Monday, May 05, 2008

Meeting the Stars ... and a Side of Meat Loaf Substitute

Today we'll talk about being starstruck--the kind of starstruckness that you may experience when you see a famous person. I'm not talking about seeing a famous person where it makes sense, like at a concert, or a book signing. I'm talking about the starstruckness you experience when you see a famous person when you don't expect it. Like in a restaurant. Or mall. Or hotel lobby. Or grocery store.

The following tale comes from my field reporter in the Nashville area. She is my very pregnant cousin Lori who is suffering gestational diabetes, a condition that apparently is not affected by a high cannoli intake. Read on:

This past week I was placing my order for some cannoli at the local Publix bakery. I suddenly noticed a well-built African American man to my left who was wearing what appeared to be the most awesome pair of designer jeans I have ever spotted on a man. Well, you can imagine my astonishment when this strapping gentleman caught me staring at his lower half, and I looked up to see that it was none other than Mr. Aaron Neville. (Background info: The Nevilles apparently moved to Brentwood from New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina.) I immediately readjusted my gaze to a key lime pie and began texting Brantley (editor's note: her husband) to tell him. His response was, "Wow. I don't care." Somewhat angered by his flippant response, I decided to embellish a bit, so I told him that he was just jealous because he missed hearing Aaron Neville sing a song to my belly. I don't know why, but he bought it momentarily. I did, however, end my visit to the Publix bakery with somewhat of a singsong comment to the lady behind the counter just to see what kind of response it would get. "I don't know much...but I know I love cannoli." Aaron Neville didn't seem to notice (I guess I wasn't a dead ringer for Linda Ronstadt), and there ended my star sighting for the week.

You must admit that there's something about Aaron Neville's stage presence.

This is Aaron Neville in a pair of jeans, perhaps not unlike the jeans he was wearing at the Publix bakery where the gestationally diabetic Lori was purchasing cannoli. You be the judge.

I love stories like this. Average American minds his/her own business and WHAM! Face-to-face with a major celebrity.

My friend David once worked in the men's department of a major retail store at the mall. Frankie Valli was in town and was in sudden need of a new suit, so he headed to that very mall. David waited on him, helped him choose a suit, then rang up the sale. The entire floor was abuzz with the Most Famous Customer of the Day. So David, caught up in the excitement of his brush with greatness, called me. He spoke in a giddy but hushed tone.

"Amy, you're not going to believe who just came in here and bought a suit from me."
I named a long list of celebrities and politicians.
"Nope, it was Frankie Valli."
"Oh, cool!"
"Amy, who is Frankie Valli?"

My husband (only he wasn't my husband yet) and I were having dinner at a restaurant in Underground Atlanta, when Richard Pryor and his entourage walked right by our table, up a small flight of outdoor steps and into their horse-drawn carriage.

This is the late Richard Pryor. He had a notorious potty mouth, but was known by many as a comedic genius. At our house, we will always remember him best for his swagger as he walked past our table at Buck's in Underground Atlanta. Buck's probably doesn't exist anymore, but we certainly enjoyed it while it lasted.

In Cleveland, Ohio, we once chased down who we THOUGHT was Meat Loaf because it made sense to us that Meat Loaf would be in the lobby of a Cleveland hotel because The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame had opened two weeks earlier. I don't think Meat Loaf had been inducted, but he certainly should have been.

"Paradise by the Dashboard Light"?

"I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)"?

"Two Out of Three Ain't Bad"????

Oh, HECK yeah, I'd chase him down. But it's like when a dog chases a car. What if he catches it? Then what? That's what I was thinking as I was walking briskly through the hallways of this hotel, trying to track down who turned out NOT to be Meat Loaf.

"Excuse me, sir? Mr. Meat Loaf?"
"Yes, I am Meat Loaf."
"Well, OK then..."

If you saw someone who looked like this in a Cleveland, Ohio hotel lobby, you would also mistake him for Marvin (or Michael) Lee Aday, a.k.a. Meat Loaf.

I once stood in a buffet line behind Joe from Blue's Clues. Without his Blue's Clues garb, he is slightly hot, so I nudged my then-5-year-old and used her as bait to engage Joe (Donovan Patton) in a conversation as we prepared our plates. I wonder if he remembers it as vividly as I do.

Olympic gold medalist Vonetta Flowers (bobsledding, 2002, Salt Lake City) used to live near by, but I was still surprised to see her in the produce section of the local Winn Dixie. She was equally surprised when I grabbed a couple of my kids by their arms and said, "Kids, this is Vonetta Flowers" and nodded my head a lot, hoping they wouldn't say, "So? We don't know who she is." But she was ever so gracious and Olympic-like as I explained to them that she is an internationally acclaimed athlete.

We recently saw American Idol winner Ruben Studdard (season two, 2003) in the lobby of the local movie theater. I purposely and loudly said, "Oh, look, there's Ruben Studdard," thinking he would perhaps wave or at least NOD in our direction. He just kept walking. That's right, Ruben -- just keep walking. We only cheered you on EVERY SINGLE EPISODE OF SEASON TWO, when we could have been cheering for Clay Aiken ... or watching something else. Being dissed by an American Idol is not cool.

But I'll tell you what IS cool: Seeing a living civil rights activist. Just last weekend at a downtown art show, while standing in line for frozen lemonade (NOT the Frito pie), we saw civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth, who continues to recover from a stroke and is in a wheelchair. You would think from that brief description that we would know him when we saw him. But I will confess here that I was momentarily tongue-tied (read: starstruck) and tugged at my husband's shirt and whispered, "Look, there's Abraham Woods."

"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is."
"Well, my GOSH, I think I know a living civil rights activist when I see one."
"But you don't know that one." He was right, I was wrong; it was Fred Shuttlesworth.

Had I gone shopping at a Wal-Mart that is only 35 minutes from my home this weekend, I would have run smack into American Idol runner-up Bo Bice (season four), who was scheduled to sign autographs beneath the "Save Money, Live Better" sign. I would have been surprised and a little starstruck because I would not have expected him to be there. Then again, he probably didn't expect to be there either.