Celebrity stalking is not what it used to be.
With today’s celebrities constantly tweeting their whereabouts and Instagramming their fancy meals and pretty cocktails along with every other detail of their charmed lives, finding them is more like shooting fish in a barrel than stalking.
Back in the day, spotting someone famous was keen sport. Following them around while attempting to work up the nerve to approach them and start a conversation also required a certain skill. Interjecting oneself into a total stranger’s life with no provocation or invitation whatsoever and then making their life miserable for a few minutes was a thing of beauty when executed successfully. In its way, it brought a little power back to the people.
I once walked out of my way dozens of blocks up Madison Avenue following a woman I thought was Audrey Hepburn, all the while searching furiously for a pearl of scintillating conversation with which to interject myself into the life of one of the most beautiful and sophisticated women ever to draw breath.
About the time I was forced to admit I had no game, I realized it wasn’t Audrey Hepburn after all but just another beautiful brunette socialite who would welcome my intrusion into her life even less than Miss Hepburn would have. I was probably only a block or so away from a face full of pepper spray.
If that unfortunate incident happened today, things would have worked out much differently. As difficult as it is to imagine Audrey Hepburn tweeting and Instagramming, she wouldn’t need to. Her every public move would be noted by adoring fans on their social media. It would then be a simple matter to go into a restaurant, saunter by her table and say hello when she was in the neighborhood, which admittedly, would have been a lot easier when I worked in a neighborhood she frequented.
This new world order is a lot more efficient and offers much less risk of blindness to stalkers or of terrorizing to innocent socialites. But there’s just no sport to it. Celebrity stalking was so much more exciting when serendipity played a role.
And serendipity certainly played a role when Michele Pfeiffer was added to my list of celebrity acquaintances, no stalking required. Our meeting could have been the opening scene of one of her films if I were Jeff Bridges or Daniel Day-Lewis. Of course, the critics would have trashed it as an unrealistic chiché since I ran into her in a revolving door. Literally ran into her. We almost bumped noses. I remember the incident with great fondness. I’m sure she does too.
I was going in the revolving door at Bendel’s. The old Bendel’s on 57th Street. She was coming out and dallied a split second too long getting out of the door and perhaps I jumped the gun going in and we jammed it up. The door was stuck and we had a moment.
As the other shoppers yelled like the unruly New Yorkers they were, she looked at me, smiled and when she saw I had recognized her, gave me a little wink.
That wink was Oscar-worthy. Her meaning was as clear as if she had spoken the words, “You know who I am and I know that you know. Let’s keep it between us and not cheapen this moment by letting anybody else in on it.” She said all that with the mere blink of an eye.
So I didn’t say a word. I just returned her smile and she walked over to 5th Avenue as I continued into Bendel’s. My smile had grown to Cheshire cat-like proportions as it dawned on me that Michelle Pfeiffer and I had an understanding. And an understanding is almost a relationship. That was the single most cinematic moment of my life but I have often wondered in the years since if movie stars live lives of such rom-com moments, skipping merrily from one to another.
Since moving to North Carolina, the opportunities for celebrity stalking are a good deal more limited than they were in New York, but they do exist.
For instance, David Sedaris sometimes shops at Costco in Winston-Salem. This came as a surprise to me since he lives in England but it turns out that his sister Lisa lives in Winston and apparently even the families of celebrities need giant hay-bale-sized packages of toilet paper from time to time.
In a totally serendipitous turn of events, I also frequent Costco in Winston-Salem and have much to discuss with Mr. Sedaris as we wait to check out in one of those notoriously long Costco checkout lines.
Of course, I’m going to be right behind him in line. And as much as I’d love to eavesdrop on him and Lisa, our time is going to be better spent on whatever career advice he can give me. And if he offers me the contact info of his editor at the New Yorker, I will accept it graciously. If he does not offer, I will try not to beg. That would be unseemly.
That’s the kind of behaviour that gives celebrity stalkers a bad rap.
Even Instagram hasn’t changed that.
Bill Colvard is lifestyles writer for The Mount Airy News and can be reached at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.