Friday, August 07, 2009

seeing stars

For Brian, by request

A friend recently told me a fun story about a celebrity sighting when he was living in New York, and it got me reminiscing about the many famous folks I ran across in my years there. Now in D.C., the biggest famous face I have seen so far is our president, and believe me, that was extremely cool.

But as Austin Powers would say, for sh*ts and g*ggles, I thought I would try to list some of the other cool folks I stumbled upon over the years. Part of the allure of living in New York is the illusion that it is the center of the entire universe. And as the rest of the planet at one time or another shares this view, practically everyone will want to blow through town at least once (if not actually live there), so your opportunities for seeing famous folks are pretty high. Add to that the fact that I worked at a museum in midtown (fancy shops, touristy things) and played downtown (cool restaurants, clubs, funky shops) my potential to see someone famous was extremely high. So here goes.

At MoMA I saw:
While visiting, as an art student - David Bowie, Liza Minnelli (who is miniscule, and was as interested in all the folks watching her as the Art of Vienna show she was supposedly there to see)
While working there, I got the opportunity to attend art openings - I saw Steve Martin & Paul Simon & Julian Schnabel together (many celebrities like to travel in packs - it's safer). The thrill about this encounter at the Warhol opening was that while we were all waiting on the drinks line I actually stepped on Steve Martin, who was right in front of me, and he turned around and said "Excuuuse me." God, I love him. There were tons of the famous at that opening (Bianca Jagger, Sylvia Miles, etc., etc.), but Steve was the coolest.

Random visitors to the MoMA bookstore, where I worked (these were all folks with whom I had some real interaction) - Sharon Stone (fully aware of her allure after Basic Instinct and not afraid to use it, but actually came across as a pretty fun gal), Richard Gere (very sweet and wanted to talk about art writing and films by Jean Renoir), Vincent Price (!) with wife Coral Browne, who, when I asked him some question replied very theatrically, "No, no, no!!!" a la his campy Theater of Blood movie. Coral walked around the store, looking for him, calling "Vinnniiieee..."

Sightings in the museum - Cher (coming for a premiere party for Moonstruck), Michael Palin (walking around and looking adorably confused - he's very tall, so John Cleese must be a giant) .
Random sightings on the street:
Arthur Ashe (the very first celebrity I saw in New York - probably my first week there.

In the "can't believe they're so tall" category - Michael Caine, Pedro Almodovar, and while hanging outside the Guggenheim on my birthday waiting for my dad to drive in from N.J. so we could go out to Fiorello's for my birthday dinner I saw Bill Murray walking with his brother, Brian Doyle-Murray.

Andy Warhol - I used to see him all the time, flanked by two very blonde, handsome, young men. His studio was a few doors down from the Parsons dormitory and he used to go to movie matinées - he would be coming out of the theater as I was going in, probably after one of my last classes. I would usually see him on University Place or near the Waverly. He was always very friendly, in a calm, detached sort of way, nodding hello.

Matt Dillon (I used to see him around downtown, especially 8th Street, A LOT)

Willem Dafoe (running around SoHo, and then one time on the F train, sat next to him and his little boy while some fan boys across the way tried to get him to talk about To Live and Die in L.A., "DUDE! You were so cool!" He commiserated with me till he and his son could escape at Broadway/Lafayette.)
Trolling around Soho - Iggy Pop, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller
At play (in a club or bar, etc.):
Mick Jones and Don Letts right before they formed Big Audio Dynamite. For a month or so I saw them everywhere, it seemed - Danceteria, bars, etc. Mick seemed very friendly and approachable and I thought about flirting with him, or even just talking to him, but Joe Strummer was always my favorite in The Clash and they had just disbanded...

Billy Idol with his guitarist at Danceteria being extremely boisterous at the bar, Rod Stewart (apparently I stepped on him at Studio 54, but I don't recall much of the evening in question...) Here's some advice - stepping on a celebrity may be a good intro...

A very drunk Matt Dillon at The Cat Club who kept asking me to dance...

Robert DeNiro (very surreal - we actually had drinks with him in a place across the street from The Public Theater where we had just seen him in a play. It was like watching him do a "greatest hits medley" of his past characters - all the vocal tics and mannerisms. I couldn't watch his movies for a few years after that).

Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling of General Public. Roger had his hair dyed in stripes and we followed him around at a roof part at Danceteria for a while.
At art openings:
Francesco Clemente (I used to see him a lot, especially in the small East Village galleries - always a thrill, and he was very friendly and urbane)

Jean-Michel Basquiat (sigh) - I watched him graffiti the gallery walls of the Whitney at the Julian Schnabel opening(!), Keith Haring went to all the openings...

My friend Steven Parrino introduced me to Robert Longo at Metro Pictures when we were checking out Longo's show. Longo was so high-wired he made me even more nervous to talk to him. He was very short, but his hair was so high he was almost as tall as me!
While living in Park Slope, Brooklyn I would see my neighbors Steve Buscemi, outside my local D'Agostino's and Jon Turturro in my nearby market, the Yiyo, buying staples. Both friendly.

Does any of this really matter? Not really, but it's fun. Are celebrities just like us? Not really. And they have way more money. But these are still fond memories. My mom lived in Hollywood for a while and told me about the time she met...but that's another era, another city, another story.

Note: This list doesn't include all the people I may have seen in a concert or a play, etc. Didn't seem fair to count those.


Post a Comment