« A Fair Exchange | Main | Nine »

After Work: The Famous Are Among Us

…Way back, I did lose what little I have that passes for cool when I saw Truman Capote pacing up and down the sidewalk in front of the restaurant where ladies who lunched pushed poached salmon and baby lettuce around their plates…

New Yorkers, says Dona Gibbs, aren’t supposed to intrude on famous people. “Truth is, I rarely see anybody that I recognize from supermarket magazines or the tabloids. I know they’re out there…’’

For more of Dona’s superlative columns please click on After Work in the menu on his page.

Down the Manhattan street she came at a purposeful clip with glossy black hair flying. She wore a skinny black sweater and pencil skirt. Minimal jewelry and maximum style.

Up the street, I slumped with dampish hair plastered to my head. I was wearing a baggy twin set and rumpled skirt. Minimal jewelry and, woe is me, less than minimal style.

I knew exactly who she was, a celebrated designer. Very celebrated. In fact, it’s some kind of a bridezilla edict that one can’t be married, really truly married, unless one is wearing one of her exquisite, expensive bridal gowns.

She looked me up and down, stern and thin-lipped.

A big cartoon balloon floated over her head. It read, “ Why doesn’t that woman do something with herself ?”

Ah, that’s why I moved to New York.

It could have been anyone who formed that unspoken question, but it wasn’t – it was a famous designer. My heart didn’t thump. I didn’t fall into step with her and beg for an autograph. I only wished I hadn’t looked so frumpy. I thought I might have driven a stake through the heart of her fashion consciousness.

As New Yorkers, we aren’t supposed to intrude on famous people’s privacy. We aren’t supposed to squeal and point when fame crosses our path. Truth is, I rarely see anybody that I recognize from supermarket magazines or the tabloids. I know they’re out there. There’s a whole website devoted to daily celebrity sightings. It even includes a map for the obsessive.

Away from the set or the dance floor, most celebs look suprisingly like the rest of us. Yes, the bed-head guy in front of you in line for coffee might have just been named the next big thing, but there he is waiting for his half-caf, soy, venti latte. How boringly normal.

I made my first trip to New York as a delegate to a high school paper journalism conference. My celebrity radar scanned the streets. And I saw famous folk everywhere. There went Eleanor Roosevelt, crossing the street near the United Nations. Here was Agnes Moorhead sitting on the aisle in the theater. And wasn’t that Tony Perkins hurrying down the block? Yes, you’re right. It was a long time ago.

I already knew the New Yorker rules. Don’t stare. Don’t intrude.

And I already knew I must come back to this magical city where you never know who might be right around the corner.

When I did move to New York, I saw almost nobody famous or at least anyone who was famous yet. Occasionally I saw Frank McCourt, the author, but he was years away from writing Angela’s Ashes. He was teaching school, and his brother was the celebrated one –known for roaring out stories at Greenwich Village watering holes. And if I saw some wild-eyed, paint-splattered soul stumbling out of the Chelsea Hotel, just a couple of blocks from my tiny apartment, I didn’t think, “Oh, that’s Larry Rivers. I wonder what masterpiece he’s just turned out.” My thoughts were more along the line of, “When will I ever be able to get out of this crummy neighborhood?”

One afternoon as I was walking by a midtown chic salon, the doorman gave me a huge teeth-baring smile. I smiled back, a natural small-town Southern girl reflex.

He rushed forward, “Step out of the way,” he snarling almost inaudibly.

He took my elbow and smiled again. Only this time, over my shoulder.

“Don’t you see who that is? That’s Mrs. Paley. Babe Paley.”

And so it was. The slender, glossy Mrs. Paley, wife of William Paley of CBS. She hardly looked due for a salon visit.

During the seventies I spotted Andy Warhol, an animated wraith. I never ever suspected that platinum mop of air was a wig. In the nineties I almost bumped heads with Yoko Ono. We were admiring the same pieces of jewelry. The difference was she could have flashed a credit card and bought everything in the case. We exchanged not a word, nor even a glance.

Recently I popped into the local quickie nail salon for a little treat.

A woman came in with a great flourish, which is difficult to bring off if you’re wearing sweats and flip-flops.

Her demeanor said, “I am somebody!”

She introduced herself and we twinkled our wet nails at each other in greeting. She was, she said, an actress, a producer and a director who lived part time in LA and part time in New York.

I nodded and turned my attention back to serious task of nail drying. After all, there are a lot delusional people in the world.

When I got home, I couldn’t help myself. I Googled her. What she said was true and what’s more, she had set some kind of record for her role in a long-running night time television series. She still looked like her photos –and I’d had no a clue about her fame.

She probably thought I’d been incarcerated for most of the eighties. Otherwise, I would have certainly recognized her, wouldn’t I?

So it occurs to me that the famous might want some fuss made over them.

Way back, I did lose what little I have that passes for cool when I saw Truman Capote pacing up and down the sidewalk in front of the restaurant where ladies who lunched pushed poached salmon and baby lettuce around their plates.

His lunch date was obviously late.

It was the height of summer and he was wearing a white linen suit and had set a panama jauntily atop his balding head. Huge sunglasses perched on his nose.

I couldn’t help myself.

“Truman, I’d know you anywhere –even behind those sunglasses.

He stopped and took my arm, peering at me, “Now tell me. Where do I know you from?”

“You don’t. I’m just a fan –a big fan of your writing.”

He beamed and gave my arm a little squeeze.

I continued on my way, my knees quivering.

I boarded the uptown bus and I couldn’t contain myself.

“I just saw Truman Capote,” I bubbled to the bus full of people.

“So what,” a gravelly voice croaked from the rear. “I see him on Johnny Carson’s show all the time.”

So maybe it isn’t etiquette that real New Yorker exhibit when they see a bold face name in the flesh. Maybe they really don’t care.



Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.