Bumping into celebrities

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Celebrities declare in interviews that they just want to blend with the crowd. Such pining for anonymity is eventually granted.

By Tony Samson

CELEBRITIES tend to congregate together. (They try to avoid the great unwashed, unless they’re on the stage, and the latter are part of the paying audience.) Certain places or events are jammed with celebrities. They include TV studios, legislative hallways (except when you are called as a hostile witness and thus become an even bigger celebrity), or commercial shoots on location. Events like glitzy fund-raisers for typhoon victims or battered women are magnets for celebrities. (They usually don’t donate cash.)

Places like clubs or fancy restos, where those who have the plastic wherewithal to belong may bump into highly recognizable personalities who make grand entrances as peasants let them through. They strut around (it’s the only way they know how to walk) looking well-scrubbed from all the skin peeling, and trim from liposuctions. Like hyenas, they move in packs and talk loudly to each other — So, you’re back from Istanbul?

People are like the Red Sea that part to let Moses through, leaving in their wake a lot of whispering, of the stage variety that is meant to be overheard. It is the service staff, however, that stop whatever they’re doing, even suspending mid-air the delivery of a plate to an ordinary customer to gawk at the demigods who deign to smile at them — is my table ready?

Certain celebrities can be famous for being famous. Maybe they are constant features in glossy magazines, photographed at club openings chatting up the deejay, milling with artists at art auctions, and emceeing a centennial birthday. Sometimes they are politicians trained to smile at strangers thrown with them in an elevator. In a ride only two floors down, just a nod of deference and acknowledgment of celebrityhood are sufficient. (Yes sir, I know you are involved in the pork barrel scam.)

Fame is conferred under the following categories: 1.) TV hosts of daytime variety shows; 2.) Sportscasters of college games including basketball players of the just concluded college tournament; and, 3.) Certified billboard hunks with eye candy in tow.

The recognition factor depends on high visibility. Has-been’s are seldom acknowledged. Strolling through unnoticed, though wearing loud attire and shoes that shriek “fake,” can be an aging celebrity lawyer who once did work for a deposed dictator and an assortment of notorious clients. But wait, he’s back in the spotlight with even less wrinkles than before, defending the latest tirade against religious figures — he was just kidding.

It is possible on long weekend holidays such as this season not to bump into anybody you know. This bumping business has a Murphy’s Law version. You will only bump into somebody you know if you are trying not to bump into anybody you know. Okay, you may just be conducting research for a novel about an old banker in a country club setting. Having to engage in unwanted conversation is certain to derail your ambience soak. Of course, the tryst of an unmatched pair in a chichi setting has already been overdone.

Celebrities declare in interviews (non-celebrities are never interviewed) that they just want to blend with the crowd. Some anonymous mother may even publicly protest too loudly about the “lack of privacy” of her overly famous blonde-haired TV host child. There is no letup on the requests for selfies. Such pining for anonymity (and the sudden inaccesibility to pricey beach-front hotels) is eventually granted.

Still, it is quite a letdown for an erstwhile celebrity to walk around unrecognized. (Don’t you want a photo with me?) Is he now so passé, unrecognized even by the waitresses? Can the wife of a boxer unaccompanied by her celebrity pugilist still be identifiable after all the facial tucks and peels? She looks so different from her occasional billboard presence that you wonder if this real-life version is in fact an aging star being launched for a game show. The combination of cosmetic surgery and photo-shopping can create a virtual unknown in the flesh.

Sighting celebrities requires a certain cool disdain and indifference from the rest. Just continue sipping coffee, watching others behind sunglasses, a preoccupation unfortunately too easily mistaken for celebrity-hunting. Best to just enjoy the bitter brew and be aloof to all the attention the next table is attracting. The only problem with anonymity bumping into celebrity is that you can’t get the attention of the waiters. It is clear they’re too busy to be bothered.


A.R. Samson is chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda.