Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Collisions (not brushes) with celebrity

One Saturday or Sunday in 1973, my friend Janet and I were downtown Detroit photographing buildings for our high school photography class. At some point in the day, we decided we needed some lens paper to clean our filthy lenses. We found a camera shop that was open and went inside but there was a crowd of old men (two and three men deep) around a round table loaded with books and the only woman in the store, also standing at the edge of this table, was flirting like crazy with  these men. We were 16, the world revolved around us and at that minute, we wanted lens paper so we could be on our way. But those men would not budge, and the one woman in her severely fringey outfit who was in our way, she wouldn't budge either. We said our "excuse me's" so we could get past the woman blocking our way but that woman was totally focused on the men, not us, two impatient mean-faced teenage girls. Janet got a little mad and kind of gave the woman a kick in the shin to make her move. The woman Janet kicked was Gina Lollobrigida. Turns out she was in Detroit for a booksigning of her book of Italian  photographs that was just published. Teenagers are just so creepy.

But sometimes celebrities can be the ones who turn out to be the badly behaved ones.

It was 1968. Colorado. Snowmass or Aspen, I forget. Probably February. I was in line to get on the chairlift and there was a man who was in line to get on the chairlift too but he really, really did not want to ride up with me. He tried his best to lag behind or move up so he could sit with the snowbunny in line behind me but he ended up with 12 year old me.  He tried really, really hard but it was inevitable, we were going to ride up together. He was so mad about this that he would not look at me or even talk to me on our ride up. And me? Although he wouldn't say one word to me,  that did not stop me from talking. This man who was stuck listening to a 12 year old recite all her "interesting" homework was Eddie Albert.

I do feel sorry for him now though because everybody knew Eddie Albert was on the slopes. When he fell, everybody in the area would point at him and say-"Hey look, there's Eddie Albert." It didn't help that the guy was 80 years old for half his life too. 

But this celebrity encounter had me appalled. My family had a beach house in upper Michigan in a very remote area. You had to drive down a dirt road through an orchard, escape from a loose killer guard dog, continue down a steep hill into a forest and then into a mildly developed area around the bay. One morning my sister Colleen noticed a white Mercedes driving around in circles, obviously lost, then watched it park and watch a man walk to our door to get directions. Colleen answered the door. The man asking for directions was Vincent Price. Colleen knew he was Vincent Price and she said that he knew that he was Vincent Price but she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that she knew that he was Vincent Price so she told him she had never heard of the people he was looking for and that he should continue down the dirt road and ask for directions at the next house and then closed the door. This happened in the late seventies. Vincent Price was performing as Oscar Wilde on Broadway. He was a gourmet and he collected art. Vincent Price was major cool. I was just appalled. Appalled. Although I was in the same house at the time this happened , I was still asleep when he came to the front door. After hearing the story, I vowed I would never, ever, ever be that rude to a celebrity if I ever ran into one.

So that night we went out to dinner. I was 20 or 21, so we could sit at the bar while we waited for our table. At the very end of the bar was a very drunken man sitting alone and singing songs from the musical "Annie." I recognized him. Another celebrity. But he was sooooooooo drunk. Obnoxiously drunk, soon on the way to being passed out drunk. He was Bobby Van. At the time I think he had a TV show called "Make Me Laugh." I think I was probably the only one in the restaurant who knew who he was but did I say anything to him? Nope. Just 12 hours after vowing I would not be rude to a celebrity like how my sister behaved that morning, I was behaving exactly the same way.


abb said...

There's always next time. I never see celebrities, never!

Maria said...

You need to move closer to a dinner theater.

shara said...

Love it! I have been reading the blogs I follow today, in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Thank you for fulfilling what the doc ordered!

I think I will write a post of my celeb encounters.

Thanks again!

Gina Martin said...

my college friends & i ignored a celebrity once for the same reason as your sister. & he was going out of his way to get our attention because we were the only people standing there with him on the subway platform, in new york, in the middle of the night, in 1981. it was al franken.

Country Girl said...

I think you did the right thing there, you know. He was drunk. Best to back away. And that's sad.

Damn, you've seen a lot of celebrities!

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong when you idolize a celebrity but think about the limitations. They are also person who can feel failures and sadness that's why some of them want to escape and find a way to tell themselves that they are ok.

Maria said...

Shara-I'm looking forward to reading them. Glad I could improve your day a bit. :-)

Gina-Are you sure it wasn't Mark Cook? Ha ha ha ha.

Kate-Hmmm. Maybe I have. And two old cats of mine got to see the Queen of England (and not on TV!). I'll have to write about that soon. But hey, you got to spend a day with Chuck Norris.