We all have that one celebrity who we believe we could be best friends with if the opportunity ever arose. After watching several hilarious interviews and admiring her films, Jennifer Lawrence is often a popular choice as a celebrity best friend. She’s so relatable! Or perhaps you’d enjoy a quiet evening of drinking tea and chatting books with J.K. Rowling. The possibilities are endless! You imagine conversations, dream activities and wish for the day to finally arrive when it all happens. In fact, if you’re like me, you imagine what it would be like to hang out with the entire A-list. You love so many wondrous films, TV shows and books that you would be thrilled to meet just one of the talented hundreds you admire.
Then you do, and you discover everything you’ve been dreaming for the past few years is not going to happen in that one moment.
Patti LuPone was my first celebrity encounter. I had just gone to her concert and jumped into the line at the stage door just as she started greeting and signing autographs. For the entirety of the few minutes I stood in line, I desperately tried to think of what I would say to her. Nothing more than “I absolutely love your voice, you’re amazing, I’m in awe of your talent, etc.” occurred to me. Super original, right?
How would I even contemplate words to explain how excited I was just to simply meet a person and also include an elegant — or funny — story about why I was so passionate about her? Why was I not able to say everything I’d been thinking of for years in a matter of minutes?
As I waited for what was probably only 10 minutes but what felt like an hour of anticipation, I actually imagined an entire parallel universe where I said something — I honestly don’t even know what, just something — that caught Patti LuPone’s attention and thus made us best friends. We could talk about loving musicals, and she could give me vocal lessons. Perfect, right?
In the end, I believe all I said was “Thank you” as she signed my program and added exactly what I didn’t want to only say: “I love you. You are so unbelievably talented.” How unoriginal and unmemorable. Way to go, Gottlieb. Have I ever come across the living legend again? No. Will I ever get a chance to redeem myself and be witty and smart? Probably not. I kind of hate myself.
All I could think of was how I didn’t reach the full potential of my celebrity meeting and vowed I would strike up a memorable conversation with whichever celebrity I met next.
Unfortunately, next time wasn’t much different. I saw the romantic comedy musical First Date on Broadway and stayed after at the stage door to meet its stars Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez. I caught Krysta just as she was about to dart away into the abyss of the city streets. I approached her, voice quivering with nervousness, and told her, “I love everything you’ve ever done.” As cool as I hope to be one day, she replied, “Awh. Thank you. Did you want a picture too?” Being the word wizard I am, I could barely pronounce, “Yes” fast enough and mostly shook my head. I think I actually did worse than my meeting with Patti LuPone.
I wanted to say: “You have one of the most beautiful voices ever. I know a lot of people poke fun of Smash but you killed it and your ‘Reach For Me’ performance was breathtaking and amazing. I loved the show. You blew me away. I’m jealous of your awesome haircut and look forward to what you do in the future.”
It’s not much, but it’s an actual, concise thought.
Like the gentleman he is, Zachary Levi stuck around until everyone who waited got his or her chance to meet him. When it was finally my turn, I had planned the perfect, somewhat unique thing to say to him, “You are my favorite Disney prince,” in honor of his brilliant work in Disney’s Tangled. Fun fact, I’m pretty sure I said “princess” instead, but I think I mumbled it so badly anyway that he didn’t hear. I was too in awe of the gorgeous man in front of me. But, that was at least an improvement.
I managed to step up my celebrity conversation game a tad, but all of my other meetings with the famous have gone down in a similar fashion, much to my disappointment. Even recently, at a local Comic-Con, I couldn’t strike up the nerve to at least go greet Billy Dee Williams, who was one of the many celebrities brought in. I entered the room and simply gawked at everyone within. I stood in the middle of the aisle and stared. I just froze. He’s a human being. What is so wrong with me that I can’t buck up the courage to go say “Hi” to a fellow member of this planet?
I was feet from Billy Dee Williams. THE Billy Dee Williams, and because I’m unable to think around anyone with a smidgen of fame, I didn’t even approach him. At the very least, I should have said, “Hi. I’m a huge fan of Star Wars and thought you were really underused on your guest spot on Glee.” When am I ever going to meet Lando Calrissian again? Probably never and I didn’t even use my one chance properly.
I’ve come to realize I will never be able to meet my standards for a celebrity encounter. I dream of hanging out with them, and yet I can barely manage to say “Hi.” I want my meeting to be memorable for that celebrity. I want to be unique among the sea of fans and be able to talk with them briefly about their work or a topic we both share an interest in.
There is nothing wrong with telling a celebrity how you adore his or her work or being a bit flabbergasted about being in his or her presence. And if you are able to actually converse with them, congratulations I will be forever jealous of your skills. I like to think no matter the kind of interaction one has with a celebrity, it fuels them because they now know there is yet another person who believes in them and wants them to succeed. Plus, it makes for a great story either way.