One of the most exciting things about my transition to London is the increased probability of running into celebrities standing in the produce aisle of the supermarket, debating the merits of organic asparagus. I think that the more mundane the activity or setting, the better the celeb spotting; for example, running into Robert Downey, Jr. at the vet with his cat is worth 1,000 points more than catching a glimpse of Nicole Ritchie finishing lunch at The Ivy and surrounded by paparazzi (boring, because we’ve all seen that photo 100 times in the weeklies and it’s ceased to be special or interesting).
These regular-joe moments are the most coveted of celebrity sightings, pleasurable both in their unexpectedness and the perceived normalcy of the celeb – hence the appeal of Defamer’s Hollywood PrivacyWatch and Us Weekly’s “Just Like Us!” pictorials. As in The Ivy example, your proximity to Nicole Ritchie at that moment is not striking, because it’s not hugely by chance. She’s somewhere celebrities are supposed to be; by the same token, seeing Will Smith at a promotional appearance is not really noteworthy, unless he happens to do/say something unexpected to which you are singularly privy, such as surreptitiously pinch the ass of Ryan Seacrest or announce that he could really go for some teriyaki chicken wings. Seeing Will Smith at the vitamin shop, however, is something to tell all your friends about.
While it seems unlikely that I’m going to bump into Gwyneth buying a Mars bar at the newstand or Jason Statham on the tube (please, please, God – just once), the likelihood of celebrity encounters on the street have increased a zillion-fold, and I’m delighted to say I had my first since relocating, notable for both its randomness and what a complete non-event it was.
Walking to work Friday, I decided to take a shortcut down Albemarle Street. I had my headphones in, and my commute bitchface on. A tall, extremely blonde gentleman was being ushered into a livery car ahead of me, and we had to do a little shufflestep as I squeezed by him. Because the functioning parts of my morning brain were more focused on the Basement Jaxx and getting to the office on time, I acknowledged the familiar-looking guy with a nod of my head and a mumbled, “Morning, Boris.”
I’m not even sure if he heard me, because I took another few steps myself before it actually registered that I’d just casually greeted Boris Becker, like he was my neighbor outside watering her gardenias. This was awesome! I hustled to work and proudly told my colleague, who was appropriately impressed (I was impressed with myself for actually recognizing Becker, but thanks to total media saturation, I maintain a great wealth of useless facial recognition information). When my boss wandered over a few minutes later, I informed him of the morning excitement, and he went and ruined it by saying, “Oh, Boris Becker, we saw him yesterday.”
Useful as it was to have confirmation of my sighting, meaning Boris Becker must be staying in the area, having my boss spot him meant that some of the coolness of the experience was lost. Sure, I’d actually mumbled at Boris, making my encounter superior, but it was no longer as unique. Still, it was special, due to what I consider the second rule of celebrity sighting, which is that second-tier celebs are actually preferable to A-List stars. For one thing, I’m much more likely to run into Zach from Saved by the Bell out and about on his own than I am to catch Angelina Jolie without a platoon of bodyguards. For another, it’s entertaining to have that few minutes of staring at someone and thinking, “but they look so familiar… Is it that guy who sold pot in college? Or the guy who ate cheesesteak every day for three years in high school?” before it finally hits you that you know them through their pseudo-fame.
So, Boris Becker on a Friday morning was sufficiently random to please me, and cause for me to promptly email three people with my news. Please feel free to leave details of your own random celebrity encounters in the comments!