Celebrity Spotting, New York Style


By Charlene Giannetti

Years ago, I was on an elevator with a co-worker when he struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger. When the woman got off on another floor, he said to me, “Boy, she was tall!” My mouth dropped open in amazement that he hadn’t recognized a very famous model, one whose form had graced the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue at least three times. Okay. She did have her clothes on.

Then again, not everyone is adept at spotting celebrities. I can pick out people who have been in commercials.  I am, however, a benign celebrity-spotter. I understand that celebrities should not be hounded 24/7 even by a well-meaning fan. (I did, once, have to be restrained by my daughter not to interrupt Kyra Sedgwick during a meal at Gabriel’s to tell her how much I love The Closer. This was tough, because she was dining with her husband, Kevin Bacon, also one of my favorite’s.)

Isn’t this how it is in New York? Why so many celebrities choose to live here? You seldom see a mob of people trailing after a famous person on the street, like you would, perhaps in a smaller city. Why? I’ve come up with some reasons. Perhaps you know others.

They live among us. The fortunate few actually live in apartment buildings and on streets where the famous reside. After you see a celebrity, all sweaty after a workout in the gym, or before that morning latte, the glamour is gone. He’s just one of us.

They go to school with our kids. Celebrities have to send their kids to school. Paris and Nicky Hilton went to private school here. Some of them end up having playdates with our kids. We see them at school events and volunteer next to them during that food drive. In the end, we are all parents and, hopefully, celebrities in our children’s eyes.

There are too many of them. On a good day, you could probably spot a few just walking around. If you hung out someplace where you know celebrities are apt to gather, Balthazar in Soho, or Da Silvano in Greenwich Village, your odds improve dramatically.

We see them live on stage. Frequent Broadway theater-goers are accustomed to seeing celebrities perform live. The civilized way to get up close and personal would be to wait at the stage door following the performance to say how much you enjoyed the show. Stars actually appreciate this gesture.

They frequently film on our streets. Especially on the Upper East Side, residents are accustomed to seeing stars filming the next blockbuster. Sex and the City often set scenes in the neighborhood and several scenes in the movie were also shot there. Rather than be delighted, longtime residents are apt to be annoyed when filming disrupts their daily routine.

Everyone’s a celebrity in New York. With so many news outlets now in New York, to say nothing of reality shows and YouTube, it seems that anyone can have that 15 minutes of fame. Some even manage to stretch it into hours, days, weeks, and years.

We bond over our interests.
One of my friends has met several celebrities walking her dog in the park. What do they talk about? Not the star’s latest venture. Their dogs! Only pet owners would probably understand this reason.

Sucking up to stars is tacky.
There’s a funny scene in Notting Hill where a film star, played by Julia Roberts, is introduced to her date’s sister and the woman cannot contain herself, gushing and babbling, even following poor Julia into the loo. Who wants to look so besotted, especially because of another woman?

We recognize personal space.
Okay, so there’s little personal space on the subway or on buses. But even if we are touching, we still respect (or at least most of us do) the boundaries. We wouldn’t want someone getting in our face, so we don’t get in other people’s faces.

We tend to hound the bad guys.
Bernie Madoff has found that out. I guess some people just bring out the worst in everyone, even New Yorkers.

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