From NY II: celeb spotting

May 1, 2008
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I'm jazzed to write about both the Lincoln Center revival of "South Pacific" and the new Broadway musical "Cry-Baby" when I return to Indy. And to catch two more shows Saturday. And to share, perhaps tomorrow's blog, some thoughts on my visit to Birdland for some jazz.

For now, though, a few words about celebrity spotting.

This is not, of course, a uniquely New York phenomenon. Just the other night at the Indianapolis International Film Festival, there was "X-men" star Famke Jenssen, sitting in the lounge. But obviously New York and L.A. are the places where this is most likely to happen.

What I find fascinating is how difficult it is not to share these inconsequential stories with friends, family and co-workers upon one's return to the real world. For instance, Kathy Lee Gifford was two rows behind me yesterday at "South Pacific" and that fact has come up far too often in the day's conversations. (She seemed to really enjoy the production, by the way).

On a previous trip, I walked near the Public Theatre and saw a dead pigeon on the sidewalk. When I looked up, Willem Dafoe breezed by me (the two things, I believe, were unrelated but added up to strong New York moment--or at least that was my excuse for telling the tale over and over again).

And then there was that moment when Jim Belushi walked across 7th Avenue (amazing, huh?) and when Christopher Guest sat in the same theater seeing "Gypsy" (the last revival, not the present one), and, OMG, when the woman from "The Drew Carey Show" was actually buying groceries in L.A.

And how about when Al Franken cut into the front of a long line at Grand Central Station?

Why are these nothing moments, these not-quite stories, so lodged in our brains? Why do we have such an urge to share them? Why do the Us magazines of the world get so much mileage out of the photos of celebs walking, shopping, eating, etc.?

Your thoughts? (Or, if you want, your favorite celebrity-spotting stories?)

Famke Jenssen looked great, by the way.
  • Thanks, Lou, for the invitation to share. Two especially vivid memories (sorry for the long response):

    While in Soho in 2005, I noticed a film crew. I asked a crew member what they were filming and was told it was a Bruce Willis film, 16 Blocks. A few hours later crossing at street, my daughter spotted Willis sporting his NY Yankees cap. As we passed, she locked eyes with him and noticed those famous blue eyes. She blurted out, It's Bruce Willis! and my husband turned, camera in hand, to capture a shot. Don't know if we freaked him out, but he ran with someone--probably a bodyguard--and dove into a production trailer.

    Earlier when Hoosiers was in production, I was having lunch at Fletcher's, which used to be in downtown Indy. This was just after viewing the movie Blue Velvet. Seated next to me was Dennis Hopper. My first thought was is this guy really as weird as his character in the movie? I debated whether to ask for his autograph but decided to let him enjoy his lunch in peace. I also worked as a production assistant on the movie and one afternoon while meeting to discuss the next day's shoot, there was a knock on the door. In came Gene Hackman who stopped by to say hello and to thank us for our work.
  • In 1973 I was in the same Broadway audience as Marlene Dietrich. What a trip. Twenty college students, eight shows in 7 days, total cost of tickets, transportation and lodging $315. Priceless.
  • Sometimes I enjoy being a celebrity, myself. I'll be in the grocery store and I'll hear, Hey! Aren't you the storyteller that came to my school?

    I'll turn and look, and the person will say, Hey, yeah! Remember me? You came to Mr. So-and-so's class to tell scary stories?

    Often there were 90 people in that middle school class team, so I don't always remember each person, especially out of context, but I only say, It's great to see you again! I had such a good time visiting your class that day! which is absolutely true.

    But I am not really a celebrity, so that sort of thing only happens once in a while. And besides, the student and I usually end up having a real conversation about the stories we shared, so it's not the same as someone saying, Look! There is Hope walking down the street! (I am laughing out loud at the thought!)

    I don't have a good answer to your question, Lou.

    I do know, however, that I love hearing about real celebrity sightings, including the ones already listed here. (Who else has anyone seen?)

    Hope Baugh
  • I have met some celebs at movie screenings, book signings, concerts, and other events, but I'm trying to recall when I've run into one someone out of the blue. The only one that comes to mind was Edgar Winter (you know, that Albino guy with the song Frankenstein) at the St Louis Airport. I can't think of any others that I've happened onto. I don't remember seeing any celebs when I was in NY. I'm headed to L.A. in October though, so maybe my luck will change!
  • Actor Chuck Goad commented off-blog that he and friends have a game whereas any celebrity spotted is your girlfriend/boyfriend until you spot another celebrity.

    Thanks a lot, Chuck.

    This would mean that my oh-so-brief relationship with Ms. Jenssen is over and my time with Gifford has begun.

    You can bet I'll be looking for more celebs when I'm back in NYC on Saturday.
  • My husband, who is an airline pilot and spends quite a bit of time in airports, sees his fair share of celebrities. We've turned it into a game of 20 Questions. Whenever he spots someone, it's not I saw a celebrity, but instead it's I have a 20 Questions. It makes it a little more fun. He's also turned the celebrity spotting into a contest with his friend who lives out in LA. Ironically, my husband tends to see more celebrities than the friend who lives in LA. Most recently, my husband had Vanilla Ice on his plane. I've even spoken to George Hamilton in the airport on our way to Hawaii. Why, just this past Monday, I saw Chris O'Donnell at my same baggage claim carousel in Atlanta. I guess the fun is in knowing they may be celebrities, but in the end....they're just like Us!
  • Blogging from NYC...ain't technology grand...

    I think celeb spottings stick with us because they are so unexpected.
    Let's face it, stars are made out to be larger than life and we get
    star-struck when we see them in ordinary places/circumstances.

    Here's hoping your next girlfriend is fab.
  • We like to elaborate on the boyfriend/girlfriend game when we go to NYC with friends: We decide that the first person in the group to see a (confirmed) famous person gets $1.00 from everyone else in the group. I won the last time we were there (Oct. of '06) when I spotted Bebe Neuwirth on the street. Boy is she tiny! It was a Wednesday afternoon, near Times Square, and we figured she was between shows doing Chicago. (She did a brief return engagement playing Roxie, rather than Velma, the role she created in the revival.) What made me notice her initially was the bright red lipstick contrasting to her pale skin.

    And a couple of years before that, my hubby and I were catching Wicked -- just a few weeks before Idina Menzel was leaving the show. Our seats were in the mezzanine. Moments before curtain time, a buzz started spreading through the crowd on the main floor. We craned our necks, and, sure 'nuff - crazy Tom Cruise was catching Idina, too. He stood up and waved to the crowd. People applauded. Of course, this was pre-jumping on Oprah's couch and pre-arguing with Matt Lauer about Scientology. So I wonder if his reception would be so warm today.

    Love sharing celebrity sightings!!

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