Saturday, January 16, 2010

How Not To Interact With A Famous Person

In keeping with the celebrity run-in theme of Thursday's post, I thought I'd expand on a few of my more humbling experiences in that arena.

But first, because sometimes I need to get my head out of my own ass, I urge you to help in any way you can with the rescue efforts in Haiti. I'm sure you've heard about how to text "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross through your cell phone provider (the charge will show up on your next bill). If everyone donates $10 it will really add up. Also, reader Colleen sent me this link, through which you can shop at online retailers like Amazon, Zappos, and Target and have a portion of the sale go to Give Back America, which is doing work in Haiti and in other needy countries around the globe.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Last year, I submitted some of my celebrity mishaps in Top Ten List form to Honorable Mention, a blog of lists.

Here it is (click to enlarge, but I'm going to write them below anyway. Then again, you might want to analyze my handwriting or appreciate my awesome, smudgy pen defilement of Jen and Angie, so in that case enlarge, and enjoy).

Before I elaborate on these moments of humiliation, I should state for the record that I am generally against interacting with celebrities. When I see a famous person, I like to think of him or her (or It, as the case may be) as an endangered creature in its natural habitat. In other words, I watch them, maybe suss out what type of cereal they're buying or try to guess their weight, but I keep my distance. As the following accounts prove, I am not to be trusted around the rich and famous. Okay, here goes.

1. Met Malcolm McDowell with the word STACK'D written across my chest.

This happened in college at Wesleyan one fine spring day circa 1999. Malcolm McDowell was on campus by virtue of the fact that he is the father of one of my friends and classmates. So he had a good reason to be in this story. My breasts, on the other hand, have yet to explain what the hell they were thinking.

Okay, it's not entirely their fault. I was taking drawing that semester and was hanging out on Foss Hill with my friend Charlie and a pot of India ink. I should have known better. Charlie plus any substance is likely to get me into trouble—after all, this is a man with whom I ground up and snorted caffeine pills and whose car I vomited in after mixing Mountain Dew, vodka, and Kool-Aid.

So me and Charlie are sittin' on the hill when we decide to give each other tattoos. I wrote something on his stomach (possibly "GAY," although my memory fails me) and he decided to write STACK'D just above my cleavage. Why he left out the 'E' I couldn't say; perhaps it was an artistic decision or perhaps we were very, very high.

Anyway, we walked back to our dorm, presumably to have a private dance party to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, as we were wont to do in those days, and who should we see standing there with his daughter but Alex DeLarge himself.

I believe that his daughter introduced us and that I turned bright red and sputtered something along the lines of "Please excuse my appearance, for I am a moron."

"Well," he said, smiling as he walked away, "At least you're stacked."

2. Told Bebe Neuwirth that I was frightened by the Blue Whale in the Museum of Natural History.

The first job I had after college was an unpaid internship at a documentary film company. The filmmaker I worked for had done a PBS show that was having its premiere at the Museum of Natural History, and as Bebe Neuwirth had provided a voice-over, she was invited. Since Bebe was coming alone, I was dispatched to meet her at her town car and escort her into the building so that the hoi polloi could not harass her.

Too bad my employer didn't realize that I was the hoi polloi.

"Hi Bebe!" I cried as she stepped out of the car. She looked confused and somewhat taken aback as I advanced. "Oh, I'm supposed to walk you in!" I explained, unable to use anything but exclamation points at the ends of my sentences. She smiled and followed me down the block.

"I've never been to a premiere here," she said by way of small talk.

"Oh! Me either!" I cried. "But this one time? My dad's company held a benefit dinner in the Hall of Ocean Life, and all of the tables were right underneath that big whale! And I couldn't enjoy the bread basket because I was too busy mentally tallying the death count!"*

"Uh huh," she murmured, looking around frantically, I can only guess for a police officer. As soon as we were inside the building she graciously thanked me and then darted into a crowd.

*Seriously, though, as if the Hall of Ocean Life wasn't scary enough, what with its dark, blurry water scenes teeming with dead otters, the whole time you're walking beneath a massive fiberglass-and-polyurethane model—clocking in at 21,000 pounds—hanging from what appears to be a push pin. The whole set-up makes you start to question laws of physics. 

3. Accosted Brendan Sexton III (dude who says "I'm gonna rape you!" in Welcome to the Dollhouse)at an anti-death penalty rally, yelling "You were in Empire Records!"

Okay, truth be told, this is one of many stories that actually happened to my friend Anna but that I say happened to me because they are so good. Anna has the exact opposite philosophy to mine when it comes to interacting with celebrities; her first reaction to seeing someone famous is to yell. Examples of this include "Hey Alan! Loved you in M*A*S*H!" and "Hey! You're Quentin Tarantino!" (the latter gets extra points for being yelled out the window of her car on the LA freeway). Anyway, I was at the anti-death penalty rally with Anna, but it was she who yelled "You were in Empire Records!" at the now-obscure actor known as Brendan Sexton III. In retrospect, perhaps it was rude of us to accost him while the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was speaking.

4. Tripped over Larry Flynt's wheelchair.

This happened at the Texas Observer's 50th Anniversary dinner in 2004. My family lived in Austin for four years when I was young and my dad worked for the TCLU (Texas Civil Liberties Union), so he knew a bunch of the people being honored at the event, including the late, great Molly Ivins.

Larry Flynt was not being honored, but he was in attendance, and having sat through some long speeches while drinking many refills of water and wine, I found myself doing a Pac-Man-like dash towards the bathroom, trying to run while dodging tables and waiters and... well, wheelchairs.

Except I didn't dodge it; I miscalculated and face-planted right in front of the infamous Hustler magnate. This story would be extra-awesome if it ended with me peeing on the floor in front of him, but instead I got up and darted to the ladies' room. Insider tip: Flynt looks kind of like Jabba the Hut in real life.

5. Spilled red wine on up-and-coming actress Melonie Diaz.

I previously documented this experience here (the story serves double duty as it's also the the time I ate Peking duck with the only contestant ever to have been booted off Project Runway for cheating!)

6. Age 10--Told Garrison Keillor he mispronounced my name on A Prairie Home Companion (he did.)

Also previously documented. Man, I cannot keep a story to myself to save my life.

7. Had karaoke duel with Evan Rachel Wood.

Well, here I'm exaggerating; it wasn't a duel per se. But I was singing karaoke in the same room as ERW (in fact, with the entire principle cast of Across the Universe), and  we were arguably the two best singers, so naturally every time she belted out some Fiona Apple I had to counter with Bonnie Tyler. It should be noted that she never uttered one word to me the whole time, and that later I found out that she was falling-down drunk.

8. Stole 1/2 a cupcake eaten by Rose McGowan.

I also can't keep secrets to save my life. But I know that outing McGowan as Cupcake Girl is kind of a letdown. Jeff asked me to remind him who it was and when I told him he said, "Oh. That's not that interesting." Yeah, well, the list says "Unfortunate Run-Ins With Minor Celebrities," bud. I should count myself lucky that I haven't yet had the opportunity to fart on Reese Witherspoon or tell Matt Damon about my junior high school Troll doll collection.

9. Told Martin Freeman (Tim on the British Office) that my parents wanted me to be a lesbian.

Yes, when I interview celebrities as part of my job I tend to overshare and babble idiotically. You can read the original piece here, and the piece I wrote for HuffPo about my special celebrity interview Tourette's here.

And yes, by the way, it's true--I suspect that my incredibly progressive parents would have been thrilled had I grown up to be a lesbian (though they do love Jeff). They used to tell me that when I got older I would find "a husband...or a partner." Then there's the fact that I didn't have a boyfriend until I was 20, which got their hopes up, but it turned out I was just a late bloomer.

10. As an extra in a super low-budget movie, bumped into the Dad from The Wonder Years. Told him I wanted to change my name to Winnie Cooper when I was twelve. He backed away slowly.

Yeah, that's pretty much the whole story.

Also worth noting: Once I am pretty sure Scott Bakula waved at me from a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

By the way, it seems like all of my commenters have been hit on by Alec Baldwin or peed in front of Bill Clinton, and for the record I AM INSANELY JEALOUS. But please keep sharing your celebrity stories with me because I love them.

Oh, and check back tomorrow; I'll be live-blogging the Golden Globes, which combines three of my absolute favorite things: fashion faux pas, awards shows, and Ricky Gervais.


  1. Dear Sassy. I love your blog and am now one of your loyal followers. I was introduced to your blog because I know your dad and he posted your new year's resolution HuffPo piece on his Facebook page. Anyway, you're a hoot, and you inspired me to start my own blog. I hope you will check it out.

  2. "Marky" Mark Wahlberg came up to me after I sang karaoke at the now defunct Suite 16 to tell me I was really good. Tho I'm not sure if it was the singing or the short plaid skirt that made him stop on his way to the can...

  3. Ok, first I have to say that I nearly wet my pants laughing while reading your synopsis of Project Runway. Had to immediately check out your blog and will undoubtedly become an avid fan. Thanks so much for the hysterical laughing as I truly needed it. Love your style!

  4. I went off to a John Farnham concert (with my GRANDMOTHER) and said to my parents "So, watch it on TV cos I'll be waving!"
    Not only was I waving, I was the girl in the dvd promo that ran for the next six months. Being pashed by John. In my defense, I was sixteen, and a little naive.

  5. Alvie Singer??? Brilliant!

  6. una, my last comment was supposed to be on the liveblogging post. oops. xoxox

  7. I love Scott Bakula!

  8. oh my god Una I had forgotten about the STACK'D story until now! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  9. Oh good, a place to put my dorky minor [mostly] celebrity experiences. Willi Ninja asked me [a soccer mom at the time] to dance. Shel Silverstein propositioned me [before he wrote all those goody two shoes kid books]. Carol Burnett ate my banana bread plain. I took Dom DeLuise to Second City to improv. I kidded a guy at a grocery in Aspen about his total ineptitude with artichokes -- Don Henley was not amused. Jessica Walter gave me a blouse and some talcum powder. John Swartzwelder once bought me three pounds of Godiva Chocolate. Harold Ramis used to know me. Last time I saw him he thought I was a stalker. Gerrit Graham once had a crush on me. My college roomie is living with a notorious former NFL player who is a total Neanderthal, so I won't mention his name. I may have to sit next to him at dinner.

  10. I once rode a bus with Fred Schneider, of the B-52's while on vacation in New Orleans. We were way too scared to say anything to him, and no one else seemed to have a clue. I was bummed, that when he did speak (to the driver) it was in no way how he sings. I also drank with Chrissy Hyde's brother, and he didn't say a word the entire time. Also, not a celebrity, but as close as we get in NE Ohio.

  11. At Trader Joe's in Pasadena I mistook Josh Lyman's (Bradley Whitford) filled grocery cart for my own and was pushing it about the store. In a burst of faulty insight I thought he must have mine and asked if he knew where it was. Later we barely avoid head on cart collision and did an Alphonse and Gaston routine and he asked if I was stalking him. He smiled when he said which only made me feel dumber.


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