Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stargazing Washington Style

D.C. may not be New York or Los Angeles, but we certainly get our fair share of celebrities in the city from time to time. Angelina regularly testifies on Capitol Hill and Anna Nicole had her case tried before the Supreme Court, and during the inauguration everyone from M.C. Hammer to Bono to Beyonce was in town. I have christened myself one of the foremost celeb spotters in the Washington-Metropolitan area. I can be walking down the street and faster than I'd recognize my own mother, I'd recognize Felicty Huffman and William H. Macy (and, in fact, I have). In this city, what we consider a "star" is a little different than other places. A nerdy sighting like Cokie Roberts at lunch (yup, had one of those too), a street-crossing George Stephanopoulos (seen him), or John McCain in Chinatown (that one, too) gets us as excited as spotting Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver (yeah, them too--and they're a bonus sighting because they qualify as both Hollywood and Washington). A politico or a newser is as much cause for celebration as any other.

I'm too big of a chicken to ever actually approach any of these celebrities, as WH will attest, since I ususally make him follow them down the street (my apologies to Rachel Griffiths). The time WH and I ran into Arnie and Maria, I wasn't the starstruck one. WH loves Arnold. When he came out of the cigar shop on M Street in Georgetown, stepping directly into our path, WH grabbed my hand, squeezed it till my knuckles popped, and said, "It's him!" And then we followed them until they disappeared into Pottery Barn.

I can relate to WH's tongue-tied-ness. You see, once I met Hillary Clinton and, well . . . read on. We were sitting in Dupont Circle one summer day, when we noticed a big line outside of Books-A-Million. Never wanting to miss out on something exciting, I insisted we walk over to find out what was going on. Turns out Hillary was doing a book signing. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up, so we got in line to wait to meet Hillary.

The whole time we were waiting, I was twitchy. I chattered away about nonsense while WH, always the trooper, listened to my blathering. As we got closer to the front of the line, I could see the former First Lady. She was chatting happily with each person as they approached to get their book signed. I couldn't wait for my turn. She told the girl in front of us, who happened to have very curly hair, "My daughter has hair just like yours!"

Then, suddenly, it was my turn. And boy did I choke. "Hi!" she said. Nothing. I had nothing. If she had asked my name, I wouldn't have known what to say. My brain was going a mile a minute, but no words were coming to mind. Hillary looked at WH, who said, "I'm with her." And before we knew what was happening, my turn was over. And that's when it hit me . . . every woman loves a compliment on her clothes, so I turned back and said, "Senator, love your suit!" She smiled graciously and went back to her signing.

I was feeling a little better that I had managed to say something, even if it was something kind of dumb, at the last minute. That was until WH burst my bubble.

WH: Did you just 'Hannibal Lechter' Hillary Clinton?

WT: What? What do you mean?

WH: You know, that scene in Silence of the Lambs where he compliments the Senator on her suit? Right after she says, "Take this thing back to Baltimore."

WT: Oh no. Oh no. I Hannibal Lechter-ed Hillary Clinton.

WH: Yeah, you're probably on some Secret Service watchlist now.

WT: Oh god. Oh no.

And there you have it, my shining moment of glory. I will say this, though. When I met her husband a few years later, I was prepared. I had my three sentences memorized so I wouldn't choke this time. And I didn't . . . but my boss, who was with me at the time sure did. She giggled girlishly when asked her name, and then after we walked away from our photo op, told me, "You know, he was just my size." Yeah, she's 5'4". He's easily ten inches taller than her. But let that be a lesson to you, should you be cruising the streets of Washington (or your own city) and run into someone famous, be sure you have a speech memorized, because otherwise you might Hanibal Lechter your hero. Unless, of course, it's Anthony Hopkins . . . in which case you can Hannibal Lechter Hannibal Lechter.

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