You never know how you’ll react in an extreme situation, until you’re champagne glass deep in it. Like meeting a celebrity, for example. As an intelligent newspaper-reading sort, you’re probably thinking you’d play it cool. But according to my research there’s a 97.6% chance that within inches of a major celebrity encounter you’ll go slack-jawed and turn gibberish.
I have a very fabulous friend who often rubs Louis Vuitton’s with the rich and famous. And I’m not talking local C-listers who were once extras on Binnelanders here. In the world of celebrity, there’s an A-list and a B-list. If you’re any further down the alphabet, you’re not really a celebrity, just someone with lots of friends on Facebook.
A few years ago this friend met Bob Geldoff. Sorry, Sir Bob Geldoff, at one of those parties with the good canapés. She was like a duck swimming on a lake. On the surface she managed to stay cool and calm, while under water she was paddling like a crazy person. Her heart rate elevated, her pupils dilated and her pits started to leak. She made small hello-nice-to-meet-you talk, making an effort not to shout out OH MY GOD YOU’RE BOB GELDOFF! A few minutes in she reached into her Gucci purse for lip ice, and swiped it across her lips, which were unavoidably dry, given the circumstances. Only then realizing she’d taken a tampon out of her purse by mistake.
On another occasion, on being introduced to world-famous American singer songwriter, Anastacia, who’s sold over 30 million albums, my friend said; ‘People always say I look like you.’ ‘You don’t.’ The star said, before stepping away.
While across town, another friend was on a bus driving through the streets of London. As the bus pulled into a stop, he spotted an old friend standing on the pavement. When they made brief eye contact he waved. When the friend didn’t respond he waved again this time more energetically, then shouted out the window, ‘Hey, it’s me, Clive!’
As the bus pulled off, my friend felt put out that his good mate hadn’t acknowledged him, until as the bus turned a corner it dawned on him that it was Sir Paul McCartney.
Meeting famous people is surreal. We spend so much time with them and welcome them into our homes, so there’s a familiarity, and we feel like we know them really well. So when faced with the real-life human being, there’s a mental disconnect, where the feeling that you know this person collides with the realization that you don’t know them at all. It’s like looking at the identical twin of someone you know well. You recognise them, but only almost.
And then there’s the pressure to act normal in front of them and not wig out or be a weirdo. All that stress is just too delicious for your psyche to ignore.
I once met my very favourite super-famous author at a book festival in the UK. I queued for forty minutes to have him sign his books for me. The whole time in the queue I planned what I would say when I got to the front. I would be cool and collected, witty even. We might connect, could make friends. When I finally stepped in front of him my tongue swelled up in my mouth and I mumbled inappropriate droolly nonsense for three minutes. Our one-way conversation escalated pretty quickly and for some reason I found myself saying something about him in the shower! Eventually his PR person had to physically move me along, so he could sign the next person’s book. My only hope is that I was so incoherent he took me for a child from a special school.
Before that happened, I would have laughed and teased my friend (the one who looks like Anastacia) about the time she met famous singer, George Michael, and the only thing she could think of to say was; ‘Wow, you have great eyebrows!’ But now I kind of wish that’s what I’d said to the famous author instead.