Friday, April 09, 2004

My anemic list of not-so-impressive celebrity sightings continues to grow.

Before I get to yesterday's celebrity surprise, though, here's a partial list of the kinda-famous folks I've encountered in my almost 36 years on earth:

Emo Philips doing pushups in a powder-blue tuxedo at O'Hare, April or May 1991
Jackie Mason, looking one french fry away from a coronary, Carnegie Deli, NYC, April or May 1991
Whoopi Goldberg at a press conference where she gave a big check to some kids' home, LA, April 1993 or 1994
Matt Gunther disinterestedly stripping at a depressing gay bar, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, December 1995
Teri Farrel modeling with me in a runway show at Westdale Mall, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fall 1996
Jason Branch, Blake Harper and some sexy bald guy whose name escapes me flirting with me on an elevator at the Congress Hotel, Chicago, Memorial Day weekend 2000
Scott Weiland, looking skinny and pale and extremely nervous -- and every bit the epitome of crack-whore glamour -- on a treadmill next to me at Crunch, Chicago, fall 2002
Jason Priestly in the audience at the Chicago premiere of a movie he was in, fall 2003
Megan Mullally singing at a concert and then at a reception afterward, Skokie, IL, fall 2003
R. Kelly hogging all the equipment with his obnoxious posse, Crunch, Chicago, off and on since January 2004
Bruce Villanch grabbing my crotch instead of shaking my hand in his dressing room at the Oriental Theatre after a performance of "Hairspray," Chicago, January 2004

Which brings us to yesterday. I had just left work to meet Matthew for dinner, and I was walking up Dearborn to his place in the Gold Coast. About half a block from Ohio Street, I noticed cops appearing and clearing that street of all cars and pedestrians. By the time I got there, the street was completely empty, and the sidewalks were lined with curious pedestrians. Suddenly a massive parade of cop cars, black town cars and buses started whizzing by -- and there, clear as day in the back of a black SUV, was John Kerry with his Andrew Jackson hair, Hapsburg jaw and yellow windbreaker. And as soon as the motorcade shot by, the cops opened up the street and life went on as though nothing had just happened. (Except I whipped out my cell phone to call my mom and tell her about it.)

What struck me most was the complete nonchalance about the whole episode. I grew up in Iowa, where even the merest wisp of celebrity in our midst made the front page of the paper for weeks. And here in Chicago, where a co-worker recently ran into Bill Murray on the street and a friend works out next to Oprah every morning, celebrity sightings are so commonplace they're just not newsworthy. (Though apparently they're not commonplace enough that I've been able to rub elbows with A-list famous people EVEN ONCE in 36 (almost) years.)

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