Monday, January 8, 2007

Shaking Hands with Tony Soprano

The title to this post did in fact happen recently, but I will get to that a bit later as I try to ignore the smell of natural gas that for some reason has engulfed the city today. Just another day in the life here.

One aspect of New York living I am still not used to (other than the gas smell) is celebrity sightings. In all honesty I am still not sure what is an acceptable ratio between seeing a celebrity and caring that you just saw a celebrity.

Oh sure, we had our fair share of celebrity sightings in St. Louis, I think what changed is the definition of 'celebrity'. In the 1980's there was a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals that had a carer record of 74 wins and 75 losses named Danny Cox.
There you go, that was a celebrity. I remember once dining at a restaurant called Charlie Gitto's in downtown St. Louis a few years ago, and my girlfriend at the time sheepishly leaned over and whispered "Don't make a scene, but sitting to the table to the the left of you is Kent Ehrhardt". To which my response was "who?". In which I was informed "You know, from the 'You Can Count on Kent' channel 4 weather". To which I replied, "Ohh that is cool, where!!!"

Seeing a celebrity in New York is not like seeing one in L.A. where you really cant swing a dead cat without hitting a celebrity. The sightings here are not as common as that, so it is still a halfway special moment when you see one. What makes it even more difficult is no one here makes eye contact on the street except for the loons like the man on the west side of Lexington Ave. near 62nd street that reminds me a bit of Reverend Jim, Christopher Lloyed's character from Taxi.

In my old neighborhood I used to see Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick quite often. They frequented a restaurant that was near my building. It is really a weird phenomena when I would see them (or another noteworthy celebrity, other than maybe Chris Noth. I see that guy around town more than I see some people I consider good friends) coming down the street. Its like you go out of your way not to notice them. Its very similar to the advice in Return of the Jedi that Han Solo gave Chewbacca after Luke informed Han Solo that Darth Vader was on the ship that was checking their credentials for passage to the moon of Endor. "Keep your distance, but don't look like your keeping your distance.....I don't know, fly casual". In all honesty I want to not care, I even think to myself "Well that's no big deal, who cares...... I will let the tourists fawn over them." But who am I kidding, if Bacon turned around and said "You there, we have an extra seat... would you like to dine with us?" there would not be much hesitation.

The rule of thumb is that you leave these people alone, which I do too a fault, except the one time I had approximately 27 beers in me. A few months ago I had two friends visiting from the midwest for what was all intents their first visit to NYC. From here on out they will be known as "the two Steve's" because they both happen to have the same given name. We were finishing up a marathon three day bender that was concluding at approximately 4am in the meatpacking district on a Tuesday morning. We decided to have one more drink to kill some time before their 6am flight. At one point in the evening one of the Steve's mentioned he was bit disappointed that there was not a celebrity sighting the whole weekend (unless you count Angles pitcher Jared Weaver) and was jealous of an across the street sighting I had of Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos a few weeks before. The other Steve looks behind us at the bar and tells us sarcastically he thinks the guy sitting 10 feet away from us is on The Sopranos. I turn around and sure enough Tony Soprano himself is sitting next to us. Unfortunately this was the perfect storm because of the alcohol I had consumed, having friends in town, and an actor that was the star of a show that I love. The bartender confirmed our suspicions by shouting out "That goes on Gandolfini's tab." So I look at the two Steve's and tell them I am going to talk to him. As I turn around I just kept telling myself not to call him "Mr. Soprano" or "Tony", which is surprisingly hard after a lot of alcohol consumption. I remember hearing my thoughts saying 'this is so lame I am saying hi' but to my horror I noticed those were my actual words coming out of my mouth followed by introducing ourselves and saying "we are big fans of everything you do".
What an asinine thing to say, does this mean I am a big fan of James Gandolfini taking a shit? So the next five seconds were possibly the most awkward of my life. If you ever have seen the Soprano's, you know the face Tony Soprano's makes when some schmuck outside his crew from 'normal life' tries to have a conversation with him and he is pondering weather to just whack said schmuck or be friendly? This is exactly the face I got. But to my surprise he extended his hand and looked each of us of in the eyes and addresses us each by name as he introduced himself. Really the guy could not have been more pleasant. If only the smell in the city today was as pleasant as James Gandolfini. Honestly where is that smell coming from????

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