Friday, January 19, 2007


Since moving back to the Los Angeles area 4 1/2 years ago I've seen a lot of celebrities, far more than during my first two times living here (1988-1990; 1991-1996). This is because I've spent the past year living in Hollywood (albeit the un-glamorous un-touristy part) and the previous 3 1/2 years in Santa Monica (the not-too-difficult-to-find-parking parts). The famous don't necessarily live on my street but they do go to many of the the places I frequent (coffee shops, restaurants, Whole Foods Markets, high-end and low-end movie theaters). During my previous spell here, I lived in places where celebrities just didn't hang out as much (Brea, Pasadena, Ventura) and places where the celebrities were slightly less celebrated (North Hollywood). But now I can't seem to go a week without seeing some minor TV star from the 90s.

What does this mean? Am I (a well-educated well-mannered academic researcher and obscurist fiction writer/blogger) all that impressed by the fact that others are famous or at least recognizable by up to 12% of the populace? Yes, I am. I like the fact that I can run into Andy Richter twice in a 4-day period (the man is well-mannered, more fit than you'd expect, and a fan of clean white shoes.) I appreciate the fact that people whose contributions to popular culture are generally positive (Jeff Goldblum) forget exactly which floor they parked on (turns out it was the 4rd floor not the 3rd). When I see one of them, the twinge of recognition turns into a trace of bemusement and another one is added to the mental list I've kept for years.

But why can't the mental list become an actual list? Why don't I catalogue the entire list of celebrities I've seen in my life? Would anyone care? Would it be entirely for my own amusement? Would my friends - those in the mostly celebrity-less Midwest as well as those who work waist-deep in the Hollywood fame-pool - care? Well, this is a blog and I don't care if you care. So here is my list of famous people I've seen in my life.

Some rules: unless otherwise indicated, all sightings are in the greater Los Angeles area; seeing celebrities at events where you'd expect to see them - i.e., on stage, backstage, congregating in front of awards shows, on game shows - doesn't count. Neither does Giovanni Ribisi. Here goes:

In coffee shops:
Ed Helms (saw him last night, minutes before his star turn on The Office; he just wanted to use the bathroom, that's all)
Harry Shearer
Christopher Guest
Garry Shandling and David Duchovny (together)
Andy Richter (not too proud to be the guy who fetches 4 coffees for the whole gang back at the production office)
Joey Slotnick
Michael Rapaport (his wife is far more attractive than he deserves)
Brad Hall
Joanna Gleason
Paul Wellstone (in Minneapolis; campaigning for local councilman)*

In restaurants:
Harry Shearer (he's everywhere)
Jane Lynch (that makes 3 people from Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, etc.)
Kristy McNichol and Neil Patrick Harris (at the same restaurant at the same time; not together; seated with members of the same sex)
Julianne Moore (dining alone in New York; far too beautiful for humanity)
Tommy Chong (in Santa Barbara)
Ricky Jay
Dermit Mulroney
Ron Perlman
John Carroll Lynch

Walking down the street:

Joey Pantoliano (hey Joey Pants - cell phones are designed in a way where you can just speak in your normal phone voice and people on the other end will hear you; no need to yell)
Elizabeth Perkins (very nice person)
Caroline Rhea
Louis C.K.
Maggie Gylenhall (walking a dog)
David Schwimmer (jaywalker)
Anthony Keidis (short. very short)
Michael Lerner
Vanessa Williams (in a back alley)

In airports:
Jennifer Aniston (smoking's bad for you Jen)
Vlade Divac

In airport restrooms:
Muhammed Ali (1976; Allentown, PA)*
Laila Ali (1976; on Muhammed's shoulder)

On airplanes:
Beau Bridges (Minneapolis to Chicago)
Cat (Los Angeles to Minneapolis; sat next to me)*

In movie theaters:
Meg Ryan (sitting 2 seats away from me at The Last Shot; eats Runts)
Corey Feldman (one row in front of me at Wayne's World)
Ed Begley Jr. (Forrest Gump)
Jon Polito (Gump again; hugged Begley Jr. in lobby)
Wayne Knight (lobby but NOT at concession stand)
Prince (twice in 1985 in Edina, MN, The Bride and St. Elmo's Fire)
Schwimmer (again)
David Byrne (dude's got style)
Marilyn Manson and Rose MacGowan (together; patiently waited for the next elevator)
Jordan Farmar (currently only Jew in NBA)

At concerts:
Adrian Grenier (at Belle & Sebastian)
Whoopi Goldberg
Ruben Studdard

In their homes:
Rainn Wilson*
Lisa Malone*

At supermarkets:
Christopher Penn (6 days before he died)
Loni Anderson**
Fred Stoller (you'll just have to look him up; I had to)
Paul Sand (him too)
Chris Kattan

In locker rooms:
T.C. Boyle

In bookstores:
Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere (together, back when they were still in love)
Bronson Pinchot (buying war books, LOTS of war books)
Crispin Glover

In other kinds of stores:
Jeffrey Tambor (Sur La Table)
Chris Williams (aka Krazee-Eyez Killa; Nordstrom)

Danny Bonaduce (drives too fast)
Pamela Anderson (twice in dentist office parking lot; always uses her turn signal)
Ted Danson**
Michael Jackson (the singer)**
Paul Stanley (motorcyle)
Jerry Stiller (asshole cut me off; corner of Overland and Venice, Culver City, 2002)

In casinos:
Dennis Quaid (Las Vegas)
Vince Vaughn (Las Vegas)
Jenny McCarthy (Lake Tahoe)
Ricky Williams (Las Vegas)

At smoothie stores:
Bobby McFerrin (Minneapolis)

Walking around lakes:
Bobby McFerrin (Minneapolis)

At hotels:
Lou Ferrigno (Rome)

In parking structure elevator lobbies:
Lauren Graham (wearing a beret)

On elevators:
Jeff Goldblum (6'8", with a 6'3" girlfriend or wife; he brushed up against my date)

While working in Bloomington, Minnesota hotel gift shop, 1986-1987:
Gloria Estefan (I saved her credit card receipt as a souvenir)
Smokey Robinson (nice man)*
Several Harlem Globetrotters
Richie Sambora
Dan Baird (wanted to buy condoms; we didn't sell condoms (the 80s were a conservative time))
Charlie Daniels (today he comes across a right-wing good-ole-boy; back then he wore a full-length purple leather coat that could best be described as "flamboyant")

In mall parking structures:

Sitting in old Volvo while friend fetches coffee:

In office buildings:

Lucy Liu
Patricia Arquette

At holiday parties:
Eve Plumb*

*had conversations with these people

I know this list is not complete. I will remember more. Friends will remind me of more. So keep checking for updates.

And to answer your question:
Who's Cat?

One more list: If I had to rank my Top 10 Sightings, they'd have to be:
1. Ali
2. Lauren Graham (personal reasons)
3. Andy Richter
4. Stew
5. Cat (she gave me an advance tape of Sign O' the Times)
6. Lucy Liu (we had a thing)
7. David Byrne
8. Julianne Moore
9. Prince
10. Slotnick


Jason B. said...

Does Eve Plumb count if you met her in the '00's?

Great list. I couldn't come close to compiling a list like this.

Ali said...

I'm really stretching the definition of "celebrity." (e.g., Slotnick)

Sometimes I wish I could forget all the things I remember. But I just can't.

Richard said...

I believe I was with you for at least one of the Prince sightings, though I could not have come up with the movies he watched. Was working at Southdale one night when Tony Oliva came in to ask directions...he was delighted that I recognized him, I think... What was your conversation with Ali? That is one impressive list, at least it seems so to a guy who's lived most of his life in New England. I've given a tour of the Gardner Museum to Elizabeth Shue and Joan Rivers (not together), and spotted Will Ferrell (in Red Sox cap) in the galleries. Just last Friday night I was at a small club in Cambridge listening to music, and stood next to Theo Epstein for most of the night (does he count?) - wearing dark blue knit cap, flannel shirt, jeans, drinking beer all night from plastic cup...

Ali said...

I think you were there for one of those Prince sightings. They were in 1985, maybe early 1986.

You should have asked Theo Epstein exactly why he thinks J.D. Drew is worth $14 million a year.

And your brother emailed me! I promise to respond to him soon.

Ali said...

And to answer your question about the Muhammed Ali conversation: When i was about 12, I asked him for his autograph in the men's room of the Allentown airport. He signed it on a paper towel while holding his baby daughter on his shoulder. He was happy that we shared the same name.