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Celebrities at 30,000 Feet: Mr. Big, The Bachelor and the Diva
I never thought of myself as one of those people who would freak out when they encountered a celebrity. To be fair, I hadn't met very many celebrities before flying the friendly skies. There was one exception, of course. I met one of the Backstreet Boys (yes, I'm dating myself) in a theme park in Orlando but, if we're being honest, it was a little less "meeting" and more gushing and then randomly running (yes, literally running) away from him.... not one of my finest moments. SO, from that day on, I promised myself to remember that celebrities are just people who portray characters on the big screen....that is, until I met "Mr. Big".
I was sitting on Airport Ready Crew, my super-fun twelve hour shift which usually meant sitting in the dark crew room and watching bad reruns of the Jerry Springer show. Pilots have decidedly poor taste in television shows.. After a few hours in the dungeon, I decided that I needed some sunlight so I made my way to the main level of the Newark Airport.
It was a normal, busy and bustling day as I walked to the newsstand to find a magazine and, after a month of working as a flight attendant, all of the faces kind of blended together. When you're in an airport as busy as Newark's International, you don't ever expect to see someone you know...but as I looked around, I spotted someone who looked oddly familiar.... So familiar, in fact, that I continued to walk in the direction of the businessman who looked so familiar to me. As he stopped to check the Departures board, I slowly made my way over to him...and then it hit me! OH MY GOD IT'S MR. BIG!!!!!
I didn't know his actual name and, in my excitement, I forgot all about the Backstreet Boys incident and I lost it!
"Mr. Big! Mr. Big! MR. BIG!!!!! I shouted as I practically ran up to him. This obviously got everyone's attention. And everyone in a 25 yard radius turned to see who the crazy flight attendant was yelling at. Well, I clearly wasn't the only one who recognized the Sex and the City star and people stopped and started murmuring, all while pointing and staring at the star.
I quickly realized my mistake. Mr. Big stopped looking at the board, looked at me, and said, "Thanks a lot. And by the way, my name is NOT Mr. Big, that's my character's name."
I was mortified and felt pretty bad about taking his anonymity from him in the crowded airport as I'm sure he was followed around for the duration of his layover there. I didn't even stop to apologize, I just turned very quickly around and decided that Jerry Springer wasn't looking too bad right now. Sorry Mr. Big!
After the "Mr. Big" incident I went a few months without spotting my next celebrity, probably to the relief of stars everywhere. But my second sighting happened kind of like the first. I was yet again sitting reserve crew at Newark and got bored so I decided to walk around. I was in my favorite little magazine shop and noticed a very tall, broad figure next to me. I looked to my right and this tall, dark and dreamy man was standing there. He was obviously in very good shape as his biceps were easily the size of my leg.... oh my. Now, the New York area is full of good looking men, but this one was different, and then I realized I recognized him. It was Jesse Palmer!
For those of you who don't watch football OR the Bachelor, Jesse Palmer was a Quarterback for the NY Giants and the first athlete to appear on the Bachelor. Now, I wasn't a football fan but because of the lack of cable in my tiny Jersey apartment, I was very familiar with his stint as a single Bachelor trying to find love through a series of mini-dates and rose ceremonies.
I felt myself start to get nervous and just so happened to be holding a magazine featuring Palmer as the show's finale was about to air. The title read, "Who will Jesse pick?". He glanced over at the magazine and then at me.
"You're Jesse Palmer," I said. He looked at me for a moment and I realized that he was starting to get nervous.... Apparently he wasn't supposed to be in public until the finale aired so that the outcome would remain a surprise.
"Ummm my name is Bob," he responded.
Now this was funny. After living in the NYC area I'd become quite the little sassy pants so this answer was just unacceptable and I was about to let him know it.
"Bob?" I asked. "You have had months to come up with a fake name as you've been on the show and you decided to go with, Bob?" I added.
He looked surprised and continued to stick to his "Bob" story. So I laughed and let it go. We stood there in silence continuing to peruse the gossip magazines. After a few moments he finally spoke again.
"So, I haven't seen the show, what's this Bachelor thing all about?" He asked.
Oh my goodness. He was FISHING! He wanted to know what people thought of him on the show! So I figured it was only right that I let him know.
"Well, he's kind of a jerk. And he's really bad with names (He'd forgotten one of the girls' names during a rose ceremony), especially his own name. He's under the impression that his name is "Bob", which must be short for Jesse," I responded sarcastically.
The look on his face was priceless. I decided that it was time to go. He might have been a little full of himself but he was still dreamy and, let's face it, my track record with celebrity hotties wasn't very good so I turned on a heel, and walked away smiling.
I just gave Jesse Palmer the business. I. Am. Awesome. Take that, Mr. Big!
After almost a year of flying I'd had a few more encounters with celebrities. I met some of the cast members of the show, Lost. They were very friendly and even ate the little airplane sandwiches. They must not have had very good catering on the show! I also met Stephen Baldwin who was an absolute doll. He made me laugh the entire flight. With all of these great experiences I was starting to realize that most celebrities were very down-to-earth and friendly. Until one fateful evening...
We were parked at a gate in Newark and passengers were boarding our flight which was headed to some obscure little southern town that I'd never heard of. As I stand there greeting the passengers a "Red Coat", supervisor, comes down the jetway to the door. I thought I was in trouble.
"We don't have a lot of time but you need to know one thing. Give her whatever she wants. She's one of our best customers so make sure she has an excellent flight," said the agent.
All I could think was WHO? WHO? But before I could ask, the agent was gone and in her place was a concierge and a woman. I couldn't see her face as she was putting a tag on her luggage but as she boarded the flight I recognized her immediately. It was Ashley Judd!!!!! I was a HUGE fan of her movies, especially "Double Jeopardy", and thought she was one of the prettiest, classiest stars ever.
She sat in 1A, the seat that is directly across from my jump seat and I was right. Even with no makeup she was absolutely gorgeous. I was so nervous and excited but decided to play it cool so I greeted her as I would anyone else and went about my business. She asked me for some sanitizing wipes, which I gave her, and I went to the back of the plane to do some security checks.
As I made my way to the front, she was hastily wiping down her seat, the tray table, the arm rests, the window... Ms. Judd was a germaphobe. Uh oh. She had also accumulated quite the little trash pile next to the seat from discarded wipes and wrappers.
"Ms. Judd, would you like a little trash bag for these?" I asked.
And then I realized it would be a long flight.....
"No, that's your job. You can clean it up when I'm finished." She responded irritably.
Oh my. Ms. Judd was not as classy as I thought.... this really would be a long flight. And it was. She was on her phone all the way until take off, which I was told I should allow since she's so famous. She also complained about the food (as if I'd prepared it) and spent most of the flight talking about how she hates "slumming it" on these dinky little regional jets. Now I can handle the divas...but NOBODY makes fun of my Barbie Dream Jet! She also went on to say that it's so irritating that everyone asks for autographs...blah blah blah blah!
I was seriously disappointed in this experience. I'd looked up to her and thought she was a Hollywood gem until that day. And the fact that these "annoying fans" were the reason that she was rich just made her autograph comment more irritating. So I did what any self-respecting flight attendant would do. One by one, I told each passenger that she was on board. Since we were headed to the south she had quite a few fans on board. I quietly suggested to each one that they ask her for an autograph after the flight as they waited for bags. He he. Was it nice? No. Was it awesome? Absolutely! I'm not sure if she was on to the fact that I encouraged the autographs but little Miss Priss needed to remember where she came from!
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a diva on board! Keep your seatbelts fastened, it's gonna get bumpy!