My dad's comment on yesterday's post ("Pop Greene" = my dad, for reasons I won't get into) kept me thinking about this whole "celebrity sighting" experience. In the blog post I linked to below, JRB says: "I'm not entirely comfortable with my celebrity, in part because it's so unpredictable." In other words, he doesn't get recognized every time he ventures outside his home, but it happens, and it's weird because he never knows when it will happen (outside of announced public appearances, of course).
Obviously I can only speak from the other side of the equation, but in my experience, those of us doing the recognizing don't usually expect it to be a surprise. I know there are people I consider "celebrities" who aren't the least bit notable to the rest of the world. And there are a lot of very famous people -- major athletes, starlets named "Jessica" -- whom I wouldn't recognize on the street unless they were surrounded by photographers and wearing T-shirts that said "I Am So-and-So" (like the one "Fred Savage" wore in the South Park episode I watched last night). But I still think that someone I can recognize should be recognizable to everybody else in the vicinity. I couldn't believe Stephen Sondheim was able to walk down the street without being stopped on every block (whereas my fiance was like, "You recognized him?").*
Furthermore, when I recognized Mr. Sondheim, I was almost surprised that he didn't recognize me. I feel like we're old friends, me and Steve, and so my first impulse was to say hello, just as I would if I ran into an old friend on the street. It seems rude not to acknowledge the presence of this person you know so much about. But then the rational part of my brain kicked in and reminded me it doesn't work that way. (Sometimes the rational part of your brain doesn't kick in until you've actually approached the "celebrity" in question, for an autograph or whatever, and then you discover you have nothing intelligent to say, and you stand there gaping like a fish. I was pretty sure that's what would happen if I did stop Mr. Sondheim on the street the other night.)
And if that's true of people whose work is much more famous than their faces (like musical-theatre composers), how much more is it true of people whose appearance is inseparable from their work -- like Howard Cosell, my dad's long-ago celeb sighting? It must be so weird to be a super-recognizable person, and have strangers acting like they know you everywhere you go.
I want to hear more about your celeb (and lesser celeb) encounters! Bonus points if you embarrassed yourself and regretted it later.
* ETA: The fiance protests that he did not say this, and is not at all surprised that I would know what Sondheim looks like. So it must have been someone else who reacted this way. Apologies to the fiance, who knows me better than that.