photo: orin zebest on flickr

photo: orin zebest on flickr

What’s the best way to act in the presence of someone famous?

Should you bow down at their feet in deference to their superiority and godliness?

Or should you ignore them, proving that you’re not impressed by their status?

Or how about a combination of the two, alternating between fawning all over them and pretending they don’t exist?

In the case of my recent celebrity encounter, I am happy to report that I managed to employ all three of these techniques!

My brother lives in Los Angeles. As you know, there are loads of celebrities in L.A. So many, in fact, that one can get caught off guard by their presence.

My brother’s best story about this was the time he saw a Brad Pitt look-a-like strolling down the street. Man, that guy is really working the Brad Pitt vibe, my brother thought.

Then he realized it really was Brad Pitt.

brad pitt done

I would love to say that I am always totally cool in the presence of the rich and famous. But there are all kinds of things I’d love to say. And I can’t. Because they would be lies.

To claim that I am always calm, cool, and collected in the presence of celebrities would be one of those lies.

My brother has his share of famous friends, and for the most part, I’ve been pretty cool about it. After all, they’re just people! Just like you and me!

Indeed, the fact that the famous person is friends with my brother makes it easier. Less of a big deal.

But what about the Free-Range Celebrities? Those folks who are just walking around, being famous, and don’t have any connection with my brother?

It’s the Free-Range brand that throws me off. And it was the Free-Range brand that tripped me up on a recent trip to L.A.

photo: Les Chatfield on flickr

photo: Les Chatfield on flickr

There I was, minding my own business at a school event for my niece and nephew, feeling all peaceful and relaxed.

Actually, no. That’s not entirely true.

I always feel a little weird when I’m in L.A. Women don’t look like me in L.A. Every time I see a woman in L.A. who looks like me – short-haired, androgynous – it’s like spotting a unicorn.

Whoah! I thought they didn’t exist!

Unicorn one done

So I’m already a little off my game when I’m in Los Angeles. Already feeling a little less than chipper.

But I digress.

There I was, minding my own business at a school event for my niece and nephew, feeling all peaceful and relaxed like a shunned unicorn, and in walked The Celebrity.

Not only is this woman famous, she starred in a show I used to watch all the time. This is a face I’ve gazed at for countless hours. And here she was, busting out that face in broad daylight! Right in front of me!

And because the Universe likes to mess with me loves me so much, I found myself immediately being introduced to her.

Turned out The Celebrity was at the event because she was friends with one of the parents at the school.

Did I care? No! I was just trying to make my mouth work in a regular, conversational way. As opposed to drooling and stuttering.

Even though I didn’t actually bow down at her feet in deference to her superiority and godliness, I might as well have. I was clearly in awe of her.

photo: typexnick on flickr

photo: typexnick on flickr

Thinking back on it now, I realize that part of the problem is that I’m a visual person. When faced (so to speak) with this famous person, I just wanted to stare at her. I wanted to examine the beautiful and alluring face I’d seen so many times in the comfort of my own home and was now viewing in real life. It was a fascinating prospect, and I wanted to be able to give in to my fascination.

But I couldn’t. I had to blink my eyes like a regular person and pretend I was coherent.

Finally, after much stammering and stuttering on my part, The Celebrity moved on. I tried to convince myself that I hadn’t made a total fool out of myself, but this was difficult.

Mostly because I had made a total fool out of myself.

In order to make myself feel better, I decided that the best thing to do would be to try another approach: ignoring her. The fact that she was no longer talking to me made this a little easier. But still, I tried to prove my point.

I could see her out of the corner of my eye. She was displaying her gorgeous and alluring face to other people at the event and they were, apparently, taking it much better than I had. I couldn’t look directly at her, though, because then she would know I was stalking her.

But let’s face it. I was stalking her, so I finally gave in to my impulses.

I snuck a peek at her.

And when I did, she caught me looking!

Christ! I was trying to be subtle. But now she knew that I was Utterly and Totally Not-Cool-At-All.

photo: orin zebest on flickr

photo: orin zebest on flickr

Luckily, the event ended soon after and I was able to sneak away without further damage.

Later that day, I was reviewing my little celebrity adventure. I had tried the fawning approach. I had tried the ignoring approach. I had tried a mix of the two. None of it was very effective.

Ultimately, all of my approaches were based on the idea that I was a Loser Unicorn and The Celebrity was an Utterly Awesome And Incredible Person.

What a set up! No wonder I felt so bad!

Even though I knew that these crazy premises were false, I still believed them. I was in L.A., land of the Beautiful People. And I had bought the lie that I was not one of the Beautiful People.

And then it hit me.

The reason The Celebrity caught me looking at her is because she was looking at me. I had assumed this meant I was a stalker. And a loser. (Not necessarily in that order.)

But what if she was looking at me for another reason? After all, if I was making up stories, why not make up a story with a more positive outcome?

Why not tell a story that she was looking at me because she was intrigued by my Outlaw Unicorn Status?!

I have no idea why The Celebrity was looking at me. But turning my speculation in a direction that affirmed me instead of denigrated me was an amazing turnaround.

Just like that, I felt better. I realized that I’m just as groovy and interesting as The Celebrity. And she’s pretty groovy and interesting, so I’m in good company! How about that?!

I’m not saying I’ll never slip up in the presence of a Free-Range Celebrity again.

But I did learn something really, really important:

Everyone on this planet is valuable. Celebrity and non-celebrity alike.

Also, there really are unicorns in L.A.

I know.

I was one.



How have you fared in your celebrity encounters? Share your comments below!

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