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.