NYC Sightseeing Celebrities
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Celebrity Spotting in NYC: Tips and Notes
Celebrities & Sightseeing in NYC
There are plenty of celebrities in New York City. A large number live an work here because the city gives them there best chance to live normally, especially in the neighborhoods. Here are some thoughts on finding them.
In New York City, sightseeing celebrities is common practice, in summer and every other season here, and if you're coming to New York, a celebrity sighting or two might earn you some serious talk time when you go back to wherever it is in the rest of the world you've come from. Here then is your ramshackle guide to NYC Sightseeing, especially celebrities.
Now I am not suggesting that you waste a lot of time that might otherwise be spent usefully in Macy's, discovering that Little Italy really is little and those aren't real Italians, or standing in line at the Apple Store on Fifth or Toys R Us in Times Square.
You won't see celebrities in any of those places. Well, Macy's maybe, but you'd have to brace yourself for all the choking aromas clouding the ground floor to do so.
What I am suggesting is that, like a recent guest of ours, you too may be able to return home with honest tales of seeing a chubby Alec Baldwin hoovering nuts out of a bag as he strolls down Broadway on the Upper West Side.
Where To Look When Sightseeing for Celebrities
If you park your behind–forget that, no place to sit–if you plant your feet firmly in front of the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue at 61st, you just about can't miss. Sooner or later, somebody unforgettable will barrel out of or in through their doors. Everybody stays here.
Neil Young stays there. Legend has it that the Kennedy brothers, before and after nuptials, entertained a bevy of beauties here. I personally was nearly knocked over by Tyne Daly while she was racing down the avenue on the important sort of mission she seems never to be without.
Right in front, I also once saw Rob Corddrey looking puzzled, maybe wondering how he ever gave up a great gig with Jon Stewart to do what was it again?
Suffice to say, if you hang here, you will see one or more. You will also choke on exhaust fumes from all the taxis cutting each other off on Park Avenue and will be royally jostled by the stream of locals trying to go about their lives.
Sightseeing Celebrities on West Broadway in New York City
This short, energetic, boutique and wine bar infused area is where everyone one says the big names are supposed to be hanging. I think this is a diversion, although many of them clearly live in nearby lofts, disguised as junky, unused warehouses.
I believe that most celebrities of any serious ranking have their boutiques and wine bars delivered. I've never seen one of them here. On the other hand, I hate all current television and popular movies, so I don't know who any of them are anyway. You might want to consider that a factor.
While street corner browsing here, to kill time, you might ponder how a street (Broadway) that runs only north-south can be a "West." Same puzzle for East Broadway, which is much longer, but with fewer wine bars. Like the primary Broadway of fame and fortune, they all run strictly north-south.
The truth is, nobody knows how it got that way, which is pretty much true of every neighborhood south of Washington Square. Barrow Street, for example, intersects none other than Barrow Street, a fact worthy of contemplation.
The Bitter Truth
The celebrities who live in New York go about life in much the same way as the rest of us do, except probably most of them get to ignore the "Restrooms for Customers Only" signs our ever-considerate restaurateurs post prominently in heavily trafficked areas.
This is the crudest marketing ploy.
Twice, I've had to buy chewing gum when nature was screaming at me and police were present. But I believe celebrities get a pass, usually even on the subject of public urination, unless they're obnoxious celebrities, like Mel Gibson. Then, your ass is grass. If the arresting officer is a Jew or related to one, a high probability in New York, same ass gets double the grass..
So, if you spy a celebrity or, lucky you, get to meet and probe one or two, you are more likely to do so under the most unexpected circumstances, sort of along the lines of running into your boss at the movies on the day you called in sick.
Here are a selection of my own true life experiences in accidental celebrity sightseeing.
My Sightseeing Celebrities Experience
My first celebrity was the great O. J. Simpson. No, no, not that O. J. Simpson. I mean the one who was a great running back for the Bills, a terrible actor, but as charismatic a character as anyone any manager ever dreamt up.
One Saturday morning, early in our years in New York, my wife and I were trying to prop up a dwindling, but beloved habit of weekend breakfasts out, sitting in a small, French cafe that used to be on Third Avenue, up around 66th Street.
The walls were mostly mirrored, and a long line waited for tables, neither of which influenced my behavior until, while filling a tabletop with crumbs from whatever baked good my negligent nutritional habits had lured me toward, I looked at the wall and saw that, standing right beside us, was O. J.
Of course, I turned and engaged him immediately in football chatter. I'd been a huge fan. To this day, Simpson is the only really cordial, polite and open celebrity I've ever met, if I ignore the time Dick Ebersol called my place and, thinking I was someone else, called me "Stevie."
O. J. and I actually discussed a ninety-six yard run I saw complete in Buffalo's old Rock Pile, at the start of which he juked Pittsburgh's L. C. Greenwood onto his butt five yards passed the line of scrimmage. Simpson's unaffected niceness and willingness to tell stories always made it hard for me to accept the criminal accusations aimed at him.
I suppose I only saw one side of a complicated personality, but it stuck. This affliction never inhibited Jay Leno who repeatedly taught many of us a lesson in civics: the American value of "innocent until proven guilty" doesn't count if you know how to play prejudice for laughs on late night talk shows.
I once saw Dennis Franz chugging happily up Madison Avenue in the very high rent district, mixing invisibly with tourists, very much in his element, looking like a regular guy. He seemed happy not to attract attention, although I suppose that sort of relief is less available once your career hits its inevitable decline.
Speaking of declines, Woody Allen is well-known for disguising himself under huge, floppy hats during walks around Manhattan, which you can tell from his movies he loves to take or used to. Now, he prefers to follow Scarlett Johansson around Europe, trying to remember where he left his mojo.
If you've watched the scene in Manhattan where he is cornered by fans while waiting for his date to show up outside a movie theater, you can understand why it's uncomfortable for a true Upper East Side snob.
My speechless meeting up with Woody occurred shortly after he pitched Mia Farrow for her adopted daughter Soon Yi Previn. Soon Yi had a limited salubrious affect on Woody in that he was not, on this day, wearing a bonnet more suited for church ladies on Sunday, but he did retain his trademark, disgusted with the world scowl.
What the hell did she see in... Never mind.
Anyway, my wife and I were walking down one of the really pretty East Side streets, one with brownstones and what Kurt Vonnegut called "fabulously well to do" owners, when we saw Woody with Soon Yi out for a stroll or walking off lunch.
On a day as gorgeous as that one, few people, especially old guys with adoring young girlfriends are scowling. That's how I knew it was the great star. The increasing intensity of his scowl sent out waves of I don't want to be seen vibrations. Nonetheless, we had the unfortunate coincidence of meeting exactly where a sidewalk intruding tree narrowed passage.
Not wishing to step into the street, but courteous as ever, we paused and waited while May and December, twisting slightly sideways, passed. Make that April and November.
Not a whisper of recognition escaped my lips. Neither Woody nor his pal nodded or even mumbled "thank you." Of course, this was before his talent went into eclipse, so a certain celebrity snobbery was more than reasonable.
Next time, I ain't moving.
My most recent celebrity is the still great actress Angela Lansbury. We've seen her recently on Broadway, and she always is cast as someone a bit feeble, now in her eighties.
But this encounter proved to me that this octogenarian can turn some fantastic physical maneuvers, especially when she finds she's being approached on a stroll through Central Park by a bald guy fumbling with his Flip HD to get a shot.
Okay, I admit it was me fumbling with my pocket video camera, a great little deal I try always to carry in order to capture those moments that give my wife a chance to say, "What did you shoot that for?" or, more commonly, "That would be really nice if you didn't jiggle it so much." Or, "Doesn't it come with something to clean the lens?"
Well, I do have a nifty thirteen second video of Lansbury turning heel and almost running away, which I will post on YouTube as soon as I figure out how to erase the audio track of my mushy comments about seeing her in Noel Coward's Blythe Spirit . (She was great, hilarious!)
Lansbury was also great in A Little Night Music, although the show itself is fairly sucky. I love Sondheim. I don't love plays about Nineteenth Century manners, ridiculous as they are, that cannot be saved by good music and clever lyrics.
So, There You Have It: Celebrity Sightseeing
It's true I had a brief "Hey, Spike," with Mr. Lee in Central Park as he was sitting quietly with one of his children, hoping to be left alone like a real dad, and I also ran into Michael Learned as she was hustling out a stage door to go to a party. But I've never had a planned sighting.
Stars love New York and many live here. For the most part, like Alec Baldwin and Spike Lee, they try to do ordinary things in an ordinary way. If you use these helpful tips to spot one, please be respectful. Use your Flip HD only when they don't see you or have their permission. I know I'll be following that rule henceforth.
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If you see a baseball player, even A-Rod from the first row, that doesn't count. He is still in his public, not private persona.
Also, if you attend a cabaret and enjoy Tom Wopat with a small jazz group and annoy him when he's trying to get to greet some friends after the set, that only counts as half a sighting.
Okay, that was me, too, and he was fairly nice about it.
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