The Best and Worst Celebrity Encounters

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The Best and Worst Celebrity Encounters
The Best and Worst Celebrity Encounters

Celebrities are normal people, right? No. Celebrity encounters can be an exhilarating experience.

Celebrities tend to radiate a starry glow that often makes them seem surreally special and even wildly sexy in the spiritual sense. As a journalist who’s followed their exploits for decades, I’ve gotten to meet these icons in the flesh and see what they’re like when totally up in your face without a script. Naturally, this doesn’t mean I’m catching a glimpse of the real person inside the celebrity — their behavior in the presence of press people is generally calculated to win them favor and convince the world that they’re incredible specimens who deserve a place on Mount Rushmore. But it’s been amusing to see how these famous folk react to writers like me in more casual situations, and whether they opt to ass-kiss, rise above, or just ignore and run away.

Jimmy Fallon has the right idea

The nouveau talk show host always goes out of his way give me a warm hello, and so does Will Ferrell. (I guess anyone who’s survived “SNL” comes out of it wanting to embrace humanity, one person at a time.) Sean Combs once grabbed my leg as a way of saying “hi” as he entered the theater I was sitting in — but I’d just been dicked around by his people about getting an interview, and besides, that performance was held up for an eternity waiting for Combs’s way-late entrance in the audience. Still, the leg thing did manage to make me like the guy for about the length of time he later considered an “American Idol” judging offer.

Donald Trump is a master of the “kill them with kindness” routine

No matter how much crap I’ve written about the tempestuous tycoon, he generally comes up to me and says stuff like, “You do a good job,” which is probably a better approach than, “How dare you, you cretin! Shut the f*** up!”

The fiery Alec Baldwin also knows how to lay on the charm and make nice

though I may well be one of the reasons he’s planning to give up show biz and move to L.A. (Exactly the place I’d move to if I was giving up show biz, right?) Harvey Weinstein is also expectedly savvy in stroking press people. The movie wiz has said lovely things to me, though whenever he throws me a fishy look and ices me out at an event, I start rummaging through my brain, wondering, “Eek. Which horrible thing that I wrote did the trick this time?”

Stars on the way up tend to be the most agreeable ones, since they’re especially eager to be loved and accepted, and too young to be jaded. As “Umbrella” hit, Rihanna seemed perfectly nice; when “I Kissed a Girl” debuted, Katy Perry was fun and cool; and as her first album clicked, Lady Gaga was fine, though this was before she developed an all-important lighter side. At this point, the rising star only seemed to know the importance of being earnest. Broadway funnyman Nathan Lane used to thank me for the write-ups, but then came what he calls “the Hitler years,” and now, I think he’d rather I just move to L.A. with Alec Baldwin.

Whoopi Goldberg has a bad temper

Whoopi Goldberg and I had a history, but we made up and she even asked me to be in her documentary about legendary, toothless comic Moms Mabley, having read something extremely appreciative I wrote about Moms. Whoopi’s office kept calling to assure me this interview would happen, but the next time they called, it was suddenly to invite me to a screening. Ah, celebrities. This was a sort of bigger-scale version of the whole “Let’s have lunch” routine, though I ultimately had to admit that I quite possibly don’t really belong in a documentary about Moms Mabley.

Where I do belong is anywhere somebody well-known is willing to gush over me (“RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Sharon Needles went on about what an inspiration I am, as I batted my eyelashes) or even when a celebrity’s relative does so (Anne Hathaway’s dad told me he’s a fan — at least I assume he was Anne Hathaway’s father).

Years ago, when I was on “The Gossip Show” on E!, the incredibly famous Sarah Jessica Parker came up to me at an event and went on about how great I was on the show. I was positively floating, until running into another Gossip Show correspondent who told me, “Sarah Jessica Parker just came up to me and said she thinks I’m great on the show!” My heart sank, but then I decided she was being totally sincere. (She just liked the show, OK?) And in all my dealings with SJP, she’s been top-notch and totally pro.

Glenn Close is a charm

I was once ushered over to chat with multiple Oscar nominee Glenn Close, who specified, “Only innocent questions.” “I bet you HAVE no innocent questions,” she added with a twinkle. Well, most of them are in prison, but a few of them haven’t been put on trial yet, so give them a break while I call 1-800-LAWYER.

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Mouthy comics like Joan Rivers, Kathy Griffin and Lisa Lampanelli have always been friendly, funny and giving, not caring at all if my questions are serving time on Death Row. These are super smart, racy women who realize that if we collaborate on crackling copy, it can only help all of our careers.

My best celebrity encounter of all? I spent several hours interviewing Cher in her Aspen getaway! The one-named wonder gave me a candid, relaxed interview, and didn’t even seem to mind when, after I came out of the bathroom, I caught her making out with her guitarist boyfriend. Most astoundingly, she personally drove me back to the airport in her open-air jeep, while keeping up a friendly line of banter the whole time. I kept hoping somebody I knew would spot me being chauffeured by Cher, but no one did — and they never would have believed this was anything but a show-biz-fueled hallucination anyway. The catch is that this was way back in 1980, when Cher was in a career low, before she reestablished herself as a singing/acting superstar. When she got hot again, I wrote her and many years later tweeted her, but basically I got the social network equivalent of an icy stare. Ah, celebrities.

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