan of the Irish Tenors would be included in this large group. (A subcategory of this might be entitled “Famous People I spilled Stuff On”)
3. Famous People I could have Met — This list could go on for ages, but my favorite is James Franco. I was a graduate student at Columbia at the same time Franco was getting his MFA in the Columbia School of the Arts. Later, my time at MoMA coincided with his own MoMA appearance. I frequently saw the car that brought him places, but I never once encountered the over-achieving Hollywood Renaissance Man in the flesh. Meanwhile, one of my college fencing teammates not only met him, but had coffee with him. She was thin, blond, leggy and two-faced — some girls have it all.
4. Famous People I Met, but Surely Creeped Out with My Over-Aggressive Enthusiasm — Joan Rivers and Sloane Crosely. My “Oh my god! My mother and I are just like you and your daughter! Except, my mother’s had hip replacements, not cheek replacements, so she can move her face,” and “I want your career, in fact, I want to be you,” were met with fearful eyes that read: I’m going to need a restraining order against this girl.
5. Famous Athletes I’ve Met, but Don’t Ask for an Autograph from because I’m trying to pretend I’m one of them — Given that I’ve grown-up in the company of Olympic medalists and that I once considered myself an Olympic contender, I try to act unphased by their achievements even though I’m in awe beyond awe. The exception to this is Evan Lysacek. I shamelessly had a friend ask Evan if I could take a picture with him.
6. Famous People I’ve met But Didn’t Realize They Were Famous Until I Went Home and Googled Them — Most recent example: at my favorite lounge, the cocktails are pure perfection and staff is family. My friend and I wiggled into an open spot at the bar next to an older gentleman with white hair and a familiar face. The head bartender kindly introduced us to the man, his friend Jeffery. Jeffery asked us if we had tried the cherry garnish — it was the best cherry garnish he’d ever had. Later, after some computer stalking, we found out his friend Jeffery was the legendary Jeffery Steingarten. Iron Chef America groupie fail.