‘Celebrity sightings, and accessories after the fact’
Twitter was aflitter last week with Helen Mirren sightings. She was on the R. She was on the Q. Whatever the letter, she was on the subway. And she looked so amazing (she is 69! that can’t be her!) that her fellow riders sometimes doubted the evidence of their own eyes. You can read an amusing summary of their internet astonishment here.
So where was I when all this subterranean drama was unfolding? Alas, I was consumed with Scary Dental Issues (see ‘Is it Safe?’ for colorful detail). But now I’m ready for some rhapsodizing about la Mirren and some blathering about Celebrity Sighting in General (well in general in Manhattan, anyway.)
See, one of the reasons that celebrities love being in Manhattan is that Manhattanites ignore them. Completely. Famous People can walk around, stand in Shake Shack lines, ride on the subway — all in relatively unmolested peace. It is considered extremely uncool (and very non-New-Yorker-ish) to go up to the Celebrity of One’s Daydreams and say something like ‘Oh! Wow! I just love your work!’ not to mention ask for an autograph or to (gulp) pose in a picture with them.
I personally have seen — and ignored — Woody Allen, Meryl Streep, and Dustin Hoffman, who refused to go to the head of a movie line with his then-small daughter when recognized by the ticket-taker, much to the rest of the line’s approval.
Evidence would suggest, though (witness the pictures appearing with this post, taken by random strangers and that I found here) that sneakily Instagramming a celeb and then tweeting the shot all over the virtual universe is completely A-OK. Sometimes the celebrities even do so themselves (!) If you are so inclined, you can click here and see Drew Barrymore applying makeup in a selfie on the subway.
To be honest, a big part of the reason we don’t approach celebrities, tact aside, is that even shrewd Manhattanites tend not to recognize celebrities. For one thing, celebrities seldom walk around (or subway around) in full wardrobe and makeup. (See Drew B exception noted above; but she was promoting a line of makeup at the time, so there’s that.)
A guy — even a Tom Hanks guy or a Jake Gyllenhaal Guy — walking a dog in sweatpants looks like, well, a guy walking a dog in sweatpants. The guy, not the dog. A dog in sweatpants might get some attention. Or maybe not. I just recalled the guy in my nabe who goes running wearing a tee shirt and fishnet hose. Fishnet hose with nothing on under them. And no one even turns their head, much less notifies the authorities.
Another thing: most celebrities are surprisingly small. Because they’re famous, you expect them to be so larger-than-life big. But no. They are small. Remarkably small. Skinny. Short. Tiny, even. Seriously. I cannot stress this enough. Dustin Hoffman, whom I mentioned was in the movie line? The middle-schoolers were taller. And check out this picture of Jake G. That armrest is, like, arm height on a normal person.
I once had dinner with Paul Simon (excellent story coming soon) and it looked like he had bought his motorcycle jacket in the children’s department of a Harley-Davidson store. (He was very nice, BTW. As I mentioned, story to follow. Soon, very soon.)
But back to Helen Mirren, whom I adore. Check her out in the picture at the top of this post. Not only is Helen displaying impeccable subway etiquette (no sloppy eating, no slouching, and, to be sure, no ‘man-spreading’), she’s also a picture book example of rising to the occasion even when riding under the ground. (No hoodies for Helen!) Excellent coat and, excuse me, lavender gloves. And oh how I covet that bag.
A quick note about New York Women and their bags. Sometimes people who don’t live here comment on how, well, large New York Women’s bags (never ‘purses’, not here) seem. And that, no matter our New York Social Stratum, we all seem to carry one.
To which I say, think about a New York Woman’s ‘commute’. Since we don’t commute by car (not even Helen or Tom or Jake or Drew do) your coat is your car, your shoes are your wheels. And your bag? It’s your trunk.
Note: Men in New York carry handbags too (for proof, check out Tom and Jake again); they just call them backpacks or messenger bags or maybe they just don’t call them anything. But they do carry them.
I’d like to leave you with a quick note on another accessory no New Yorker is without, at least not in winter. (Helen’s is no doubt in that bag). And that’s the Scarf.
Scarves are cool not only because they’re warm (See photo of wrapped-up Hanks, above). They’re also a (relatively) economical way to add a dash of (gasp) color to the basic New Yorker black as well as a sense of ‘occasion’ to any outfit. Even if the ‘occasion’ is Tuesday.
This year’s Scarf Sensation is called the Infinity Scarf. I’ve actually knit a few. The Child admired one I’d made for myself, so, like the Good Mom that I am, I whipped it off and gave it to her. On the spot. Which meant I had to knit myself another one. I got the darned thing twisted (too absorbed in Downtown Abbey, I guess) and it came out like a mobius strip. Sigh. I bet that kind of thing never happens to Helen Mirren.
New York City. February 2015