Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Aside From The Millions Of Dollars It Would Kind Of Suck To Be Famous

It is Ethan Hawke. The actor. I suppose he's an author as well but have you read either of his books? Thought so.

He is standing next to me on the corner of Columbus and 68th on the Upper West Side. I've just stepped out of the building that houses the news station in which I work to grab a sandwich for lunch.

There he is chatting animatedly to his companion, a nondescript gentleman.. Although I suppose anyone standing next to a celebrity is to be considered nondescript.. Said gentleman might very well merit a description but I'm just not looking at him other than an initial cursory once-over to ascertain he isn't famous as well.

Ethan, well - he's dressed less than casually. He appears rather dumpy in shapeless brown jeans, an ill fitting t-shirt, a jean jacket, newsboy cap with tufts of hair poking out haphazardly around his ears (oh so Dickensian urchin). I say dumpy to imply unkept not fat. I was hoping to peep a nice backside lurking beneath those shapeless jeans.. sadly, there isn't one. In addition to scruffy attire, Mr. Hawke is wearing clompy boots, laces dragging sadly along the sidwalk. My crush from REALITY BITES is instantly recognizable, looks just as he does in the movies, particularly THAT movie, yet somehow, he is a disappointment.

I've discovered one of two emotions occur during a celebrity sighting.
Emotion 1) WOWZA - My God but they're good looking! A camera ready face, beautiful body, they radiate importance and like most stunning people, you can't help but look at them.
Emotion 2) WOWZA - They're so short in person! Ew, bad skin. They aren't that great. Ethan, he is the latter.

As he seems to be going my way.. kind of.. well okay, not really.. But what the hell, I decide I'll follow at a discreet distance to see where our man is headed. Just for kicks. Ethan and his buddy continue walking and Ethan continues talking. And talking. And talking.

For two blocks, Ethan speaks intensely, gesticulates enthusiastically. He is a Loud Talker. Snatches of conversation float over his shoulder and are audible in between taxi screeches, idling trucks and the usual strange and varied shouts of New Yorkers going about their business... the standard Manhattan cacophony that generally accompanies one strolling the streets.

Unfortunately, although intense, Ethan isn't loud enough for me to make out what is being discussed so intently.. but I gather it is art related. I can't detect a lot of pronouns that would indicate people are being discussed. Fucker. I was hoping I might hear him call Uma a tramp. That would have been a gas, no? But alas, he is all art and literature blah blah blah. He strikes me as an intense thespian type who is very serious about life, art, his "craft" (you know the type that call acting their "craft") and NOT his celebrity.

Anyhow, he pauses momentarily to button up his light blue denim jacket circa 1990 and then turns the corner onto Broadway and into a frenzied flashbulb storm. Throngs of press/paparazzi types are lined up outside the Loews movie theater on Lincoln Center and everyone is snapping Ethan's photo.

"ETHAN! ETHAN! OVER HERE! ETHAN! LOOK THIS WAY!" He stops to pose and gladhand.. and I stand there, not five feet from him, amid all the photographers pointing cameras at Ethan and anyone else who happens along the sidewalk and looks like they might be famous. It's strange, everyone is jostling for position and somehow I am unaffected. The eye of the starstorm.

Ethan eventually makes his way into the theater and a gaggle of giggling girls with glossy lips and flat-ironed hair follows him inside. I step inside just behind them, surprised no one stops me. Then again, it is a public movie theater.

Suddenly I am at a movie premiere. And here is Cynthia Nixon of Sex And The City fame. Over there is the super sultry Gina Gershon encased in a second skin black number and all I can think of is that awful SHOWGIRLS flick also starring our gal Jesse from Saved By The Bell.

Ethan, Gina, Cynthia and some other folks are all standing on a red carpet in the lobby of the theater posing for pictures and the only thing that occurs to me is man, this is weird! It's kind of like I am at the zoo. There is even a little fence to keep us little people from petting the celebrity animals. DON'T FEED THE CELEBRITIES! THEY WILL GAIN WEIGHT AND WON'T BE CELEBRITIES ANYMORE! (unless, of course, they land a Weight Watchers spokesperson deal or undergo gastric bypass on television)

Nobody is talking.. The famous faces just stand there, creepy robotic smiles fixed across painted up (the women) faces. They look animatronic, especially the women. Standing there, rotating slightly so each camera snaps just the right angle. Turn, smile, wave, maybe blow kiss (it's her signature move!), laugh into the air at NOTHING. Ain't this graaaand? See me! Look at my flawless makeup, my perfect dress! But nobody stands like that. Nobody moves like that. It's awkward! It takes practice to stand just so. You don't just smile perfectly for ages without some serious mirror practicing. Lips lush and shiny, not stretched to sneering, not displaying to much pinky gum but enough to display a grill of giant capped teeth bleached to blinding white.

I, along with various other sidewalk stragglers, PR people, managerial types and other hangers on stand and marvel at the array of famous folks on display before us, although I imagine what we're all thinking is vastly different. It goes on forever! The standing, the creepy smiling, this weird exchange between photographer and celebrity.

Celebrity seems to be an odd way of life, at best. Millions of people think they know you. But they don't. Millions of people like you or hate you. But again, they don't know you. Maybe you don't know you anymore. You pretend to be nonchalant about your stardom yet you've probably dreamed of being famous your entire life. You act like you are unaffected because that is what you're supposed to do, yet you are affected. You can't be famous and not be no matter how "just jenny from the block" you claim to be during interviews. Because even the interviews, especially the interviews, are a carefully orchestrated symphony of Q&A, lighting and good angles by you and your "people" so that you can present a studiously crafted image to the judgmental and oh so fickle public. Ethan, he doesn't appear to have an image, yet one might argue that not having an image is his image.

Give me a celebrity that looks as uncomfortable on the red carpet as a hooker in church and maybe that one is as close to normal as can be found in Hollywood. Tonight though, all I can think to myself is aside from the millions of dollars, it would kind of suck to be famous. I leave the premiere in search of a good turkey sandwich with spicy mustard, hold the mayo.

Reader Comments (20)

The only person I've seen in NYC is Don King. ICK!
April 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
I lived in Australia for a few years. When I was living there, one of my housemates was a former Australian Rules football player (dating my other housemate), so we often got really great tickets to football games. The first time I went, I started talking to a nice guy in the "important people" section -- having no idea who he was -- and parted ways with a "nice to meet you" after I got my drink, and headed back to my seat. When I returned, a lot of people around me huddled excitedly, asking what he said, and I was confused. Turns out, he was a famous ex-player (think Joe Namath or something) and was semi-mobbed a minute or two later. All I could think was that he was probably damn glad, just for a minute, to have someone talk to him just to be nice -- and not because they gave a shit that he was good at what he did for a living.
April 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersandra
The lead singer of Sunvolt and I had a wonderful conversation about Andre Williams last night.
April 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAME
Yes, I know exACTly what you mean. I was invited to attend an event held last weekend in Tribeca. This event is attended annually by a well-known rock (folk?) star. In addition to him there were many music industry people, some Sopranos castmembers, and the like. As a "normal" person getting a glimpse at Celebrity Life, I am amazed at how much preparation is necessary for these people to simply GO SOMEWHERE!!! The drivers, the security, etc. ...seems like a nightmare to me.

Every time I am invited, and get to peek at how They live, I feel both envy and pity. Funny, ain't it? One thing's for sure...I'm certainly always glad to get back home to the country. :)

PS Your writing is very funny.
April 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTake me to the River
A couple of years ago, at a Redwings/Blackhawks game, Jeff Daniels walked right in front of me. I was so stunned that I grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go. As he tried to pull away, I said "aren't you...aren't you..." (I couldn't even remember his name) he said "yeah, I am." I let go and began looking for a gun to shoot myself with...what an idiot I was.

Late last fall I saw Billy Idol coming out of the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, He's fifty but looks sixty-eight.

My writing partner at the agency I work at lives right next door to Bob Ritchie (Kid rock) in Lake Orion. I passed him and Pam Anderson (while she was still dating him) going for a walk. Let me tell you, She looks 100 times better in person, without all the makeup, without all the bling, without the tits jumping out of her clothes. She looked simply terrificly ordinary. Kid looked like a bum. But he's cool so it's ok.
April 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbob
Your post made me laaaugh.. The Jeff Daniels part... "I grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go"

I dig Kid Rock.. He seems like a cool sort of fellow.

One time I ran into Mark McGrath (lead singer of Sugar Ray who sold out to EXTRA!)

I followed him through Caesars Palace until I could say hello. This was right when the band hit it big and I had read somewhere that everyone thought his name was Sugar Ray and it annoyed him. So I approach him and try to be all cool-like
"I really enjoy your music." I say cool as a cucumber. "I have your CD in my car right now" I say calmly "My name is Monica" I say casually.
He opens his mouth to respond and he says "Hi Monica my name is---
April 29, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Great story Monica. Celebrity is quite a strange animal that's for sure.

Even though I've spent a ridiculous amount of time in NYC I've only had a few random celebrity encounters. (and trust me I'm always looking!) Only one was in NYC. Harry Anderson walking down 6th avenue when I was standing outside the then Limelight waiting to get in. Had to be 1994 or so. My other two weren't even in NYC. Once at Newark airport I ran into Butch Walker(and he's not even really a celebrity, but it was really REALLY random) The other was in Dublin. I went to the hotel thats owned by members of U2 to check it out and as I walk up the stairs, Matthew Modine comes jogging out. Again..very random.

Have fun in Italy..and if you see George Clooney please pass along my number.
April 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Jo
When Max got attacked by the pit bull The Surge and I spent hours at our vet's office on the East Side. Matthew Modine and his wife also take their dog there. We talked to him out front while waiting for our dogs. He was eating pastries from the shop next door and had the sugary powder on his face.
"You gotta try these, they're so good." he said.

He was cool.
April 29, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
So weird, I just wrote about my own celebrity sighting this weekend.

I laughed out loud at the Mark McGrath story. I heard he's a tool. I saw him at a club once, either right before or right around the time Sugar Ray hit it big (1998? 99?). My beautiful French friend Sandra made out with him on a banquette. Later that same night we saw Simon Rex at a club called Chaos. Did you ever watch that show Jack and Jill? Amanda Peet, Jaime Pressly, Simon Rex... I loved the hot doctor guy. Damn, now I have to go to IMDb and find out who that doctor guy was. I really loved him.
April 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramanda b
Oops! Maybe the proper thing would've been for me to introduce myself before posting for the first time.

A friend suggested I check out your blog. That's how I got here. And I gotta say I've found it extremely entertaining. Based on what I've read here, you are certainly a skilled writer. Very funny stuff!

I am not much of a poster. Don't know what got into me yesterday....I think I put my 2 cents on every message board I read! Feeling chatty, I guess.

Anyway, sorry for not saying Hi before throwing my opinion out there.
April 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTake me to the River
When I was 1O or 11, we were coming home from our family vacation in Hawaii. We were at SLC airport and as we got off the plane there were so many people there. I didn't understand what was going on, then mom said "the man who is running for the president of our country is here." Suddenly we were in the middle of the chaos and a man whom everyone seemed interested in was right in front of me and smiled, at me. That was Robert Kennedy. He was campaigning and his next stop was Los Angeles. Two summers later we vacationed in Washington D.C. and visited his grave. Only sighting I have had. Oh no wait, Robert Redford, many times when I was a flagger, (before nursing school) in provo canyon, and I had to stop traffic and would chat with him as he came down from his home at Sundance. Oh hell, I keep remembering more. Crispin Glover, who is as strange in his movies as in real life. He was at a salvation army store with a shopping cart full of old stuffed animals and he left his wallet sitting on a shelf, I found it and returned it to him. He gave me his card and we were suppose to have lunch, I never called, or he never called, I don't remember.(George Mcfly in Back to the future) Sorry this is a long and boring post.
April 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
Hi Monica,

I have spent the better part of this week reading 177 posts, one after the other from the first one in July 2005 to this one. I must say that you have a great way with words. My only regret is that I couldn't have read all this prior to our meeting for the first time in Brooklyn. If I could have, I know that we would have had a lot more in common to talk about than we did have. Next time we meet, and I hope it is soon, I have some stories for you that will make you laugh I'm sure, I just don't think I can do it here. Keep on writing girly!! It gets better everyday.

April 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMerrySerge
I met Mark McGrath before as well. Never was a Sugar Ray fan. They were doing a concert after one of the Nascar Races here. Saw him up in the suites where I bartend at. Found him attractive in person. But he looked like a teenage boy.

Also met Gene Simmons from Kiss. That was funny. Never realized how tall he was until meeting him.

April 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
Aw, sorry to hear of the Ethan disappointment! I've always found his scruffy, messiness to be appealing (no surprise there).

I haven't seen many celebrities around these parts. Peter Wolf walked by me once outside a Bruce show. Tall and gangly, wearing black...ust like he was supposed to look.

Bruce was so incredibly tiny...(but sexy and charming and gracious).
April 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTabatha
MERRYSERGE SAID: "I have spent the better part of this week reading 177 posts, one after the other from the first one in July 2005 to this one. I must say that you have a great way with words. My only regret is that I couldn't have read all this prior to our meeting for the first time in Brooklyn. If I could have, I know that we would have had a lot more in common to talk about than we did have. Next time we meet, and I hope it is soon, I have some stories for you that will make you laugh I'm sure, I just don't think I can do it here. Keep on writing girly!! It gets better everyday."

Look out kids! Mom-In-Law #2 has found The Girl Who. This one is a firecracker.. Hullo Merry! Welcome aboard! Give my best to Serge Sr.!!! Will talk soon.
May 1, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
I used to manage a skincare store in Baltimore. The store was packed, it was a few days before Christmas. A man came up to me - shaved head, white contacts, red septum ring "Look! Look! The guy from Rounders!" He grabbed my arm and I freaked. I had never seen Rounders, and this man's white eyes and red jewelry startled me. "Uh, okay...." and I went back to work, glancing at the guy he pointed out.

Weird yellow hair poorly cut and in need of a wash. Faded barn jacket with a hole in the hem. Poor posture, old-school dark stonewashed jeans and hiking boots with the laces dragging. Looked like a starving college student to me.

Then Mr. Yellow Hair came to the counter with hundreds of dollars worth of stuff, and slapped down his American Express with the name "Edward Norton" on it. Boy did I feel stupid. And the cherry on the sundae? I exclaimed, "He said it was you but I didn't know it was you until now, and now I know it's you, so like... hello!"

And in my brush with fame, Ed Norton said back, "Uh, whatever.... can you just ring me up (insert disgusted face)? I'm in a hurry."

I tell people I met Ed Norton and girls sigh, guys think it's cool and I jsut am reminded again of how I looked like a jackass.
May 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDilly
(1) When I was 8, MC Hammer was staying at the hotel that my family and I were having dinner at. I was terrified of going up to him, so my father did the talking for me and then proceeded to announce to everyone we saw that I was terrified of MC Hammer. it was those freaking pants I tell you.

(2) I met Alfre Woodard (from Desperate Housewives) the same weekend of the season premiere. I was wasted and continuously asked her what was going to happen this season. But she was very sweet and called me cute etc. As we now know, absolutely nothing is happening this season except pure tedium.

(3) I saw Ethan and Uma (immediately after seeing Spike Lee no less) walking down the street in Martha's Vineyard.As they were walking, Ethan fell off the sidewalk into a parked car. So you can also add that he's so very smooth...or not.

May 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.
Great celeb sighting story. I once met Sway and Kudus of MTV fame at a club. Sway was cool, Kudus, not so much. I think fame affects everyone. To say it doesn't is a lie. But I think they convince themselves that they are unaffected. Daily $5000 shopping sprees are not part of the average jenny from the block's experience, but celebs swear they lead normal lives. OOOkay. Keep believing that one buddy.
May 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
I KNEW that that whole "I really just want write novels and do off-Broadway plays" line of promotion was a ruse, a career-unstalling load of crap.

Uma Thurman was too good for him.
May 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterThe Whining Stranger
I'm convinced Mr Hawke is stalking the Bielankos. missed him last night at Irving Plaza. And you were missed too!
June 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBillieJo

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