Friday, September 11, 2009
Please, no autographs
The Onion AV Club has a fun piece about encounters with celebrities. Since The Velvet Blog is starved for comments, I'll open up the topic here. Any celebrity run-ins you'd like to share?
When I was fresh out of college, my first job was as an editorial assistant at publisher William Morrow. I met quite a few writers and celebs peddling books there. In passing: Roddy McDowall (tiny!), Barbara Mandrell (hey, it was the '80s -- and, also tiny!), John Irving (very nice, and he signed The Cider House Rules!), Eva Gabor and Zsa Zsa Gabor (separately!), that guy who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and his wife, who was in The Manchurian Candidate and The Giant Spider Invasion (annoying!)!
The only one I had a real conversation with was actress/comedian/Madonna canoodler Sandra Bernhard. She was surprisingly nice, not at all like her prickly public persona. I knew she had just finished doing a film with director Nic Roeg, so I asked her about that. (It was enjoyable!)
I can't help thinking, though, that celebrities you meet in your office don't really count, somehow. I mean, they're in your place of work for a reason.
So, outside of those, I think I've only really had two celebrity encounters.
The first was actually William Morrow-related, but not explicitly, so it still counts. It was also a little weird.
We were publishing a book by some big writer. I'm drawing a blank on exactly who, but a safe bet is James Clavell. (Oh, BTW, you can also read this old entry on how I schooled the author of Shogun and King Rat, etc., etc., on basic grammar.) The owner of Morrow in the late '80s was Hearst Corp. That's Hearst as in newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, fictionalized by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane. Long dead, of course, but one of his sons -- William Randolph Hearst Jr., I'm pretty sure -- headed the company at the time. He wanted a copy of the manuscript we had just paid multimillions for, and he didn't trust couriers. (The disgustingly rich -- so eccentric!) I was handed a Xerox of the ms. and told to take a cab to Hearst's office off Times Square and plop it into his cold, slightly moist hands.
Which I did. I don't remember much about him other than he was old. But, oddly enough, this isn't a story about meeting William Randolph Heart's progeny.
Rather than take another cab, I decided to ride the subway back to work. And as I sat down on the NYC subway system's gloriously uncomfortable seats, I looked over to my left and realized I was perched next to Phillip Glass, perhaps the most famous of the late 20th century's serious composers. It was really hot that day, more so down in the subway, and I thought at first I might be imagining things. But no, it was definitely Glass. I was struck with the compulsion to hum circular rhythmic patterns under my breath, but somehow fought off the urge.
The other non-work celeb encounter, also from the late '80s:
I met a bunch of friends for dinner in New York one Saturday. Kim worked in midtown and recommended an inexpensive Italian joint around the corner from her office. Midway through the meal, Lee (hi, Lee, who reads this blog but never comments!) leaned over the table and whispered in my ear: "Don't say anything, but Shirley MacLaine is sitting over there."
I turned around and looked at the woman sitting with a South American-looking fellow at the table diagonally across from ours, and there indeed was Warren Beatty's sister eating pasta. And I blurted out, in a voice much, much louder than I had intended: "OH MY GOD! IT'S SHIRLEY MACLAINE!!!" She flinched a little.
Shirley left before we did, and we asked the waiter about her. He said she seemed pissed off and tipped poorly.
Hmm. I wonder why.