Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Masticator Spots Some Celebs

I saw Ashley Olsen of Olsen Twins fame (not Mary-Kate -- the one who killed Heath Ledger, the other one) in the lobby of my office building this afternoon. I didn't recognize her, but my colleagues did. She was much shorter than I imagined her, but she was wearing the infamous bug-eye sunglasses. The woman at the front desk in the lobby knows to alert one of my fellow editors whenever M-K & A or Beyonce are in the building. The Olsen Twins and Beyonce all have clothing lines that have headquarters in our building.

A few weeks ago, I was walking back to work from a coffee break with my co-workers when we noticed scattered paparazzi outside the building. Someone had tipped them that Beyonce was in the house. She was, and I think she managed to escape undetected out the side door after someone on my floor warned her people a few floors above.

We're not used to celebrity sightings in New York -- it's still exciting -- but I think New Yorkers have a reputation for being more graceful about them when they do happen. In a much-debated essay for Smithsonian Magazine, the New Yorker writer Joan Acocella observed:
Another curious form of cooperation one sees in New York is the unspoken ban on staring at celebrities. When you get into an elevator in an office building and find that you are riding with Paul McCartney—this happened to me—you are not supposed to look at him. You can peek for a second, but then you must avert your eyes. The idea is that Paul McCartney has to be given his space like anyone else. A limousine can bring him to the building he wants to go to, but it can't take him to the 12th floor. To get there, he has to ride in an elevator with the rest of us, and we shouldn't take advantage of that. This logic is self-flattering. It's nice to think that Paul McCartney needs us to do him a favor, and that we live in a city with so many famous people that we can afford to ignore them. But if vanity is involved, so is generosity. I remember, once, in the early '90s, standing in a crowded lobby at City Center Theater when Jackie Onassis walked in. Everyone looked at her and then immediately looked down. There was a whole mob of people staring at their shoes. When Jackie died, a few years later, I was happy to remember that scene. I was glad that we had been polite to her.
Gawker Stalker, the Google Map-enabled celebrity sighting feature of the New York media blog, is different, of course. I see that Ashley Olsen was spotted just last night around 11 p.m. at Living Room: "She was really really blond, all in black, and everyone was swirling around her. She was beautiful." When I saw her she was pretty plain looking. I looked straight at her because she was coming in the door I was trying to go out.

Here is a list of all the celebrities I've noticed since I got to New York (which was three years ago as of this week):

1. Richard Kind in a Midtown subway station wheeling a stroller
2. Richard Lewis well-dressed, crossing 5th Avenue with a woman on his arm
3. Jennifer Connelly outside the Union Square movie theater
4. Colin Farrell visibly shit-faced in an East Village pizza place
5. Thomas Friedman crossing Park Avenue near 49th
6. Mary-Kate Olsen smoking in a black SUV in front of my office building
7. Matthew Broderick looking hungover and disheveled in Chelsea
8. Joe Morton at The Delancey, with an entourage

There must be others but I can't remember any off hand. And actors in plays (Kevin Spacey, Brian Dennehy, others) don't count until you see them off-stage and outside.


Anonymous Sarah said...

I'm a little confused by Joan Acocella's assertion that they were "polite" to Jackie O. Imagine walking into a room and having everyone, as a unit, stare at their shoes. It sounds profoundly awkward and not at all designed to set you at ease. The interesting thing is that the rules that apply to celebrities in New York--don't look, act like nothing unusual is occuring--also apply to people with deformities, the homeless, and people who throw up in crowded subway cars.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

P.S. I ended up in the elevator with Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep's daughter, yesterday. I was standing behind her, so I went so far as to peek over her shoulder to see who she was texting. Sadly, it wasn't her mother.

1:04 PM  

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