A few years back, Robin Williams was having breakfast at my cafe, and was sitting next to a little girl who clearly recognized his voice but had no idea who he was and was too shy to make eye contact with a stranger. So Robin pulled his sleeve down over his hand to make a puppet and talked to her with a silly voice through it.
The only sad part is thinking back on how sweet that was.
Went and saw Steve-O do his stand up tour. After his show, he said he would meet everybody there. We waited in line, and he was being super nice, laughing and taking pictures with everyone. Right before we got to the stage some jerk told him that he was funnier back when he was on drugs. It killed his whole vibe. When we got to him he just took a picture with us and said thanks for coming, but he was clearly in a bad mood. I don't blame him at all, he was still extremely nice, but he was clearly irritated. It was cool that he still met us and took a picture with us though. Seemed like a really cool dude.
Brad Pitt stopped me from picking up a girl.
I was an extra in World War Z and I met this girl there and we were talking and all was great until one time Brad Pitt walks by.
Was very friendly to her, and totally blanked me.
His stunt double was a cool dude though.
DMX very graciously held a door open for me recently. It was a nice encounter until I saw in the news the next day that he had been found unconscious in the parking lot later that evening.
Met Craig Ferguson in a green room. It wasn't sad. He was really friendly, but was talking with a mouthful of turkey the whole time. I couldn't understand a damn thing.
Betty White. It was right after the Golden Girls (and Golden Palace) had ended. Her career was not in the best place at the time. I was at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles and saw a poster promoting Betty White signing her latest book about how much she loves animals. I liked the Golden Girls so I thought I would swing by the bookstore to take a gander at Betty White. It was so sad. I'll always remember she was sitting alone at a big table with a stack of books in front of her. People were in the bookstore shopping but no one was buying her book or really acknowledging her. She just sat there, pen in hand, waiting. She would occasionally wipe off some imaginary dust to look busy. I'm getting the chills just remembering it. Of course, I was such a self-involved college kid that I just stared at her from far away. I should have just gone up and talked to her.
I met George R. R. Martin at the Blaze Pizza in Evanston a couple of months back when he was in town to accept an award from Northwestern University. At the time, I was listening to the audiobook of A Clash of Kings, and he very excitedly told me, "You've got a ways to go to catch up!" When I told him that I've already read what he's published three times, and am listening to the audiobook as a new way to experience the story, he just kind of deflated. He let out a big sigh, and just said, "Yeah, I need to finish the next book. People won't stop bothering me about it."
I went to school with someone who wasn't a celebrity at the time who had celebrity parents. She had your typical teenage celebrity crush on an actor. Her mom started dating him and she got upset and shaved her head.
Well, I once wanted to get Daryl Hannah's autograph for my friend who had been crushing on her since forever. I couldn't summon up my courage to approach her directly, so I just asked the dude sitting next to her. He put me off very politely.
I went back to my friends empty-handed and was complimentary of Mr. Nobody's manners. They told me I'd just asked JFK Jr for Daryl's autograph.
Seeing a movie in Ottawa with my mother as a child, and Tom Green was behind us all alone, looking greyish. My mom told me not to bother him because Drew Barrymore had just dumped him.
My saddest celebrity encounter was also my greatest. When I was in college I was an extra in a few scenes of "We Were Soldiers", a Vietnam movie with Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott. While I was waiting for a bus to take me back to wardrobe one of the casting guys came up and picked me out of the crowd and asked me if I wanted to be in another scene with Sam Elliott. Of course I was ecstatic. I sat in this van waiting for Sam to come out and it was going to drive us to the scene.
Finally he comes out looking all pissed off and sits in the front seat. Against my better judgement I said something to the effect of, "Mr Elliott I'm a huge fan of yours and it's an honor to be in a scene with you." He snaps back: "Shut the hell up kid." Needless to say when Sam Elliott says that, you do it. So that's the sad part, though getting yelled out by a guy who typically plays the badass in movies was cool in some way.
We film the scene which is a short scene where he walks by Chris Klein and cusses at him about something. We film it over and over and I'm just some soldier walking by in the background. Occasionally between takes Sam would look over at me and scowl. After it's done we get back in the van to head back and Sam is again in the van. He turns around and says, "Sorry about earlier kid, I just didn't want to screw up my mood for the scene. I appreciate the compliment." Suddenly it dawned on me that when he cussed at me he was trying to stay in character for the upcoming scene. Pretty cool experience.
My mom found Paris Hilton incognito in an airport, came to find me, brought me to a tiny lady in a hoodie and big sunglasses in the middle of the airport, goes "Hi are you Paris Hilton?" Then pushed me in front of her and said "here, say hi to my son!" Like I was a weird birthday gift or something.
She said "sup." I said "sup" then she did this weird little laugh. Then my mom goes "okay bye!"
That was my sad and awkward meeting with Paris Hilton in an airport.
I was at a cheese shop in the West Village when I noticed James Spader was at the counter. I was in the middle of a massive Boston Legal binge at the time and absolutely adored his work. So I went to the counter and started looking at the cheese. He was sampling cheeses and I just looked at this man whose work I so admired and respected and said "how's the Gouda?" Apparently it's delicious.
I then went towards Time Square in order to get back to NJ and saw Paul Mooney. I screamed out PAUL MOONEY and he turned and said "What do you want from me you white boy" and laughed and conversed with me for a few minutes.
I met Hulk Hogan when I was four at some wrestling thing in Dallas. All I remember is that my dad got his attention as he was walking toward the ring, and when he came around he stuck out this GIANT hand and said "Put it there, darlin'!" I recognized him but he was scary, so I peed my pants and cried. I guess it's obvious now that he wanted a handshake or a high five or something? No idea. Anyway, scared the piss out of me. Dude is huge.
I had an entirely eyeball/body language conversation with Chris Pontius in a Guitar Center. He was playing an acoustic. I saw him, he looked at me. I realized who he was, he saw that I recognized him and he gave me a look that was so sad, like, "please don't announce to the world that I'm here." I nodded and he smiled and looked relieved.
Richard Kiel aka Jaws from the 007 films. It was a shock to see how deteriorated he looked. Riding a scooter because his legs were done, hands shaking, half blind. He still signed every DVD and posed for every photo.
Passed away two weeks after that.
Arnold Schwarzenegger went to Iraq for a troop morale thing and ended up having lunch with my dad. It was my birthday, so my dad asked if Arnold would call me.
Except, lunchtime in Iraq is REALLY really early in the morning in the US. My mom woke me up, handed me the phone, and I was soooooo tired that I thought my dad and some of his drunk slurring friends were out partying and screwing around. The slurring being his accent of course.
My mom laughed at me, took the phone back, and only told me who it was when I got out of bed the next morning.
Me: Don't stare at her. Don't stare at her. Just chew your gum and look forward.
Jennifer Lawrence: Can I have a piece?
I slowly turn around.
Me: Uh... Yes! Sure!
Jennifer Lawrence: Oh, it's your last piece. It's fine, you can have it.
Me: Uh, okay...
I slowly walk away, terrified, and put the gum in my mouth.
My dad once accidentally told Clint Eastwood to please kindly leave Canada.
I was drunk at a friend's bachelor party in vegas in '95. We are walking through the casino, and I see this glorious man with what can only be described as the aura of a movie star around him. I immediately recognize him as Sammy Davis Jr. I run up and say "Sammy can I get an autograph?!" and he just turns around like he didn't hear me and starts walking. Thinking he couldn't hear me I kind of yell "Sammy Davis Jr!". He turns around, looks right at me, and says "You're a real jerk".
I was pretty oblivious and had no idea why Sammy Davis Jr. was treating me like I was awful. For a few years after that every time his name came up I told people how big of a jerk Sammy David Jr. was. Fast forward to a few years later and I'm watching the movie Renaissance Man with Danny Devito and I'm like "wait I didn't know Sammy David Jr was in this movie" ....which caused me to IMDb it ...and it all finally clicked.
I had called Gregory Hines Sammy Davis Jr. to his face 5 years after Sammy died. It was probably the most delayed embarrassment I've ever felt in my life.
I sat next to Rachel Weisz on a flight to Malta. I was 14 or 15 years old and had absolutely fallen in love with her in The Mummy movies. She was my first girl crush and I wanted to be just like her.
She was very warm and friendly at the beginning of the flight so I thought "Don't screw this up by acting like another fawning fangirl." I never let on that I knew who she was and just chatted happily with her as the conversation dwindled and she became more sullen and withdrawn. Finally she snapped at me about something (I can't even remember what I said or what she said in response, but it was clearly in a irritated tone) and I immediately sat back and went silent.
Her little son and his nanny were sitting across the aisle from me and I guess the nanny had been eavesdropping. A couple minutes after Weisz snapped at me, she got up to use the restroom and her nanny leaned over and said simply and quietly "She gets upset if you don't acknowledge who she is."
I tried to continue talking to the nanny but she turned back to the little boy and acted like she had never said anything at all.
I became interested in evolution and physical anthropology in high school after exploring the topic in books and discovered Richard Dawkins. I was in the process of reading another of his recent books when I found out he was doing a signing in the city. So I went to his talk and waiting in line to get an autograph.
All through the Q&A session, people had great complex questions for him about his theories and ideas on evolution or certain species. I thought I would be clever and ask a simple and fun question. So in the cover of the book, I wrote, "What is your favorite animal?" I expected this to be refreshing when he went to sign my book.
I got to the front and as he opened my book to sign it, he was a little thrown off. He gave me a look like I was an idiot and just signed his name.
I was crushed and felt really embarrassed that my recent idol thought I was stupid. I wandered off through the racks of books and found a small group of 5 people huddled around one man speaking.
I was curious and still trying to forget my last encounter, so I listened to this energetic man speak about the universe to this impromptu gathering. He was very knowledgeable and interactive. When I got a chance I asked him the same question, "What's your favorite animal?" He was very happy with the question and went on a long explanation of why the wolf was his favorite and when he first encountered one in Yellowstone.
I learned later that man was Neil Degrasse Tyson. What a day.
As a kid I saw Michael Jordan on a golf range in Hawaii. My Uncle and I were hitting in the space right next to him so he was literally 5 feet away. I was going to say something but all these other people started walking up to him and he just put his hand up as if to say "not now". So I never bothered him.
We did see Charles Barkley later and he had a whole crowd of people around him and he said "Michael's pissed today because I kicked his butt on the golf course." At least that's what he said.
1993, the Wetlands bar (hippie central) in NYC. River Phoenix's band was playing, and he was clearly tripping balls. Sample between-song banter: He's wearing a wool hat, then he says: "This is called a Lou hat...it's called that...because Lou makes them...ok?"
Show thankfully ends, he wanders offstage and is standing by me, vaguely looking off into the distance.
Me: "Jesus, man, how many hits are you on?"
Him: "Hits? What's that?"
Me: "Acid, dude. I'm impressed you were able to play at all."
Him: "Aw, no, man, I don't do drugs."
Few months later, he's dead on an LA sidewalk from a speedball overdose.