When I lived in New York, my cousin would come into town frequently for business, and always complain that she never saw any celebrities. One time I pointed out to her Jerry Stiller entering a Duane Reade in the Village, and we watched him shop through the windows. She wasnâ€™t really mollified though until she sat at a table adjacent to Martha Stewart at Nobu (I think; someplace fancy as her company was all about the Dinerâ€™s.)
I on the other hand, being hyper observant and a resident of New York for seven years, had no shortage of celebrity sightings. My favorite was Conan Oâ€™Brien, who was on the Delta Shuttle from Boston to New York one Easter Sunday evening back in the late 1990s. Originally sitting diagonally in front of me, I noticed that no one was taking the seat opposite the aisle from him. So I (subtly?) switched seats and interviewed him for the 45 minute flight back to New York. The part that my friend Yakka loves most about this story is how I initiated the conversation. â€œYouâ€™re from Brookline, right?â€? I began by asking him. When he answered yes, I told him how I won my junior varsity basketball teamâ€™s game against Brookline High by tying the game at the buzzer and scoring another basket in overtime. Conan Oâ€™Brien, nationally known late night talk show host meets Redstar, local high school junior varsity basketball ace. I was disappointed to find in the week of shows following our interaction, he failed to mention me on the air! He was, however, pleased at the end of our flight to accept a blow-pop from the Easter Basket I had in the overhead cabin. He made a crack about Rose Kennedy and his own Irish-Catholic family and was on his way. (At 31, I still receive Easter Baskets from my stepmother; each contains a pair of underwear, among candies and toiletries.)
I also met Ted Kennedy on the Delta shuttle, again by introducing myself to him. That was as we exited the plane, and was far less amusing than the Conan experience, or than watching Mayor Mike Bloomberg have lunch with Star Jones at City Hall restaurant in Lower Manhattan. Itâ€™s funny how it can take a minute to notice celebrities in our midst. Iâ€™ve passed David Duchovny, Gloria Steinem, and Alan Cumming on the street (not together), and their faces register in my brain when Iâ€™m well past them. One Sunday night on the Upper East Side Sigourney Weaver asked me for the time. Both of us out for walk and dressed in sweats, it took me a minute to realize who she was once I looked up from my watch. Not so for my friend Amy when she spotted Ben Affleck on the street one day, and trailed him for several blocks. Nor for me when I saw Matthew Broderick on the street when I was still just a tourist in New York, at age 12. Ferris Buellerâ€™s Day Off was a recent huge hit, and that sighting was the icing on the Hard Rock CafÃ© visit cake as my mom and I spent the day in the city from my uncleâ€™s house on Long Island. But beyond the streets of New York (and Los Angeles and maybe even London), the plane is really us commonersâ€™ best bet for celebrity sightings. Iâ€™ve now shared flights from DC to New Orleans with both Mayor Nagin and his run-off opponent, Mitch Landrieu. The impetus for this post is that Iâ€™m sitting behind Dr. John, the legendary musician (â€œPianist singer. Fren of Prof Longhair. RnB blues rock. A legend,â€? the M.A.S. texts me instructively.) on a delayed flight from New Orleans to Philadelphia. He and numerous folks on this plane were in town tuesday night for the tribute anniversary concert at the New Orleans Arena. He was in front of me in the security line too, with a helpful tag on his bag stating â€œDr. Johnâ€? and â€œMusicien,â€? but it was more the warm greeting he got from one of the airport employees that made me pay attention. Our stuff got entangled at the end of the security belt, and he is elderly and slow on his feet, walking with a cane. It was all I could do not to squeeze by him as he struggled back into his shoes and gathered his belongings. I do my best to avoid knocking down the elderly in my zeal to keep moving, particularly famous geysers traveling with an entourage of producers, roadies, etc. Attached here is a photo of the back of his head over our seats. I am vicariously excited on behalf of the M.A.S., for whom this sighting would be truly thrilling. I am genuinely jazzed about being upgraded to first class; finally after all these trips in and out of New Orleans on U.S. Air, I have made the leap in frequent flyer mile status. Silver preferred. Check me out. Man, all this new prestige â€“ flying first class, being attacked by local activists, celebrity hobnobbing â€“ all I need now is some scandal to cement my own fame and the producers of The Surreal Life will be knocking on my door!