My brother and sister-in-law recently moved to New York, and my broâ€™s on this â€œI want to do all things New York-yâ€ kick. For some people that would involve visits to Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Coney Island, and Carnegie Deli; for my brother, that means making pilgrimages to talk shows.
Last week I made the rounds with him as he paid his respects at Late Night with Conan Oâ€™Brien and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I had my own reasons to join him in the long lines: Conanâ€™s from my â€™hood (Boston), and Jonâ€™s my future husband. But the real appeal (apart from taking my relationship with Jon to the next level â€“ that is, having him maybe become alerted to the possibility of my existence) was the lure of seeing some serious celebrities. Many of the greatest talents of cinema, music, politics, and idiocy have graced these very stages; who knew who I might be fortunate enough to exchange recycled oxygen with in two surprisingly cramped studios?
I was the unlucky recipient of Johnny Knoxvilleâ€™s carbon dioxide at Conan on Tuesday afternoon. Thatâ€™s OK, I figured. Everyone can use exposure to redneck culture every now and then, and Iâ€™m not going to lie â€“ watching him justify the reasoning behind why he permitted a yak to charge him while he was blindfolded was a fascinating exercise in uselessness. The next dayâ€™s trip to The Daily Show was bound to be a lot more fulfilling, I assured myself. After all, my boy Jon had Bill Clinton on Monday, Beantown babe Ben Affleck on Tuesday, andâ€¦ Johnny Knoxville on Wednesday?
I hate my life.
After accompanying Johnny like a true groupie as he toured the talk show circuit in the name of Jackass Number Two, I had an epiphany. (Other than the life-hating one I mentioned above, I mean.) I never see famous people, I realized. I live in New York City, the vice-laden playground to the stars, and the highlight of my celeb-stalking experience to date has been seeing the neighbor from Married with Children walking through Midtown on his cell phone.
Yes. I saw Jefferson. And Iâ€™m willing to admit that I recognized him. Thatâ€™s how abysmal my star-starved life is.
Years ago, long before I moved to The City, I planned a blowout weekend to Manhattan with my friends. We ate at star-magnet restaurants, visited high-end establishments, stayed at a trendy hotel, and even decided to throw our dignity to the wind with a trip to a TRL taping. With all these factors in our favor, we were bound to see at least one C-list celebrity, we hoped, but were holding out for a B. Instead the closest we came to a superstar was our own friend Karishma, whom we tried to convince a cab driver was actually a Bollywood starlet. Somehow we got on the one episode of TRL without even a D-grade has-been dropping by to hawk the latest in reality rubbish or straight-to-DVD offerings. With my celeb-repelling powers, I was able to ensure that even someone of the caliber of Carrot Top wouldnâ€™t be caught dead on the same taping of TRL that I was at.
Everyone around me has fascinating close encounters of the celeb kind. My coworkers saw Julia Roberts twice in one day, ambling around out in front of our office. Ethan Hawkeâ€™s been spotted walking his dog a block away from work; my friend had to step around Toby Maguire as they shot Spiderman 3 inside her building; my roommate ran into Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minillo sharing an ice cream cone at the Baskin Robbins on our corner. Me? I walk past the balding guy from Whose Line Is It Anyway? in Soho and get excited for weeks. And I confess to routinely checking out Gawker Stalker to see who was spotted in my vicinity, only to grumble about how I must have missed them by mere minutes.
Like most Americans, I have a not-so-secret fascination with celebrity culture. While MSN is my homepage, I go right to the gossip section when I log on. I check in at Gawker regularly, and am indebted to my roommate for inducting me to the growing tribe of Perez Hiltonites. I scan People and Us Weekly covers at grocery stores and airport newsstands, and have been guilty of picking up In Touch on occasion â€“ hey, itâ€™s the cheapest magazine on the stands, leave me alone! And on the rare evenings when Iâ€™m home by 7pm, Iâ€™ve been caught flipping on E! News from time to time to hear what Ryan Seacrest has to say about the state of affairs in the superstar stratosphere. Sure, I like my real news just fine; but everyoneâ€™s entitled to a guilty pleasure. Mine just happens to be keeping up with the intricacies of Paris Hiltonâ€™s convoluted love life.
While Iâ€™ve seen some decent names (Shakira, Brooke Shields) at work-related parties, Iâ€™m still longing for the day that I can tell people I ran into Bono (literally) in Soho, shared a dry awning with SJP for a few seconds on a rain-soaked Manhattan afternoon, saw Colin Farrell stiff a magazine stand owner in Midtown, or was proposed to at 53rd and 6th by Jon Stewart. But I guess the only solution in the interim is that I become famous myself.
â€¦Which might not be such a bad idea after all.