Daily Prompt: It Builds Character — Star Struck

I met my first celebrity while working at the Steinway building in New York. Down the street from CBS Studios. It was 1967 and the filming of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was finishing up. For several weeks, each lunchtime I bumped into Sidney Poitier on his way to lunch. He was tall. I’m short. Tall people — even non-celebrities — awe me. And he was oh my wow handsome.

sidney-poitier-barack-obama1We crossed paths at least a dozen times during a three-week period and never once did I have the courage to do more than look yearningly in his direction. Later, I could think of lots of cool stuff I could have said, but I was tongue-tied and incoherent. I  could just look. That would be my pattern with celebrities for the rest of my life, at least on first meeting. If I was able to spend time with them and get past awe, recovering my ability to form words, I could have a conversation.

So while I passed by, mute, other people stopped him, asked for autographs and he graciously complied. But not me.

The area was crawling with celebrities. CBS wasn’t the only studio in the area. NBC’s 30 Rock was not far. And the Russian Tea Room, a very popular eatery for stars of stage and screen was across the street. One day, at the deli where everyone ate — it was the only fast lunch place on West 57th street — I found myself sitting next to George Hamilton. 55 years ago, he was unreal, so good-looking he might have been molded from dreams. What did Marilyn say? He was right next to me at the counter, knee to knee on stools at the counter.

George Hamilton 1“Pass the ketchup, please?” I squawked. It was the only thing I could think of. There’s a very small possibility our hands brushed during the transfer.

Fortunately, stars are familiar with these reactions. They are aware the effect they have on “civilians” and do not necessarily assume we are babbling idiots or mute. They just assume we are star struck. And that’s what we are. Star struck.

I am not normally tongue-tied, but each time I’ve met a celebrity, I can’t say a word. I stand there like a stuffed dummy making gurgling noises. I did once have a little tug of war with Carly Simon over possession of a clearance sale blouse in Oak Bluffs.  We didn’t talk. She pulled. I pulled. She had height on her side; I had grim determination on mine. I got the blouse. She could have out-talked me, but fortunately for me, no words were required. We eye-balled each other and she decided it wasn’t worth a cat fight.

Married to Garry, I got to meet President Clinton and his family twice. Close and personal with POTUS, most people find they have nothing to say. It’s not just me or the man. It’s the office. The aura of power surrounding it. Not to mention William Jefferson Clinton was a big, handsome guy in whose presence I would likely have been awed even if he weren’t the Prez. I believe I squeaked out “You’re the President; I’m not.” Witty, eh?

It turns out that my behavior isn’t unusual. Regular people in the presence of fame and power tend to stutter or blurt out something stupid. No one is immune, not even celebrities meeting other celebrities. We are all, on some level, Star Struck.

Just once, I’d like to meet someone I admire and say something intelligent. Anything coherent would do.

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44 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: It Builds Character — Star Struck

  1. My dad told me a funny story about one of his collegues, who had the misfortune of meeting Kirk Douglas whilst a little tipsy… Then again, I could have died the day I had lunch with Colin Welland and my my dad came over and said ‘The British are coming, the British are coming! Do you wish you’d never said that?’…

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  2. I never would’ve figured you for a star-struck! I haven’t been star-stricken since Gerald Ford passed through town close enough for late to the line me & first two children to see his dimples. I could tell you a funny story about being in a church not long ago awaiting confession with Tommy Makem. I didn’t chat him up, simply because he looked much too guilty. Well, all us Irish do — it’s because we are. Anyway, I enjoyed this one too, Marilyn.

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  3. That’s cool! I have never seen a celebrity out in public, but I did get to meet and talk with Norman Mailer once. I was with a group of students, and I asked two different stupid questions, but it was still cool to get to meet him.

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  4. Never met anyone famous, save for working in the State Capitol Building, and running into (very locally) well-known politicians. I don’t think it counts. Hard to say how I would react, but I think telling the Prez that he isn’t, is quite funny. Nice post, Rowmie! 😀

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  5. i have entire weeks in here when I can’t post, it rejects my email addy (get a real one, it sneers), it spits my posts out like old chewing gum. Very frustrating.
    and yes, i hear you about celebrity. I ve never come close to anything like George Hamilton (be still my heart) or Sidney Poitier, and if I did i suspect id gurgle, too. lol. That is funny…

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    • I have gone through the same thing and I don’t understand it. Changing to gmail really helped. Charter is a bad ISP.

      Many of us are reduced to putty in the presence of fame and power. Why? I think we can speculate and probably be right. George Hamilton was beyond handsome — he really looked unreal. NO one can be that good looking and be human..

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  6. I’m equally embarrassed by how rarely I recognize the famous people I’ve met. I’d rather talk about ketchup than blithely go on, until someone interrupts to tell me that I’m talking to a celebrity. 🙂

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    • That too. Some celebs look like what you expect, but others are surprisingly average-looking when they aren’t in makeup and costume. Charlton Heston looked like my uncle Abie when he wasn’t in makeup. He had trouble buttoning his shirts straight.

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  7. You took the words right out of my mouth. I haven’t been up close and personal with many celebrities but even when I’ve had the opportunity to speak to very accessible sports stars I just can’t do it. “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” is one of my favourite films. I really liked Sidney Poitier in “To Sir With Love” too.

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