When celebrities and fans collide: Kaboom!

Published 8:45 am Tuesday, June 8, 2010

“I’m hanging with Prince in the airport,” my husband Graham whispered into his phone. “There’s a bodyguard between us, but still, he’s here, I’m here. We’re hanging.”

“I’m hanging with Tom Brady at the Vegas Hard Rock,” Graham yelled into his phone over the poolside racket. “He’s roped off by the cabanas, but still …”

“I know. He’s there. You’re there. You’re hanging.”

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Graham loves celebrity encounters. He inhales their rarified air in deep confident breaths. I see a celebrity and have to breath into a paper bag.

I didn’t realize to what extent I got the celebrity yips until the actress Claire Bloom happened to pass by me several years ago. The farther away she got the more I wanted to talk to her, so I jumped out of my heels and threw myself down the street after her as if she was Claire Bloom the purse-snatcher rather than Claire Bloom star of stage and screen.

“Ms. Bloom!” I screeched. “Ms. Bloooooom!”

She stopped and took stock of the galloping barefooted figure before her.

“Yes …”

“I just wanted to tell you…” with a shoe in each hand, I froze. My tongue did not tie; it folded itself into an origami idiot. I wanted to ask her about starring with Charlie Chaplin in “Limelight” and compliment her work in “Richard III” with Laurence Olivier. Instead I said this: “You were awesome on ‘As The World Turns.’ I loved ‘Clash of the Titans.’ Harry Hamlin was one cool drink of water, huh?”

This lovely Bloom laughed and thanked me. Then she got tricky and asked for my name.

“Athena, Andromeda, Medusa?” Titans still clashed in my head! Finally I managed to mumble, “Ali.”

Celebrity and I became comfortably estranged after that. Years passed without incident, until my sister Barb forced me to go on what would be at best a fool’s journey and at worst the total unraveling of my dignity.

As I stood in line to spend three minutes with Paul Anthony Stewart from “Guiding Light,” I thought maybe I wasn’t so star struck. There was feeling in my extremities, sense in my head. I felt completely normal until I looked into the eyes of show-tune-singing, mob-boss-with-a-golden-heart Danny Santos.

“Would you like a picture?” he offered.

“Of who?”


“I’ll take three.”

“And what’s your name?”

This is where it always goes bad.

“Blair, Blaze, Water Lily.” Soap opera names, of course.

Barb graciously accepted one picture with my real name and explained to Mr. Stewart that I’d been watching the show with my grandmother since I was a baby and was clearly overwhelmed.

“Really? Since you were a baby?” He seemed pleased.

“Yeah, Baby,” I answered. He seemed scared.

“Bye bye, Baby,” I cooed over my shoulder. He seemed to be looking for security.

A decade-long moratorium on all celebrity meetings crumbled when Bernadette Peters came to Minneapolis, and I accidentally scored front-row seats, which serendipitously landed me next to a woman who knew exactly where I should go to meet my lifelong idol. It was a perfect storm, and instead of taking cover, I chased it.

The only term I can find to describe my meeting with the queen of Broadway is: “Kaboom!”

“Were you born that red and kinky? I mean your hair! Not you, I don’t think you were born kinky. I don’t think you’re kinky now! Not that I would know, but your hair is definitely kinky and I love it! Great show, by the way.”

With the grace of the harassed Ms. Bloom and Mr. Stewart, Ms. Peters smiled and asked what my name was.

Oh no.

“Marion the Librarian, Eliza Doolittle, I’m Jean Valjean!” Graham leaned in and handed her my program, “Just put A-L-I or N-U-T-S,” Ms. Peters laughed and Graham then took a few pictures of us together. In every one of them I am wild-eyed and slack-jawed.

The best celebrity meeting I had never happened. I missed seeing Audrey Hepburn in Atlanta by one day, and I kiss the feet of fate for preserving the lovely relationship I have with the late Ms. Hepburn in my head.

I daydream that I would have praised her work with UNICEF and complimented her impeccable style. We would have had tea and talked about flowers. In reality I would have said, “Wow, you’re really tall.” And then Audrey would have ruined the whole thing by asking, “What is your name, dear?”

St. Paul resident Alexandra Kloster appears every other Friday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.