Friday, November 6, 2009

Saying Hello to Celebrity

My family wanted to know if I’d be going to the parade up the Canyon of Heroes for the World Champion NY Yankees today. After all, isn’t that the type of thing retirees and those otherwise unemployed get to do without fear of repercussions from taking off from work?

Yes, I guess they’re right. But no, thank you, I won’t be among the millions standing in the chilly autumn air along Broadway, waiting for the fleeting moment when Derek or CC or A-Rod or Hideki rides by and maybe even waves in their direction.

My appreciation for their performance is much more personal, the same as it was when I watched them win. I prefer viewing any of my favorite team’s playoff games by myself, so I can think along with the players and coaches, rant against the lousy, gushy TV commentators, and generally act or act up as I see fit, without fear of embarrassing myself. I don’t need the company of others to cheer along with, or commiserate with if they lose.

Gilda thinks I’m an old fuddy-duddy. Guilty, probably, but I have come to prefer to express my appreciation personally and in a quiet way, even years after a player retires. Sitting in the Los Angeles airport three months ago, I recognized a gentleman who sat down about 30 feet away. I calmly approached Dave Winfield, shook his enormous hand and thanked him for his years as a Yankee. I did the same thing in the St. Louis airport with David Wells the winter following the perfect game he pitched as a Yankee. I shook Joe Torre's hand on a plane down to Florida a few years ago. On the southeast corner of Lexington Avenue and East 55th Street, I said hello to Shelley Duncan last year after he exited a Starbucks. Twice over the last two years at the opposite corner I said hello to Johnny Damon, once when he was with his wife and child.

You’d be surprised how many celebrities walk among us. Over the years, just in the one block radius from my former office on Park Avenue between 55th and 56 Streets, I saw Richard Lewis, Alan King, Dustin Hoffman, Neil Simon, Steve Allen and Audrey Meadows, Ricky Gervais, Jackie Onassis, and Cheryl Tiegs, who I almost followed into a flower store on 55th Street.

I enjoy the excitement of the impromptu encounter, the instant identification of the celebrity and, whenever possible, the quick and quiet expression of appreciation for the work they have done. I never ask for autographs, and most importantly, try not to alert others so the celebrity doesn’t become an object of attention. They’re usually flattered to be recognized, and equally happy not to be exposed.

It will be bedlam downtown today. Not a scene I care to share.