In the first grade, local weatherman Kevin Orpurt visited my elementary school. The student body gathered in the gymnasium and sat on the floor (wow, this is even more low rent than I originally remembered) for Kevin’s captivating presentation about weather patterns and storm facts, probably, I can’t actually remember, because I was SO EXTREMELY PUMPED THAT I WAS MEETING A REAL LIVE TELEVISION STAR. Now, keep in mind that I was six and I had no idea what a “local affiliate” was or that MY “local affiliate” was located in Terre Haute, Indiana. What I thought was that Kevin Orpurt was the WORLD’S meteorologist and that me and my school were so special that he traveled all the way from 30 Rock to share his love of climate with us. Eventually, my excitement for meeting Mr. Orpurt turned to shame and a source of family mockery. Sixteen years later, I moved to Los Angeles where celebrity sightings are typical and routine so when I encountered one in the drugstore, the post office or a coffee shop my reaction was more of a “oh cool” than “HOLY SHIT HE’S ON TV!!!” Excitement-wise, nothing can compare to the Kevin Orpurt incident (that’s the saddest thing I’ve ever typed) but here are a few TV STAR ENCOUNTERS that come close. . .
5. Jasmine Guy — Whitley Gilbert in A Different World (1987-1993)
You know what’s greater than seeing Jamie Lee Curtis or Meredith Baxter Birney walking into an A.A. meeting? Seeing Jasmine Guy approaching the facility in which the meetings are held at the time in which they are held. See, I used to work four doors down from a church that held celebrity-studded alcoholics [not so] anonymous meetings on Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. The first time I saw Jamie Lee (who once called me “lovey”) I thought, no shit? what’s she doing walking around here at 9 a.m.? Until my boss informed me what all those people that smoked in front of the church were there for. Now Jamie didn’t smoke, and I can’t say that I ever say M.B.B. did either, and that doesn’t really matter, because the point is those two SEEM like they could be alcoholics. BUT WHITLEY GILBERT??? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve never been closer to figuratively shitting my pants. I had roughly a solid minute of Jasmine Guy approaching me head on, since I was walking up the street towards my office and she was walking down the street, POSSIBLY towards this meeting. Now, I can’t say for certain, but she had parked up the street (meaning she didn’t live in one of the houses down the street) and the only thing between her and the church was a nail salon, a waxing store (what do you call those?) and a boutique. HOWEVER, none of them opened until 10 a.m.! So, by the powers of deduction, Jasmine Guy may or may not have a drinking problem and I [sort of] witnessed it first hand.
4. Patricia Wettig — Nancy Krieger Wilson in thirtysomething (1987-1991)/Holly Harper in Brothers & Sisters (2006-present)
Perhaps Patricia Wettig isn’t exactly who you think of when you think “Television Star,” but she made my list because of the frequency in which I ran into her, literally one time RAN INTO her (incidentally on the same day I “ran in” to her co-star, please see #1). From what I gather, Patricia (and her husband Ken Olin) must live in Pacific Palisades, a smalltown-esque celebrity enclave nestled on the bluffs between Malibu and Santa Monica. We share a favorite restaurant, Cafe Vida, because I saw her there at least once per week. It’s a small place, less than 20 tables, so no one could come in without you noticing (which Heidi and Spencer, vomit, did on the daily). I always really wanted to approach Patricia, and tell her I really liked her show, but I could never bring myself to do it, for fear of appearing as if I cared about celebrity (so instead I am blogging about it years later). The last time I saw her was at the CVS on 26th and Santa Monica Blvd. I was visiting L.A. the week before Christmas, stopped at the drugstore for something and as I rounded the corner of one aisle I smacked head on into another person. When I looked up and made eye contact, it was none other than Patricia Wettig. We said, “Excuse me” to one another, all the while making solid eye contact, and for a brief moment I considered sparking up a conversation. However, she seemed to recognize me (no doubt from our regular luncheons) and that was more satisfying to me than mentioning that strangely (and sounding made up) I had just seen her co-star at the mall.
3. Will Smith — Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996)
Spotting celebrities in traffic is pretty spectacular. It’s like they think that within the confines of their $100,000 automobile, they are invisible. It’s quite the opposite actually. You see a retardedly expensive/shiny car and, as much as you wish you didn’t, you wonder who is inside. Nine times out of 10, it’s a nobody with a car payment that will bankrupt him before his cheating trophy wife can do it but once in awhile it’s Dennis Quaid or THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR! Heading into Hollywood one sunny afternoon I noticed a lustrous black Bentley convertible to my right. From a slight distance the driver appeared to be a Laker, but when the light turned red and I rolled up directly next to the vehicle, a perfect place to cock my head and stare, I noticed that it was, in fact, Will Smith. It was Will Smith, sitting in traffic next to me biting his nail. It was Will Smith spitting his finger nail into mid-air in the general direction of my car! The light turned green and, partly horrified, I continued east on Sunset Boulevard. Traffic is thick and another light turned red, aligning Smith and I for yet another couple minutes. I played it cool, nonchalantly looking to my left away from Smith and wouldn’t you know it, there he was again, this time as Hancock on an excessively large billboard. I turned back to my right, as it was exciting having both a picture of his face and his actual face on either side of my vehicle. THIS TIME, Will, a friendly guy, noticed me staring. He gave me a head nod which I returned (desperately wishing that I had “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” in my stereo) before he pulled in front of my car and turned left on Laurel where low-lifes like me, fear to tread.
2. Ali MacGraw — Lady Ashley Mitchell in Dynasty (1984-1985)
Perhaps Ali MacGraw (no relation to Phil) is better known for her Academy Award nominated performance in Love Story than she is for her role in Dynasty, where she was killed in the Moldavian Massacre, but humor me. Now, admittedly, Ali MacGraw isn’t really on my celebrity radar. In fact, I had no idea who she was until after our chat. I was in a boutique store in L.A. trying on jeans when someone else came in to look around. I heard her tell the manager/my friend that she’d been keeping busy “working for Vogue.” Being that there was no mirror in the dressing room, I was soon forced to exit in order to use the large one located in the middle of the store. I plant myself in front of the mirror, and Ali MacGraw says to me, “Oh my god, those jeans were MADE for your body. You really have to get them.” Now, maybe she was just being nice, or maybe I was having a skinny day, or maybe the jeans were just high-waitsed enough to hide my muffin top BUT I will never be above taking false fashion compliments from a maiden of Vogue. I decide to purchase the jeans and for the next 15 minutes chat with this lady about her new home in Sante Fe, how she doesn’t miss L.A. and how much she loves this one kind of sandal that my foot is too fat for. After her departure, I was told who she was and thank god I didn’t know before or I may have had a Sweet Dee-style dry heave right in front of her or more likely done the ever-rude “My MOM loved that when she was a kid”. I still have the jeans, which I refer to exclusively as “my Lady Ashley Mitchell jeans.”
1. Calista Flockhart — Ally McBeal in Ally McBeal (1997-2002)/Kitty Walker in Brothers & Sisters (2006-present)
The story I’m about to tell you is true. I almost [accidentally] killed Calista Flockhart. Part of me is glad that this was an “almost” situation and the other part of me wonders what doors would have opened up for me if I had, in fact, killed Ally McBeal or at least maimed her. Last December, L.A. was unseasonably cold, and rainy so instead of shopping outdoors on Melrose or the Promenade, I was relegated to the indoor Westfield Shopping Center in Westwood on Pico. Apparently the same thing happened to Calista. Now, I wasn’t actually living in Los Angeles at the time, only visiting, and my friend Bic (you know, the girl who likes pens) was kind enough to loan me her apartment and brand new car for the week–the car that nearly killed Calista. As an Angeleno, parking AS CLOSE or CLOSER to the entrance as humanly possible is requisite. I noticed a spot and headed straight towards it at a reasonable speed. From the corner of my left eye I noticed a quick flash of a vehicle’s tail lights, no doubt the result of someone pushing the lock button on their deal. WITHOUT LOOKING FOR CARS, said person steps directly into oncoming traffic (me, in Bic’s car) FORCING me to SLAM on my breaks. This person gets out of harm’s way somehow (I couldn’t see my head was flying forward due to the violent slamming of the breaks) and is now standing directly next to my driver’s side window. I look over and wouldn’t ya know it! It’s Ally McBeal! She makes an “oops” face, smiles and politely waves. I smile awkwardly and wave back–a mutual exchange of “I’m not sure which one of our scatter brains lead to this almost tragic accident.” (Classic Ally). I quickly parked the car and spent the next hour stalking her and her family in Nordstrom.