the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Real Celebrity Encounters



My weekend of celebrity photos reminded me of an email conversation I recently had with a woman who just graduated college.  She lives in a small Midwestern town and wants to move to either New York or Los Angeles. 

"What is it like?" she wants to know.

She doesn’t have a job, friends, or family in either of these places.  Of course, I told her that big city life is great and has many cultural advantages, but I was concerned about her reasons for wanting to move.  She seemed to mostly buy into the media image of the glamour of these cities.   Let’s stop the urban legends right now.  Most young New Yorkers do not live in the apartments you see in "Friends."  Real New York women do not live "Sex in the City" lives.  Few Angelenos shop in Beverly Hills ala "Pretty Women."  Ask any New Yorker living in a tiny apartment on 123rd Street for $2500 a month or any Angeleno driving in a rush hour traffic (or trying to buy a house) and they’d tell you the truth:  life here isn’t all that glamorous.

College girl was most excited with the prospect of meeting celebrities.  All she seemed to care about was which celebrities I have met.  She loves reading blogs from the big cities, where bloggers write about all the celebrities encounters.   She especially loves this popular LA blog, which frequently talks about celebrity encounters.  I like this blog, too, but I also know that the glamour of Hollywood life is as real as the women in Playboy.

By living in these big cities, I’ve encountered many different celebrities.  Some at work, some at the car wash.  Sophia, in particular, has worked with many famous actors as an actress and a Russian dialect coach for TV and films.  She recently was the coach for Nicolas Cage in his next movie, where he plays a Russian-born arms dealer.  

Celebrities are not any more exciting than anyone else, just a whole lot more pampered.

It’s true that the first time you accidentally bump into Michael Douglas in the shopping mall, you call all your friends.  But gradually, you are taught that what distinguishes you — a hip urbanite — from the Midwestern tourist, is that you must always act cool and make believe that you hardly notice the person’s celebrity status.  Only tourists and desperate people ask for an actual autograph.   I completely ignored David Schwimmer when we both reached for the same box of Cheerios in Ralph’s.   He would think I was a total dweeb if I went "Oh my God, it’s Ross from ‘Friends,’ the show with the giant New York apartments!  Please sign my Cheerios box!"

I think other bloggers sometimes mention all these celebrity encounters to make others "envious," as if there was something wrong living in Kansas City.  The truth is that most big city dwellers would be much happier living in a nice big house in a small town in Wisconsin.  Instead, we put up with all sorts of shit just to feel like we are somehow more important because Pamela Anderson visits the same dry cleaners we do.   Every dry cleaners in Los Angeles has a hundred glossy photos on the wall.  Is this the new casting central?

Creating envy is the sole purpose of New York and Los Angeles magazines, two rags which create a total bullshit image of these cities.  I read both of them.  Don’t take any media about big city life seriously. 

I’ve only had four celebrity encounters that are even worth mentioning.

1)  I once got drunk with Tim Allen, where he said things I cannot mention in polite company.

2)  I once had a very funny conversation with multi-billionaire best-selling author Sidney Sheldon (I know, not exactly ‘celebrity’) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and then lent him the three bucks for parking because he didn’t carry money around with him.

3)  I was alone, late at night, in the gym, with Bruce Springsteen.  If you live in Los Angeles, you probably know the small cheapo ‘Beverly Hills Health and Fitness’ on Beverly Drive.  The place was empty, except for me and … someone who looked like Bruce Springsteen. 

"Could it be?  Why would he be at this crappy gym?  Should I say something to him?  Should I say that I own every one of this albums?"  

This was finally someone who I would ask to sign my Cheerios box. 

Suddenly, the Boss started to walk over in my direction.  He was in great shape.  He pointed to some dumbbells sitting next to me.

Bruce:   "You using those?"

Me:  "Uh, no."

I handed them to him.  Our hands brushed against each other.  BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S HAND!

That was it.

4)  The last encounter was interesting only because it got me in trouble with my entire family.

Sophia and I were in New York.  We were going to a production of "Uncle Vanya" at Lincoln Center with my parents.  The show was starring Kevin Kline, one of Sophia’s favorites.  We were eating in an Italian restaurant before the show, when Kevin Kline, his wife Phoebe Cates, and one of their children, sit at the booth behind ours.  I’m the only one who notices them.  Kevin Kline and Sophia are literally sitting back to back in their respective booths.

Since I know of Sophia’s obsession with Kevin Kline, I wanted to tell her about him, but my parents have a reputation for being somewhat "overfriendly" and I was concerned that if I told everyone at my table, my parents would go over and talk to him — and embarrass me for the rest of my life.

I decided that I would just tell Sophia.  I was already living in Los Angeles at the time, so I was already indoctrinated in the "being cool with celebrities" attitude necessary to be considered a hipster.  How can I tell Sophia with being overheard by Kevin Kline?

Neil:  (whispered)  "Sophia.  Twelve o’clock."

Sophia:  "Twelve o’clock?"

She looked at her watch.

Sophia:  "It’s seven o’clock.  What wrong with you?’

Obviously Sophia never used this code when out in a bar checking out the opposite sex with friends.   No, she was probably talking to the opposite sex, not just standing there all night with loser friends, like I did.

I came up with a new plan.

Neil:  "Do you have a pen?"

Sophia:  "Why do you need a pen?"

Neil:  "I just want to write something down."

Sophia:  "What?"

Neil:  "I dunno.  An idea for a screenplay."

Sophia:  "Now?  In the middle of dinner?"

Neil:  "Just give me a pen."

Dad:  "I have a pen."

My father hands me his prize possession — his Parker pen that he’s kept in his shirt pocket for 30 years.  I try to write with it on a napkin.

Neil:  "It doesn’t work."

Dad:  "It has to work.  It’s a brand new refill from Staples.  You need to shake it."

Mom:  "Artie, when are you going to buy yourself another pen?"

Dad:   ‘They don’t make pens like this anymore."

Neil:  "Because they don’t work."

My mother dumps the contents of her pocket book onto the table, and hands me a Bic pen.

Meanwhile, a waiter brings a birthday cake over to Kevin and Phoebe’s child.  A group of waiters come over to their table and start singing Happy Birthday.  My parents and Sophia, still not knowing who they are, start singing along.

Everyone:  "Happy Birthday to you…"

Everyone claps.  I write a note to Sophia on a napkin.  It reads "Kevin Kline" with a arrow.  I slide the napkin over to her.  She reads it, getting annoyed at my behavior.

Sophia:  "I know who’s in the play.  Are you in a rush again to get there?  It’s not like it’s a movie where you need to watch all those boring trailers.  We already have seats."

Neil:  "No, read it again." 

Sophia:  "You’re acting really weird."

My father finished shaking his pen and scribbled something on his napkin.

Dad:  "Look, it’s working!

The Kline family left before I got a chance to tell the rest of my family.   After they left, I finally told them.   My family was upset at me.

Sophia:  "How could you be so selfish not to tell me?  You know I love Kevin Kline!"

There are many reasons to move to New York or Los Angeles.  Just don’t make it because of the celebrities. 


  1. Rachel

    Your celebrity encounters are a lot more exciting than mine.

  2. leesepea

    Growing up in a suburb of LA gives you the same kind of complacency when it comes to dealing with celebrities.

    I stood in line next to Jeremy Miller (Ben of “Growing Pains” fame) in the commons at USC. He was blocking the menu, and I kept trying to look around him to see the pricing. I was visiting some friends on campus and had never eaten there before, and I’d gotten hungry while waiting for someone to finish a lab. He must’ve thought I was checking him out, like, trying to figure out if it was really him. Eventually he looked straight at me and said, in a very irritated tone, “Yes?”

    I smiled. “Can you scoot over? I can’t read the menu.”

    I’m not sure which is funnier; that he assumed I was trying to hone in on his former child-actor celebrity status or the deep blush that hung in his cheeks when he realized I wasn’t.

  3. Fun Joel

    The women in Playboy aren’t real?!

    You know I used to live in Manhattan and see celebs around occassionally, and I see them here once in a while as well. But here’s the difference. In LA, the celebs WANT you to come over to them, whereas in NYC, they move there to live a private life. That’s why it was the only place Jackie O could have lived, and why people said Di should have moved there.

    Finally, did you ever get Sidney Sheldon to pay you back for that loan?

  4. Melliferous Pants

    How funny, I saw Jeremy Miller too! But my sighting was near the end of his “Growing Pains” run, at a greasy hamburger joint. He was in the midst of puberty and had on a lot of makeup, not pretty.

    Another time I saw Scott Baio (can you tell how long it’s been since I lived in S. California? Yes, A VERY LONG time)…he looked all strung out, he had the darkest circles under his eyes. He could have used a bit of Jeremy Miller’s makeup.

  5. kate

    Great post. Celebrities are way over-rated. I live in CT and there have run into Paul Newman, David Letterman, Martha Stewart and a bunch of other celebrities. They like to be incognito and ignore all us normal folk so I often ignore them. Running into them is not as thrilling as people think.

  6. Jack

    Fun Joel,

    I am not so sure that I agree with you about that. I am a native Angeleno and have spent my life here encountering many different celebrities and have yet to have any experiences where I felt that they were trying to show off their celebrity.

    I really think that this is more of a stereotype, but I could be wrong.

    FWIW, Here is a partial list of some of my encounters, Diane Keaton, David Schwimmer, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Aniston, Jack Wagner and a bunch of people who were big in karaoke videos.

    But my favorite encounter was with Bob Dylan. If you really bored you can read about it here. Sorry for the cheap plug.

  7. psychotoddler

    My sister insists that I met Mark Hamill at a comic book convention, and that I gave him one of my prized comics.

    I have no memory of the incident.

    We have our fair share of celebrities in Wisconsin, too, but mostly it’s along the lines of: “Hey, I think that was the guy who does the weather on channel 6! Dang, I didn’t get his autograph!”

    BTW, love your “Kline” story. How very Seinfeld of you.

  8. lizriz

    First of all, my life in L.A. is entirely glamorous. From my fabulous apartment view of the 170 freeway to my fabulous view of the Hollywood sign from my day job office… well, it’s all about looking out windows, but it’s glamorous.

    I do think it’s fun to run into people you recognize. They don’t particularly deserve to be fawned over as superhuman, but if I watch someone’s show or enjoyed them in a film, I love the opportunity to tell them.

    When I started a blog, I fought setting up a separate topic for that sort of thing, but the fact is, running into someone famous does often lead to a good story. And for me, it’s all good fun so long as noone is truly bothering anyone else.

    My “I See Famous People” stories are here.

    The first one is a bit racy, but they’re not all like that. 🙂

  9. Leese

    I may be a geek, but the only relevant celebrity encounters in my book was the time I attended a lunch with Carly Fiorina as a guest speaker, the time when I attended a fundraiser and Sergey Brin was there, and the time when I was seated in the same table as Jonathan Dorfan, in which I played the part of the resident moron as everyone else in the table started cracking jokes about quarks.

  10. Tatyana

    I pity Sophia – it must be quite tiring to coach uncoachables. When Cage “speaks Russian” he gives full impression 1)he doesn’t know what he’s talking about; 2)he suspects it’s something dirty but have to get along with the program and 3)somehow he speaks with heavy Polish accent.

    I saw Susan Sarandon once, at now closed for good hi-end Italian furniture store in midtown; she was very businesslike but not bitchy with the staff (surprise!); her legs are even more bowed than on the screen.

    Other celebrity comes to mind -was listening to Spalding Gray reading a story at Interior Designers Yearly Award breakfast, at Harvard Club, same year he disappeared, I think. We were seated in adjacent room, and I saw him on monitor while trying to block clanking of utensils and slip into what was he reading. I wish the public’s reaction to the story was more enthusiastic.

  11. Leese

    *where Carly Fiorina was a guest speaker…not me.

  12. JJ MacMillan

    The first time you clutch at a celebrity and blind them with your adoration and then get the brush off is the last time you do it.

    If your first time happens to be with Harlan Ellison, you also crawl into a cave for about a year.

    No one but my drill instructor has ever talked to me like that. My only hope for vengeance is that many of the people reading this are scratching their heads wondering who the hell “Harlan Ellison” is.

    No, he didn’t write The Invisible Man.

  13. maribeth

    I live in Santa Monica but I never see celebrities. There are thousands of pictures of celebrities shopping at the same places I do, mere blocks from my apartment, but I never happen to see them. My dear husband, on the other hand, sees celebrities ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Maybe they are like unicorns and he is purer of heart than I am.

  14. introspectre

    Sign your box of Cheerios…priceless….

    (continues laughing)

  15. Josia

    I’ve also got a Bruce story!! I came back from lunch one day when I was working at Ralph Lauren in NY – there was a guy there with a HUGE pile of clothes on the counter (those cool clothes not the fancy stuff – can’t remember what it’s called) – anyhow it was Bruce but I thought he was Israeli cuz he had an open shirt and necklace – a real shlumpy sabra look – so everyone was trying to signal me – long story – but after he finished paying he turned back and said – and see you at that high school reunion! I saw tons of other celebs all the time in Central Park but that was the funniest encounter.

  16. meme

    The other day I was in SOHO and some guy walking past me talking on his cell phone said “dude, I think I just saw Drew Barrymore,” then he looked at me again and said, “naw forget it, just some chick.”

  17. Modigli

    I agree that the best way to live in either NYC or LA is if you’re stinking rich. Otherwise, you’re just stuck with the subways and roach infested apts; or major traffic jams and smog.

    They are fun places to visit, though! I never met a celeb during my short visit to LA back in 2003. But in NYC, I’ve seen/met a couple of members of Duran Duran (and that was in the 80s when they were still hot! lol!) and some guy that played “Bo” on One Life to Live.

    I had to stay here in Cleveland to run into Drew Carey at the bookstore ~ the only Hollywood celeb I know of besides Paul Newman to come from these parts!

  18. jenny

    I met Kevin Kline about 12 years ago…maybe more. I went to see the The Secret Garden on Broadway and we had a family friend who was in the show. Afterward, we went to go talk to her and Kevin and Pheobe were there with their daughter (not sure if they had 1 or 2 at the time). They were incredibly nice and friendly, even warm and familiar. I’ve met other celebrities over the years, but none as nice as Kevin and Phoebe.

    On another note; a close friend of mine who lives in LA and “works in the industry” has lots of celebrity friends. He tells me great stories about parties and such. The thing that he tells me most is that some are nice and some aren’t and it may not have anything to do with being a celebrity. It’s nice to have money to do what ever you want, which he says is a great perk for him too, but it’s not everything. They can be just as insecure and unhappy as anyone else.

  19. Edgy Mama

    Please, please write a book consisting solely of conversations with your parents. David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, meet Neil Kramer.

    I’ll edit it for free! PLEASE!

    I lived in Aspen for almost three years, and had some interesting celebrity encounters, but I think I’ll save them for when I’m desperate for a post (teasing you, Neil).

  20. Claven

    My favorite “celebrity” encounter was in Florida on spring break about 10 years ago. Famed Baltimore weatherman Marty Bass (post-toupe) was eating lunch at the same Ruby Tuesday’s as we were. I wanted to berate him for all the times he guaranteed a snowstorm that never materialized that resulted in me not having my homework done. That bastard!

  21. JasonW.

    I try to have it both ways — gliding into the glamour of LA when I please, but scurry back to my suburban life in Yorba Linda. Of course, I’m always broke.

  22. lizriz

    Meme – ROTFLMAO!!!

  23. leesepea

    There’s also the time I was mistaken for a celebrity.

    I was in eigth grade. It was our class trip to Disneyland, three days before graduation. A small group of guys in University of Minnesota and Minnesota Twins tees followed me and my friends around for a while. We thought they were just checking us out because, dammit, we were cute!

    My friends line up to go on the Matterhorn, which I CANNOT ride because nothing ruins an outfit faster than a streak of projectile vomit. I decide this is the perfect time to wander through a gift shop in search of a cute little keychain.

    I notice Minnesota Twins & Co. hovering near the candy in the gift shop. They are whispering, elbowing each other, a lot of that, “No, you go!” kind of talk.

    Finally, Twins comes up to me.

    “Can I get a picture with you?” he asks.

    I think about it for a second. Why not? Then it sort of creeps me out, I mean, these guys are in college, I’m all of 14. I take a step back. “Uhm, what for?”

    He looks confused. “So I can tell my friends I met you! We love your show!”

    I blink. “What show?”

    Who’s the Boss. You’re Sam. We watch it all the time.”

    I laugh. “No, I’m not Sam. I’m not anybody.” Just then, my friends appear and start waving me down, calling out, “Leese! LISA!” I nod toward my friends. “I gotta go,” I say.

    He looks wounded. “Just one picture?”

    I shrug. At this point, what could it hurt? I let him put an arm around my shoulder. He points me toward his friend with the camera. We smile. The camera flashes.

    Twins is grinning ear to ear. “Can you sign this, too?” He thrusts a pen and paper at me. He’s not going to let it go. I laugh and sign:

    Thanks for watching.
    All my love,
    A-LISA Milano.

    I run off with my friends. We head for the haunted Mansion. Twins & Co. don’t follow.

    Some dude who was in college in 1990 thinks he got a picture with Alyssa Milano.

    Too bad it was only me.

  24. M.A.

    I have no good celebrity stories. Damn it!

  25. Neil

    Thanks for those who shared their celebrity stories.

    Leesepea and Pants: You need to email each other and discuss your lifelong obsessions with Jeremy Miller.

    Fun Joel: Yes, Sidney Sheldon did pay me back. As a writer, he’s pretty impressive. He’s pretty up there in years and he was still working on a new novel. He also created “I Dream of Jeannie!”

    Leese: I know you live in Northern California, but I’m not sure most of us would consider Carly Fiorina a “celebrity.” But Sergey Brin, now that’s impressive!

    Tatyana: Sophia’s pet peeve is all the bad Russian accents on TV shows like Alias.

    JJ: What ass-kissy thing did you actualy say to Mr. Ellison?

    Meme: You are the sexiest of all the Charlie’s Angels.

    Maribeth: Are you sure your husband is really seeing celebrities, or is he just seeing Meme or Leespea and thinking he sees a celebrity?

    Mo: Paul Newman goes to Cleveland?

    Jason: Yorba Linda — Nixon’s grave!

    M.A.: No problem. You are like a celebrity to me.

  26. Danny

    Last night I saw Victor Garber and the dead woman/narrator from “Desperate Housewives.” Despite all the work he’s done since, I wanted to scream “Jesus!” when I saw Garber since he played the title role in the movie version of “Godspell.” If you want to see a celeb, head out to ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset and Vine. I’ve been there dozens of time and there is always a star or two wandering about.

  27. Brooke

    Bruce Springsteen. You touched him. I am insanely jealous.

    I love this post. I’m stealing this idea for myself. I should have the time to write it sometime before 2006.

  28. modigli

    Oh! Neilsie! Paul Newman grew up in Cleveland!! Didn’t you know that? His family owned a hardware store in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. Every year Paul comes back to watch the annual car race we have here in the summer. (or participate? I dunno… He’s a fan of car racing.) A friend of mine used to volunteer every year just in hopes of getting her Paul Newman sighting! 🙂

    Oh! And I just remembered, the wife from “Everybody Loves Raymond” grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, too.

    Oh yeah, and one more: Modigli!! I live in Cleveland, and I’m sorta famous. Right? 😉

  29. Megan

    I once swam laps with Rodney Dangerfield in a Vegas hotel pool, does that count?

    I did meet Robin Williams, but only because I was stalking him outside Constitution Hall in DC after seeing his standup performance.

    When I worked in Santa Monica during my last job, I saw all kinds of celebs during my afternoon lunchbreak walk with my coworker. I think we enjoyed seeing nasty-ass Tori Spelling the best (and yes, her boobs look even faker in person).

    Oh Neil, I think you might be the only celeb I haven’t yet met! 😉

  30. Lauren

    Wait wait wait. Kevin Kline is married to Phoebe Cates? Soap Dish and Fast Times At Ridgemont High – Married??? How did I not know that?

  31. ekramer

    my girl friend and i once saw someone at grandcentral that we knew was a movie star but couldnt remember his name until we were off the train. it was joseph cotton.i am sure no one heard of him because this was 40 years ago.

  32. psychotoddler

    I once saw Donnie Most crossing the street by Columbus Circle.

    Also I once passed Phil Rizzuto at the airport.

    I am so blessed.

  33. Neil

    Mom, if you would have married Joseph Cotton instead of Dad, imagine how that would have helped my screenwriting career!

  34. psychotoddler

    Joseph Cotton was in Soylent Green.

  35. anonymous city girl

    My coolest celebrity encounter encounter is so dorky.
    I tongue kissed Seth Green when I was in high school. I think I was like 15 (I know I didn’t have a drivers license yet). It was before he was big… in fact I think he only came up to my nose.
    Maybe I should have posted this under the entry about short men.

  36. outlines

    Come on! Tell us what Tim Allen said… Can’t be that bad! 😉 When was that, by the way??

  37. John

    > Joseph Cotton was in Soylent Green.

    Not to mention that obscure movie…what was it called, the one with Orson Welles and the sled–Oh, yeah, *Citizen Kane!*

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial