Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are the best stories about randomly meeting a celebrity and not recognizing him/her? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I used to have a habit of bumping into celebrities.
No, I mean literally. Once, I collided with Natalie Portman as I was leaving Harvard Yard and she was coming back in. I’d been on the phone with a friend at the time, and she and I ran smack into each other under the gateway arch just across from the First Parish church. We exchanged apologies for not watching where we were going, and after a brief moment of small talk (I think she asked me something about what year I was; I replied that I was taking night classes and what she was studying, and the usual “Well, it was nice meeting you!” and “You too!”) I kept walking along my way.
About 10 steps later, I stopped dead in my tracks, stopped whatever I was saying to my friend at the time, and asked him. ‘Wait. Does Natalie Portman have a beauty mark?’
He wasn’t sure. So he hopped on the internet and searched for me. Sure enough, she did.
“Dude. The girl I just crashed into. That was her.”
And silly me, I didn’t even realize it.
About a year later, while I was working at the Ritz-Carlton Boston (the old one), I was exiting one of the event hall restrooms, opened up the door, and bumped chests with Pauly Shore.
So, again, mutual apologies for colliding. I took a look at him, squinted a little, and asked him: “Anyone ever tell you you look like Pauly Shore with short hair?”
To which he smirked and replied, “Man, you wouldn’t believe how often I hear that.”
But the best one happened between these two. Before I worked for the Ritz, I worked as a valet manager for a company that handled parking for the hotel. The old Ritz didn’t have its own parking, so we used several nearby garages to store cars, and valets ran to pick them up as needed. On occasion, when we were really busy, I ran for cars myself.
So here I was, driving up the ramp out of an underground garage in a classic green Jaguar (ok, I admit to revving the engine…), just about to pull through the garage exit, over the sidewalk and onto the street. At the very last moment, somebody strolled out in front of the car. I hit the brakes as hard as I could and came to a stop with a screech that was more of a squeak, and there, a foot from the hood of the car, I saw this old man looking at me.
One corner of his mouth curled up just a tiny bit, and his head jerked with a single short laugh. I know he didn’t say it, so it must have been my mind playing tricks, but I heard these words in my head:
Go ahead. Make my day.
Then Clint Eastwood turned back on his way and kept walking.
Needless to say, that exit from the garage was closed the next time I had to run for a car, and I had the infamy among friends as the guy who almost ran over Clint Eastwood, the guy whose fellow valets nicknamed Lucky Punk.
There was also the time Ozzie Osbourne bowed to me.
There’s not much to tell, really. I worked overnights at the old Ritz in Boston. Officially, I was something called a Night Auditor, which meant that part of my job was to review the days records, look for and flag discrepancies, and print out a whole slew of reports. It also meant I worked the front desk to check in the stragglers, the last minute travelers and late arrivals, and sometimes high-profile individuals arriving after events or just trying to avoid attracting crowds. We didn’t have a night manager at the time, so it eventually became my job to handle the upset, the unhappy, the irate and the downright irascible who came down with problems in the night.
This included chasing moon-eyed teenagers out of hallways and stairwells after they somehow infiltrated the building looking for this guy named Jack Johnson. I had *no* idea who he was at the time, turning away the blindest and drunkest guys looking for a public restroom, and yes, occasionally welcoming the Godfather of Heavy Metal to the hotel in the middle of the night.
So. There’s the setup. We all knew he was arriving late at night, but there wasn’t a big todo about it. My operator wanted to see him, so I had her stand at the front desk, and then I believe the bellman and one of your loss prevention officers were present. My simple job was to stand next to the lobby elevator as the bellman escorted him in through the front doors and say,
Good evening, Mr. Osbourne. Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton, Boston! I hope you enjoy your stay!
So that’s what I did. He was shorter than I expected, but looked pretty much like he looked on his TV show. He clasped his hands together, smiled, and bowed gently in my direction, said ‘Thank you,’ and he and his wife entered the elevator and were whisked to their room.
That’s that. No bumping into anyone, this time, just an extremely gracious greeting!