Star Gazing

I headed back down to New Orleans last week, my second time in just a few months.  This time it was for a wedding of a close friend and it was really lovely, and loads of fun.  As the evening wore on the bride and groom left, and the party slowly dispersed.  I found myself at the famed Carousel Bar, a unique hotel bar that actually spins slowly.  It’s a bit disorienting, but fun to experience.  As I sat and talked with friends, it was pointed out to me that actor John Corbitt, of “Northern Exposure” and “Sex and the City” fame, had just walked into the room.  He played Aiden and when I mentioned this later, I accidentally started a bit of spat between the Aiden and Mr. Big camps.  For the record, Carrie ended up with the right guy.  Ahem.  I digress…..

This experience caused me to reflect on the other celebrities I’ve crossed paths with while traveling.  Almost all of them were positive, but there is one towering exception.  I’m going to start with the positives, and yes, I’m going to name names……

In the late 1980’s I was in Los Angeles, standing at the luggage carousel at LAX, when there was a bit of a commotion behind me.  People were shyly walking up to Sir Richard Attenborough and asking for his autograph.  I didn’t have a clue as to who he was, and wasn’t much impressed.  Then, a few years later, I was watching “Jurassic Park,” and it hit me!  That’s the guy from LAX!  I went home and did a bit of research and found that he also directed “Gandhi,” and loved a good nature documentary.  I’m still kicking myself.

When I was in high school I occasionally worked at a local auditorium, and a few times a year, a really big name would come through town.  On one such occasion, Bob Hope performed a special show to raise money for a local hospital.  It was my job to help him in any way I could, prior to his going on stage.  I basically sat for hours and watched him and his manager talk about football and the weather very loudly.  Bob was a bit older at this point, and his hearing was gone.  His manager, a man in a beige suit, with a shirt unbuttoned to intentionally show his graying chest hair and gold medallions and chains, seemingly didn’t want to let Bob in on the fact that he needed a much, much stronger hearing aide.  After a while, I got tired of being ignored and decided to introduce myself to them.  Mr. Hope was gracious, but was annoyed that his dressing room didn’t have a bathroom in it, and his manager took me aside to ask, if I knew “who that was?  A legend! A god damn legend.”  I exited the conversation and the room.

I met President Barak Obama, by chance one afternoon while sitting on the steps of the Congress building in Washington, D.C.  He was a Senator then, and he and Michelle came walking out right past me.   I was with a group of students, and he briefly spoke to each of them, and he posed for a picture with us all.  They seemed like genuinely nice people.

I’ve met a few others, and seen many more in passing, and they’ve all been pleasant, for the most part.  Then there’s the mother of all celebrity encounters.  Purely by chance, I had dinner one night with Lucy Liu.  It was memorable for all the wrong reasons.  I was in New York City a few years ago, visiting a friend.  This friend was living with a personal chef at the time, and she worked for several famous people.  Lucy was one of these.  The two of them had become close, and she had invited Lucy to her birthday party, which was to be held at a Moroccan restaurant in the city.  As luck would have it, this was all going to happen the weekend I was in the city.

I know enough not to get caught up in the fandom mentality of the situation, and besides, I like to think I’m kinda awesome sometimes, too.  If she was famous in the world, I was famous in my head, and to me those two things balanced each other out.

Lucy thought otherwise.

The night of the party we took a cab to God knows where in the city, to the restaurant, and were immediately ushered into a private party room in the basement.  It was lit with red lights, and all of the furniture and flooring were black.  It was the kind of place that plays loungy smooth thumpa thumpa music in the background, just loudly enough to make you concentrate on what is being said to you, but not so loudly as to make feel like you simply have to dance.  Everyone seemed to know each other, and I was the odd man out, so I sat in one of the empty seats with no one across from me.  I began making small talk with the girl next to me, who surprisingly, was also from Alabama.  She began telling me, a complete stranger, about her marital problems, and how her husband might be gay, and how she never talks to her parents, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the empty seats across from me would be where Lucy was going to sit.

A few moments later and I heard, “Heeeeey!” being  shouted across the room, as Lucy came in.  She hugged almost everyone, but not me or the bad parents-possibly-gay-husband-rough-marriage-girl.  Then, Lucy and the man accompanying her sat down directly across from me.  I decided to turn on the “Southern Charm” and be as friendly as possible to her.   I introduced myself and she did the same, and then her Israeli boyfriend introduced himself.  It was going well.

She asked what I did for a living.  I told her the truth, that I was a lawyer and an educator, and she immediately pulled out her massive Blackberry with an orange rubber case, and frantically tried to avoid any further conversation or direct eye contact with me.  She did seem to know the people to her left, and after a brief conversation with them, I learned that one was a producer for “Entertainment Tonight” who was furious because a cameraman had not gotten very good footage of a fireworks show in Hollywood that night, and the other was the trainer of pretty much everyone in the group.  It was beginning to dawn on me that this was going to be a very long meal.

The high (low) point of the meal, came about thirty minutes later, when I started to talk to Israeli Boyfriend.  It turns out he was a sculptor (of course, he was), and he mentioned that Lucy painted.  I saw my chance and fixed my gaze upon her.

“Oh, really, what kind of painting do you do- oil or water colors?” I asked.

“Whatever I feel like,” she said without actually looking up from her phone.

Bitch”, I thought.  I saw how it was going to be, and she had no idea who she was playing with.  I decided to roll with it and to become the most friendly, overly interested person she would ever meet.

“What do you paint?” I asked energetically.

“Whatever I feel like,” she responded.

“Do you do large scale or smaller, more intimate pieces?”

“Whatever I feel like.”

“Do you sell what you paint or is it just for you?”


At this point Israeli Boyfriend had figured out what I was doing, and was almost laughing at Lucy’s diligence.  He quickly stepped in and pointed out that Lucy had done an entire series of “Asian erotica.”  I was just about to dig into this a hole a lot deeper and with insane giddiness, when Entertainment Tonight interrupted us to ask if Lucy would be available to do an interview again.  Apparently, she didn’t seem enthusiastic and personable enough in the one that had been taped days earlier.  Go figure.

I saw my chance, and asked Bad-Parents-Possibly-Gay-Husband-Rough-Marriage-Girl to be in a picture with me.  I asked my friend to take our picture, and I made sure Lucy was dead center in the background!  Lucy caught on to my evil plan though, and just before the picture was snapped, seemed to loose all ability to hold up her head.  This picture was the result.  Yup, that’s her in the background.


The night wound on and the wine flowed and the never-ending line of food came.  Most of the food was simply appetizers and I wasn’t terribly impressed; nor did I eat much.  Finally the cake arrived, and the song was sung, and everyone was high on cheap sugary icing.  It was then that Lucy and Israeli Boyfriend said their good-byes and made their way up from the dimly lit basement.  Then the bill came.  Yes, Lucy left BEFORE the bill.  She skirted out on her portion of the tab!  It was a $1,500 tab for the group.  I can’t say I blame her or the other half of the party that left.  Well, of course Birthday Girl didn’t have that kind of cash, and the six people that were left, including me, were looked to for help.

There are moments where you have to do what’s right, and then there are the other moments.  This was one of the latter.  I looked at her, and I thought to myself….  I don’t know this girl.  I will never see her again.  I will never talk to her again.  She asking me to pay $250 for a few bites of food and a couple of glasses of cheap red wine.  I knew in that moment that she had lost her mind.  I threw $40 down on the table and slowly backed up the stairs listening to her sobs of “What am I going to do?”  Heartless of me? Perhaps.  The wisest thing to do?  Abso-freakin’-lutely.


Categories: North America, Stories, YUM


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2 Comments on “Star Gazing”

  1. Cory R
    April 30, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    This is hilarious!

    • May 1, 2013 at 4:06 am #

      Thanks! One of the strangest nights of my life…for many reasons!

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