As an American in a foreign land, a question I hear a lot is, "Have you ever met any Hollywood celebrities?" Before I entered the world of university professor-ism, I worked as a newspaper reporter and a bartender. I also lived in New York City for a while. So to answer the question, I’ve met quite a few, interviewed a handful, and just bumped into others.
On the Street
Living in NYC, you come across a celebrity just walking around from time to time. Every day at NYU somebody would say, "You know who I saw today?" And then you’d play a guessing game. Most of the time, you don’t really realize who it is until it’s too late.
Alicia Silverstone always looked like she was walk-of-shaming home, and every time she made me feel not so bad for not getting laid the night before.I walked right past one of my favorite stars of all time and would have never known if somebody hadn’t pointed him out to me. Who was it? Tom Hanks. Although, I didn’t recognize him because he looked really fat and wore a big-ass beard for the movie Castaway. Why was he walking around in NYC dressed like this? I don’t know man, I just lived there.
I saw Janeane Garofalo (Ben Stiller’s buddy and co-star) once or twice. She just looked annoyed to be recognized.
In one of my many trips to the bar down the block from my old NYU dorm, I ran into David Cross—Tobias Fuenke the Analrapist from Arrested Development and smaller voice star of Megamind and Kung Fu Panda. The first time I saw him I thought, "Is that the guy from Mr. Show?" Mr. Show is an old HBO skit show, still one of the most brilliant sketch comedy compilations I’ve ever seen. The second time a friend and I ran into him we started talking with him, but he kindly said, "Hey guys, I’m on a date right now. Can we do this another time?" So, we walked behind him asking stupid questions until we arrived at the bar.
On the rare occasion that I managed to scrounge a date, my lady and I walked into Salma Hayek and Edward Norton while they strolled arm and arm. It was pretty cool, and if camera phones had been invented back then, I’m sure TMZ would have given me some money for the shots—if TMZ had been invented back then.
Have you ever seen Lord of the Rings? More importantly, did you see the elf princess from LOTR? I can’t remember her name, but Liv Tyler looks exactly as beautiful as she does on screen. Her skin literally glows when she’s walking and you just want to touch her or fight a goblin army for her honor.
On the other hand, Liv Tyler starred with Alicia Silverstone in one or two Aerosmith videos. While Liv looks like an angelic elf sent to convince you to "just walk into Mordor," Alicia looks like something you wake up drunk next to, grab all of your clothes, and sprint towards the nearest cab. Alicia must have lived near the NYU gym because I saw her a few handfuls of times. She always looked like she was walk-of-shaming home, and every time she made me feel not so bad for not getting laid the night before.
Per usual, I needed to move it to a class because, once again, I was late. I found a giant mob of people and started shoving my way through. I really didn’t need another tardy on my grade. I ended up face-to-face with Anna Kournikova… and then face-to-face with one of her gigantic Russian bodyguards. She is really pretty. Her bodyguards are really scary. Luckily, I snuck away unkilled.
After my friend’s wedding brunch, I walked blindly hungover into Natalie Portman. She’s just as good looking as you’d expect, but my booze-drenched brain couldn’t figure out how I knew her. By the time I figured it out, she was way too far away for me to run up and propose my undying affection to her.
After my NYU graduation my buddies and I spent the night at Finnerty’s Irish Pub (rest in peace and may you inebriate many angels in Heaven my dear). My buddies and I saw Dave Attell who was incredibly popular for his Insomniac show where he basically traveled and drank with people. He also tells some raunchy anal bead jokes in his stand-up. He looked and acted pretty much the same as he does on the show and took a few photos with us. I kind of thought he was a dick for not hanging out with us more, but then I later remembered I half-stalked him into the bathroom and tried to start up conversations. I think he just wanted to piss in private and not talk to some 22-year-old dickweed.
Long after my NYU days I returned to NYC to work at the least interesting magazine ever. I ducked out to buy chewing tobacco or just walk around and I saw a bunch of grimy old guys snapping photos of some girl smoking a cigarette. I pushed around them and said, "Hey, do you know there are some scuzzy-looking dudes taking pics of you?" She just looked at me, shrugged her shoulders and said, "Yeah, it happens." I stood in awe and chatted real quickly with the one and only Lindsay Lohan. She was actually really cool.
Comic Book Guys
I will also admit, I’m a huge nerd. I moved to NYC not to party, meet celebrities, do drugs, see the sights, eat bagels, or even learn at one of the best schools in the world. I moved to the Big Apple to work at Marvel Comics. And for one glorious semester I interned at the House of Ideas. It was the greatest job of my life, and even though they paid me only in comics, I knew somehow I needed to be a part of the Marvel Universe.
I worked for Nancy Quesada, Joe Quesada’s wife. Joe is the editor-in-chief of Marvel, and made some awesome new changes to Marvel. He also wears sweatpants to work every day. Unfortunately, I was too terrified to chat or network or beg for a job. But I did pick up his McDonald’s lunch once.
Everybody who reads comics formed some sort of relationship with the X-Men. At an early age, I read Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men and X-Men stuff and couldn’t get enough of it. Another intern told me with disgust, "Ugh, Claremont is here." I dropped all the copies I was supposed to make and ran out to meet my favorite childhood writer. I said, "Mr. Claremont, I’ve been a fan of yours since I could read comics." I held my hand out for him to shake and he snorted as if I tried to sell him a dog turd for $50. Just about everybody there hated that guy. Even though I saved up all my lawn-mowing pocket change back in the day to buy comics he wrote, I’ll never buy his stuff again.
About the same time I worked at Marvel, I started my Irish Pride phase. Then Garth Ennis of Preacher, The Pro and The Punisher fame came to a work party at a bar. I mustered up all my courage and said, "Mr. Ennis, you’re the most amazing writer. Can I get a photo with you?" He said, "Not yet." Then he ordered two pints of Guinness. He handed one to me. "Now we can take a proper photo, mate." Fucking bad ass. Garth, I’ll buy whatever comics you write for as long as I live (or buy comics).
At the New York Comic Convention I saw a man who used to terrify me, and the rest of the world: Lou Ferigno, the original Incredible Hulk, the only man big and scary enough to paint green and let loose on anybody who made him angry. I didn’t talk to him because he charged $20 an autograph, so I felt pretty content to look at the guy who scared the shit out of me Saturday mornings.
In Part 2, we’ll look at professional wrestlers and interviews I’ve conducted…