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September 23, 2007 10:51 PM   Subscribe

How to make conversation with celebrities at public events?

I was at a charity benefit today where a few celebrities made an appearance. I went up for an autograph / photo, but wasn't sure how to make polite conversation with them other than sincere admiration which inevitably comes off as sycophantic.

What should I be saying? Should I not bother since it's all a show?
posted by randomstriker to Human Relations (65 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I always ask if they'd like my autograph.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:57 PM on September 23, 2007 [4 favorites]

Something simple, like, "I really am glad to meet you in person. I really admired your [insert something specific about their work]."

Not that I really know, since I have never met any celebrities.
posted by jayder at 11:10 PM on September 23, 2007

I hate to give away my trade secret, but I disarm celebrities and get on their good side with a little technique I developed a million years ago. Totally works though. After I moved to LA in the 80s I often found myself standing next to celebrities & I didn't know what to do. I hate sycophants, but I wanted to get some kind of story about interacting with them to tell my friends. I didn't want to just stand there looking stupid. So I would turn to them with a really concentrated look on my face, and as they generally gave me their "Oh God, she recognizes me, not another autograph" face, instead of asking them for anything I would pinch an imaginary piece of lint off of their shirt or tie and say, "You have something on your shirt." and then I'd proceed to turn back around and go about minding my own business.

It's a fun sociological experiment on a variety of levels. A) Many actors/celebrities' egos are somewhat large, so while they may seem to dread being recognized by you, some will actually seem more disappointed than happy that you didn't (others will seem very relieved to be left alone and visibly relax); B) People are vain, and a celebrity is supposed to look perfect in the public eye. So to think that they were walking around with something on their shirt genuinely throws them off guard. In turn, you are now like the mouse who pulled a thorn out of their paw. From that point on there is a good chance that you are in their good graces and off their sycophant radar. After all, you helped them and then turned your back on them without wanting anything (and they're used to everyone wanting something from them). So if you bump into them again in the evening and just give them a friendly smile, they will often start up banter WITH you.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:31 PM on September 23, 2007 [40 favorites]

It's easy to get overwhelmed by someone you admire, more so if you have never spoken to their publicist over the phone.

My advice is that you learn what they are really interested in. For example if you met me, you could say "Man, I do really hate those people who think Scientology isn't a real religion." I would reply: "People need to have the right to believe whatever they want and be encouraged to do so from birth, but I don't think any religion should hold a copyright to their religious foundations."

I remember meeting Rick Lazio, the guy who lost to Hillary Clinton for the US senate in 2000 and being unable to speak, although I was being prodded to ask a simple question about mudslinging by 200 other journalists who were not sophomores at Southern Oregon University and not attending the Republican National Convention for college credit so as to avoid their junior capstone project (which they would have learned they had to do regardless later on.)

Do not be pregnant with fear.
posted by parmanparman at 11:40 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hi, something about their work, or even "nice to meet you, how are you" and something about the event.

Celebrities are just people really. One of my best friends is a regional celebrity due to her work but eschews the la-di-da lifestyle. She doesn't mind if people come up to say hi as long as they're not creepy or infringing on her privacy. Treating them as though they were on a pedestal is tons creepier, really.
posted by divabat at 12:08 AM on September 24, 2007

Best celebrity story I ever heard, told by an ex-Israeli friend in San Francisco, 1986 -
"Once I was at the Guggenheim early in the morning when there were just a few people around, and a pretty woman was standing there, so I asked her some questions about a painting. We got into a conversation and she walked me around showing me stuff, etc. After a while I said - Hey, you look Like Jackie Kennedy. And then I realized that it was her."
posted by growabrain at 12:10 AM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you don't know anything about the person you're talking to, it doesn't much matter if they're a celebrity or not. You might as well keep it local. Tell them while they're in ::yourtownhere::, they should stop for a taco down at La Fondita, or whatever. Ask them their pick for next ::sports competition or awards ceremony::. That's friendly.

When I met Crispin Glover, I chatted him up for ten minutes or so about public funding of the arts.

When I met Matthew McConaghey, I offered to buy him a drink.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:17 AM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

In a past life I was around celebrities quite often. Like anyone else, they like to talk about themselves, and hear about themselves. Gushing and treating them like royalty is creepy and uncomfortable, though.

"I loved your (book, CD, concert, movie), is there anything else like that in the works?"

"Great to meet you in person, I've admired your work. (Add a short detail about something specific that shows you actually do know something. Something NOT obvious is better.)"

"You have something on your shirt." ;)

In any case, after making your greeting or asking your question, be prepared to give space. You're probably not going to be best friends with them, so monopolizing their time is not good form.

One of my favorite celebrity recognition stories is told by Julia Sweeney from Saturday Night Live (It's Pat!). After being on SNL for a while, she was in line at a deli, and across the room a couple of teen girls were looking her way and giggling. She had not been recognized before, so she wasn't sure if they were giggling at seeing her or not. Then they waved, as if to get her attention, and said "Hi Julia!" So, she shyly waved back. Again they waved and giggled. "Julia!" Again she waves back. After a bit, she turned to move forward in line, and saw standing behind her was Julia Roberts.
posted by The Deej at 12:40 AM on September 24, 2007 [4 favorites]

Best advice in this thread: "Celebrities are just people really."

So, you know. Same thing you'd say to anyone to break the ice. They're not special gods among us, they're just hanging out doing their thing.
posted by blacklite at 1:16 AM on September 24, 2007

BTW, there were only 2 times that I DID get sycophantic instead of pretending I didn't know who a celebrity was. Once was with Bono, who I had loved in my teens. When I finally met him, even he could tell that it was clearly painful for me to say something so fan-like, I said, "I've just always wanted to meet you." He ended up talking to me for a while, asking me about myself a bit, taking my hand & kissing me on the cheek. He was surprisingly nice. And short.

The other was when I met Rosemary Clooney. If I was to meet another celebrity on my idol list in the future I would probably use the same technique as I did with her because it felt very dignified. I simply called the waiter over and said I would like to buy her and her husband a drink. I didn't have ANY money at the time so I charged it, but it just seemed the appropriate thing to do as I'd just watched Holiday Inn the very night before & couldn't believe she was in the room with me. She & her husband said a genuine thank you, and then I ended up sitting with them for a few minutes and listened to some of her stories. That night kicked ass.

Oh, another good one... when I met Elvis Costello, I asked him if I could have an autograph for a friend of mine. After he signed it, he said, "You don't want one?" and I said, "Nah, I'm not really an autograph girl." He looked surprised. Then I said, "Well, I haven't signed my ATM card yet." He laughed & said, "I'm not too good at signing those." I said, "Neither am I, that's why I didn't sign it." So he took it out of my hand. And that's why I have a framed ATM card above my piano. It's signed by Elvis Costello. I love that thing.

I think the moral here is that they're just people & they want to relax and enjoy themselves instead of always feeling like a piece of meat. So treat them like people. Be yourself. Let them feel comfortable with you & don't treat them like some kind of space creature. You'll both have a better experience and maybe you'll actually get to know eachother a smidgen and make some actual interesting and pleasant small talk that you'll BOTH enjoy... instead of sounding like this.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:27 AM on September 24, 2007 [13 favorites]

And if they don't want to talk to you? Don't take it personally.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:29 AM on September 24, 2007

Yep, like Blacklite said - We are all just ordinary people doing our jobs, so what would YOU like to be asked if someone was stood alongside you?

Only difference is that your job is not (or may not be) in front of a lens. Does the fact that your job is not put on a digital tape/card make you any less valuable?

Having said that, I once walked past Sean Bean (Actor) and tried to think of something witty and completely clammed up so what do I know? Guess if I had just said "hiya" I might have got a better response :-)
posted by pettins at 1:50 AM on September 24, 2007

Don't be afraid to be a sycophant! :)

I seldom make conversation when randomly meeting celebrities. However I have often been introduced to them (through work, and mutual friends).

While they often don't really remember me when I bump into them again, there is often a look of recognition while they have the "oh, I remember him from somewhere, was he the receptionist at the gym, or is he the editor who made me look fantastically good in that puff piece I did last year?" moment. To deal with that in a nice way, I tend to say something like "hey, how are you? Still working on that --insert reference that places our previous encounter--?"

This way you can establish that yse, you have met before, and no, you're not a freak. And it give a good starting point for more conversation. There are quite a few 'celebrities' around town I have this relationship with now... They probably often don't remember my name, but they remember who I am, and how we've met before.
posted by sycophant at 2:18 AM on September 24, 2007

And if they don't want to talk to you? Don't take it personally.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:29 AM on September 24 [+] [!]
Actually, one of the favorite little inside jokes in my circle of friends is to heckle me for getting "Big-Timed" by Don Cheadle, who absolutely did not want to stop and talk to me when approached. Getting blown off can be almost as fun and fulfilling as having a conversation, and certainly becomes a better story than "that time I talked to Bob Newhart for two minutes about the weather" or some such thing.

So if they blow you off? Take it (faux-)personally! Develop a (fake) grudge! Never forget when they Big-Timed you in line at Starbucks!
posted by peacecorn at 3:25 AM on September 24, 2007

I would ask myself "Why do I want to talk to them?" And I would have no idea. And by then they'd be gone. Problem solved.

Though I like Dennis Pennis' approach.
posted by Crusty at 3:52 AM on September 24, 2007

I'm a big admirer of your work, it is a pleasure to meet you.

The only famous person I've met is Wim Wenders.
posted by corpse at 4:24 AM on September 24, 2007

I met a Canadian (relatively famous) TV/Film actor, with his gorgeous TV/Film actress wife, having been invited to his house for drinks by an obscure link through a family member.

He was just a totally normal bloke. Really nice. He didn't even seem offended that I only found out what he did for a living (and totally didn't mind that I had no clue who he was) after the discussion had moved onto Canadian TV and I blurted out that I thought it was under-funded shit and that I missed the BBC, and that I didn't even have a TV because it was so poor...


Ho hum. We get on ok, still - he's a really nice bloke. I had to look him up on IMDB to find out how much of a faux pas it was...
posted by Brockles at 4:59 AM on September 24, 2007

When I bump into celebrities, I generally try to treat them like a complete stranger - ie, ask them the same sort of questions you'd ask someone you know absolutely nothing about.

The biggest problem with talking to celebrities is that you know much more about them that they do about you - nd you really have no right to the info you have - so the best thing is to try not to draw attention to it.
posted by ascullion at 5:04 AM on September 24, 2007

Pretend like they are real people and forego the autograph/fawning over their status/etc.

"Hey, my name's JJ86. A funny thing happened to me on the way to the bash..."
posted by JJ86 at 6:00 AM on September 24, 2007

"Excuse me, does the Number 10 bus stop here?"

or, if they ask you something

"I'm sorry, I don't have any change. I can direct you to the homeless aid center if you'd like."
posted by electroboy at 6:01 AM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

So to think that they were walking around with something on their shirt genuinely throws them off guard. In turn, you are now like the mouse who pulled a thorn out of their paw. From that point on there is a good chance that you are in their good graces and off their sycophant radar.

I've heard that there are a lot of things that suck about being a celebrity, and one of them is surely the fact that a lot of people feel like they have to play elaborate mind-games with you (like the above) just because you're a celebrity.
posted by jayder at 6:25 AM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yes, celebrities are like you and me with the one difference...they have to have their psychological guard up (at least a little bit, often a lot) all of the time. And we often know something about them and they know nothing of us. This changes the dynamic.

I think the "something on your shirt" and leave them alone is very funny, actually. Keeping your interaction appropriate in the timing (you wouldn't interrupt a complete stranger during their dinner and gush at them) and expressing an appreciation for their work.

I've only asked for an autograph twice. At one event, I was able to buy a copy of the book. At the other, an author was signing copies of books if people brought them but not selling them. I really admire this author and her work, so I had her sign the back of my Drivers License to witness my pledge for organ donation. We had a pretty fun conversation about it ("All of your organs? Or just certain ones?") and I was able to tell her how much I enjoyed her work. I still have that Driver's License even though it expired. :)
posted by jeanmari at 6:40 AM on September 24, 2007

I have to clarify, I only pulled the Drivers License stunt because I had heard that she has a pretty great sense of humor. I thought that she'd get a laugh out of it and she did.
posted by jeanmari at 6:42 AM on September 24, 2007

I don't know if it's the same to talk to TV/movie celebrities as it is to talk to musical celebrities, but when I meet bands, I tend to bring up how much I like an old, oft-forgotten song or album. Or a cover song that I happened to hear them play, or something like that. It lets them know that I'm a fan without me having to be like "omg i love you let's make babies", and it gives an opportunity for mutual complaining about how the music industry has changed.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 7:44 AM on September 24, 2007

Hey, sometimes they'll talk to you.
I find myself around celebrities fairly often and usually it's no biggie - they aren't people I have anything much to say to anyway. But this one time, I looked over at an event and found myself standing right next to Larry David. This was at the height of my obsession with Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I desperately wanted to tell him how much I loved the show. But you can't be an asshole, right? And plus, I'm from NYC where we take pride in leaving our celebs alone. But we weren't in NYC at the time and maybe that was an opening so I stood there forever racking my brain trying to think of something cleverly NYC-related to say when I felt a tap on my shoulder and a woman behind me said, "Hey, I'm Laurie David. Don't I know you?" And that threw me even more. Because, of course, she didn't. Ended up chatting a bit with her but never said anything to Larry.

The one other time I regret not saying anything was when I saw the actor William Atherton, who I've had a crush on since Real Genius. He was standing all alone at a big Hollywood party looking pissed off because he had no one to talk to. But I wouldn't go up to a random person I didn't recognize so I couldn't think of anything to say. I think he eventually just left. D'oh. I don't think the lint thing would have worked. And I wasn't up on what he'd been doing lately, so "hey, I loved (insert really famous movie you were in a really long time ago)" seemed inappropriate.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2007

I stood next to Robin Williams for 3 hours at a blood center on 9/11. My brother was with me. As I recall, we just talked about San Francisco, bicycles, traveling in exotic places, and What Had Just Happened. We were all stuck there in line, so why not be neighborly and have a chat, after all. And we figured he talks about work all the time - why should the guy have to be subjected to some kind of interview just because he's recognizable?
posted by caitlinb at 7:53 AM on September 24, 2007

If it's a charity benefit, the celebrity is there as part of their job -- they're there because they're a celebrity. If they're someone you admire, think of it as making their job that day a little easier by making decent conversation with them. For that reason, keep the praise to a minimum, because there's very little they can do with that in conversation: the only possible response is "thank you." Whatever you say to them, give them a conversation seed to go on. Like, "My favorite movie of yours is _____. I've always thought that scene in the desert must have been _______." Even better if you can add some tiny tidbit of your own to keep the conversation from being one-sided. Like, "I'm actually a lawyer, so I really related to your role in ______."

Musicians can be more difficult because talking about music can be so vague, or too personal (asking about song inspiration or the creative process). The record art isn't a topic that comes up too often but makes for easy conversation -- who did it, where the idea came from. So can asking about a tour, for example the previous cities they were in ("Did you gamble while you were in Vegas last week?"). If you're really a huge fan, you don't have to hide it, but by making your praise as specific as possible, you'll make that part of the conversation much easier -- so talk about what specific song, or lyric, or part of a song moves you, or what it reminds you of, or whose funeral you played it at, or how you drive with it on repeat at night in the summertime.
posted by xo at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2007

Never done it, but I heard an interview recently with a former Rolling Stone journalist who suggested never opening with "I", as in "I loved your last ______" - make it about THEM - appeals to their egos.

I always chicken out. Including when Gandolfini kept bumping into me for about 20 minutes at a party a few months ago.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:34 AM on September 24, 2007

If it's a big enough celebrity (Robin Williams, etc.) I think it is pointless to act like "they're just another person." You know he's Robin Williams, he knows you know he's Robin Williams, you know he knows you know he's Robin Williams, and forcing a casual, we're-just-two-normal-people-and-I'm-not-intimidated-by-your-Academy-Awards-and-whatnot conversation is likely to come off as really artificial and possibly irritating to the celebrity because it's so bogus.

Trying to be nonchalant and on their level is like coming up on an enormous 35,000-foot mountain and insisting to people around you that "what mountain? I don't see anything." It's lame.
posted by jayder at 9:54 AM on September 24, 2007

With the recent PUA thread in mind, it occurs to me that approaching a celebrity is similar to a guy approaching a beautiful woman. I've even seen miss lynster's lint gambit previously referenced as a way to disarm a particularly gorgeous woman (think Playboy model), for exactly the same reasons -- you're demonstrating that you're not a social suck-up, not mesmorized by their beauty/celebrity, unlike everybody else they run into from day to day. The difference being, of course, that you're not looking to take them home with them, get a phone number, etc.

(Or maybe you are.)

But similar approaches can work, specifically:
  • Functional openers -- "What time is it?" "Do you have a light?" (weak, but okay)
  • Situational openers -- "Did you see that fight?" "What is that you're drinking?"
  • Opinion openers -- Ask their opinion on something, could be pop culture, relationships, whatever.
  • Direct openers -- "OMG, I'm *such* a huge fan!" ::cries:: Eh.., if all you want is an autograph I guess this is fine.

posted by LordSludge at 10:07 AM on September 24, 2007

I work in TV. Talk to them they are like human beings (because they ARE human beings). Never ask for pictures or autographs. I don't understand why people do that. There are some celebs that expect people to fawn. Screw them. Be yourself and everything will work out.
posted by wfc123 at 11:36 AM on September 24, 2007

There is nothing elaborate about cleaning off someone's shirt. It actually is a great ice breaker. You find out what kind of person they are and if they would like to be left alone in seconds. And then you can, rather than bore them, LEAVE THEM ALONE. Everyone wins.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:56 AM on September 24, 2007

I had the opportunity once to meet one of my favorite musicians, and I said this: "It's lovely to meet you. I want to thank you for all the enjoyment your music has given me over the years." She seemed pleased with that, said "you're welcome" etc., and that was that.

Genuine appreciation, sans fan-grrrl squeeeeeee.
posted by mccxxiii at 12:17 PM on September 24, 2007

Once was with Bono, who I had loved in my teens. When I finally met him, even he could tell that it was clearly painful for me to say something so fan-like, I said, "I've just always wanted to meet you." He ended up talking to me for a while, asking me about myself a bit, taking my hand & kissing me on the cheek.

Yeah, I've got to give props to Bono, no matter how insufferable he's gotten over the years. Back when I was in my teens, I worked my way into a service elevator with him on it, and when he asked if I wanted an autograph, I laughed as throatily as a 17-year-old can laugh and said, "oh no, I don't want an autograph. I'm a journalist! [NOTE: not really a lie, as I was editor of my high school newspaper] And I'd like to ask your opinion of the recent round of talks concerning the Anglo-Irish agreement. What is your take on the issue of prison conditions in Northern Ireland?"

God love him, he cracked a huge smile (despite the fact that it was 9 in the morning and he looked pretty bleary-eyed), invited me back to his room (YES!), and chatted with me for about an hour. And god love him again, he just grinned when I said that I had to go because I was about to miss my English exam [true! It was to get into AP English my senior year, and there was NO WAY I was going to miss that], so he walked me to the elevator and planted a huge kiss on me when the doors opened. Happily, I managed to hold it together long enough that I didn't start screaming for joy till I was out of earshot.

Similarly, if it's any indication going by the other celebrities I've wound up kissing, the key seems to be to find something not immediately about their particular field to talk about. In Bono's case, it was Irish politics. In Mick Jones's case, it was history. In Billy Bragg's case, it was the poll tax riot. In Paul Weller's case, it was art. So my advice is to pick an interesting topic to speak to a celebrity about, then put on some lip balm while they're not looking.

(And, in all seriousness, expressing sincere and genuine appreciation for their work -- "sans fan-girl squeeee" as mccxxiii pegs it -- always seems welcome. I remember when I met the late, lamented J.J. Jackson in the grocery store shortly before he died, and I said, "I just want to thank you -- I have a great record collection due in large part to listening to you discuss good bands and musicians when you VJ'd on MTV." And no, he didn't kiss me, but he did carry my groceries out to my car!)
posted by scody at 12:35 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

I got big-timed by Taye Diggs once. I ran into him and his entourage in a parking lot outside a restaurant. I caught his eye and gave him a nod but he just swept past, all mean-like.

The best part was that as he went by he was grabbing for something in his pocket and dropped a bunch of change. All his entourage scrambled to pick it up with him just standing there.

When he had passed I notice that there was one coin left on the ground so I reached down to pick it up, figuring it would make for a good story. Just as I was about to grab it the biggest guy in Taye's group ran back and snatched it. One coin! Absurd!

Dude wouldn't even give me the dime of Taye.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:35 PM on September 24, 2007 [10 favorites]

Situational openers -- "Did you see that fight?"

Has someone been watching too much of The Pick Up Artist lately?
posted by miss lynnster at 12:45 PM on September 24, 2007

And whatever you do, DO NOT USE THE OPENER I USED ON MEL BROOKS. In 1992, my boss was marrying a friend of his. So I'm in the buffet line at the reception right behind him and when he turned around I shook his hand and said, "I really just have to introduce myself to you on behalf of my father. He really, really loves you." My dad was really obsessed with him & it meant a lot to him that I did that, but when Mel saw this young girl talking to him and it ended up being about her father? Well, it was like a GINORMOUS buzzkill for him, evident IMMEDIATELY.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:51 PM on September 24, 2007

He didn't even seem offended that I only found out what he did for a living (and totally didn't mind that I had no clue who he was)

A friend is a flight attendant and self-taught specialist in two fields: Antique Asian Porcelain and British and American Colonial Period Furniture. He became a flight attendant for the purpose of being able to travel to museums. His vocation allowed/s his avocation and true love: art appreciation. He has quite a following and is often invited to lecture at museums around the world. He's a darling, and lives in a self-induced 'bubble.' He doesn't watch television, listen to contemporary music, etc. Most free time is devoted to studying, research, traveling and consulting to collectors and museums.

About 10 - 15 years ago he was invited to a private opening of an exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. At an hor-d'oeuvre table he got engrossed in a conversation with an engaging fellow. They talked about their various interests in art, photography, etc. A half-hour into the chat, my friend asked: "So, what is it that you do?" The reply: "I'm a musician." What kind of music? Classical?" "No, contemporary pop music. Maybe you've heard of me. I'm Elton John." My friend had no clue whatsoever: "I'm sorry. I can't say I am familiar with you or your music." Elton John loved it. They along with John's partner/husband David Furnish are close friends to this day.
posted by ericb at 1:24 PM on September 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Take a lesson from Bob Mack's interview with Ted Nugent in Grand Royal magazine about 10-15 years ago: "What was up with Damn Yankees, man? That shit was lame."
posted by rhizome at 1:50 PM on September 24, 2007

Miss Lynnster: There is nothing elaborate about cleaning off someone's shirt. It actually is a great ice breaker.

But concocting a fictional premise of cleaning off cleaning off someone's shirt when it's not necessary, in order to get in someone's "good graces," is a mind game.

I don't want people I don't know touching me or my clothes. My response to someone picking something off my clothes would undoubtedly be, "get your hands off of me." I imagine that celebrities, if anything, would be more protective of their personal space than a nobody like me.

Perhaps women can get away with your tactic more easily than a man could ... but it still rubs me the wrong way as a weird mind-game.
posted by jayder at 4:11 PM on September 24, 2007

Here's the thing. I NEVER did it to get into someone's good graces. I started out doing it because I was 19 years old an I was nervous around celebrities and that way I got to say that I touched one.

In time, I realized that after I did it, celebrities were always very nice to me. So I didn't see it as harming anyone.

I haven't done it in years. But when you're nervous, it's a better ice breaker than acting like a starstruck asswipe.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:27 PM on September 24, 2007

That said, yes, I don't know that I'd have done it if I was a guy.

And actually, the first time it may have started because someone actually HAD something on their shirt. It probably just morphed from that. I don't think I'd have thought it up solely on a manipulative level. That's not my style.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:28 PM on September 24, 2007

I disagree that you kind of have to make a big deal out of meeting Robin Williams. I'd say something like, "Huh, didn't guess I'd meet Robin Williams when I got out of bed today. Hi, I'm ctmf. Working on anything fun?"

I get the "OMG it's ctmf!!!" [rush over] effect when I get home from work by all the kids in the neighborhood. It's fun, but an actual conversation, even about the weather, is more fun. I can't imagine how tiresome being actually famous would be. Then again, I'm pretty introverted. I can see how an outgoing person would dig that.
posted by ctmf at 8:11 PM on September 24, 2007

When I was in elementary school, I met Mr. McFeely from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood at my local shopping mall. Apparently, at my young age, I hadn't mastered the art of schmoozing with big names. I don't remember what I might have said to him, but I do recall that he was extremely grumpy. So, I would recommend not saying whatever I said to Mr. McFeely.. to any other celebrities!

In all seriousness, I don't really have much to add, but I was excited to see your question. I'm going to see David Sedaris next week, and I just discovered that he signs books before his shows. I've been nauseous ever since. It's been nervewracking (or, sickening!) pondering over how to interact with someone who's intelligent and witty.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:05 PM on September 24, 2007

I just came back from a party where George Clooney was at, and having read this thread earlier, I kept thinking "brush lint off him" and "say something stunningly ordinary" and "do SOMETHING, ANYTHING so I can report back to randomstriker" and naturally, I did nothing except get another glass of wine and skulk. Lame. Sorry.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:08 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've re-thought some of what I said earlier in this thread (I'm of the "there's no point in trying to act casual around a huge celebrity" school of thought) and here's the problem in dealing with a celebrity. Celebrities are such a huge deal, by their very nature, that to treat them like any other person skirts the boundaries of bad faith, because it's ignoring the elephant in the room in a vain effort not to be banal. And I think very few people are cool enough to be cool with a celebrity. Probably lots of people think they can pull it off, but come across as asses.

There's an interesting passage in the philosopher Colin McGinn's memoir; he describes trying to make small-talk with Jennifer Aniston and Anthony Hopkins. Aniston admits she has never heard of Bertrand Russell or Descartes, but McGinn doesn't hold it against her.
posted by jayder at 10:17 PM on September 24, 2007

I made Tim Robbins get out of my seat at a screening of Jacob's Ladder ...and my Susan Sontag encounter can only be told in person.
posted by brujita at 10:36 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do - Introduce yourself (say your name) - Don't just say "Oh your so and so - It's really nice to meet you." and leave it at that. It's really awkward to 'meet' someone and have them not tell you their name.
posted by jopreacher at 11:02 PM on September 24, 2007

Whatever you do - Introduce yourself (say your name) - Don't just say "Oh your so and so - It's really nice to meet you." and leave it at that.

But PLEASE don't do what I did to Alicia Keys 5 years ago (was meeting her backstage as a contest winner)

Alicia: Hi there!
Me: Hi, I'm Tiara.
Alicia. Hi, Alicia.
Me: No, it's Tiara.
Alicia: Yes, I was just introducing myself.
Me: ...*facepalm*

thankfully she was very very gracious though. And a sweetie to my mum, whose birthday it was the next day.
posted by divabat at 12:32 AM on September 25, 2007

Has someone been watching too much of The Pick Up Artist lately?

I thought I was clear the first time, but this was exactly my point: Pick-up theory, by its nature, gives techniques for starting conversations with people of high social value (hot women) who may otherwise not care to talk with you. And, done right, you don't come off like a creepy person who's desperately seeking their validation.

I expect that a guy who's very good at chatting up girls would also be good at chatting up celebrities, and I expect some of the same openers would work as well.
posted by LordSludge at 7:04 AM on September 25, 2007

I've been thinking about this thread... and realized something. The celebrity thing is just so different when you've lived in LA. I was there 18 years, and you get to where celebrities really AREN'T all that shocking anymore. They really ARE just people. They're kind of like the homeless amputee on the corner, where the first time you see them you're kind of shocked or distracted but then after a while they are a part of the furniture. Meeting celebrities became an entertaining (and sometimes not so entertaining) part of my daily life.

I mean, I've shopped for produce with Jennie Garth, Charles Nelson Reilly & Donna Mills. I've handed Timothy Leary a match. I've been cornered by a coke-fueled Gary Busey playing harmonica. The entire cast of the Andy Griffith show (minus Andy) went to my boss' wedding years ago & I got tipsy with this guy and this woman (they were a super cute couple). And when I worked at the House of Blues, the celebrities were basically spoiled children I was a hired to be a placating babysitter for. So while initially I was in awe of celebrities (my dad is VERY star struck, to the point of embarrassment), that faded out of me. It HAD to.

I've been away from LA for a little bit now, and I don't think if I saw a celebrity now I'd jump out of my skin but I'd probably register more surprise because I don't see them where I live. But even so, I'm thinking maybe my "you have something on your shirt" think wouldn't work for some people. It actually could be obnoxious if they were really bad at faking nonchalance. It wasn't ever taken as obnoxious in the way that I did it because I did it fast & moved on, plus I wasn't faking being mellow about seeing a star. As an icebreaker, it worked wonderfully for me.

And the more I think about it, to be honest, it's no more manipulative than the many things men do every day to meet a girl. Because don't tell me you've never said or done anything slightly untrue when trying to find a way into conversation in a social situation. If you're human, I'm pretty sure you have. By implying celebrities are above that, you're implying that they aren't human. Frankly, sometimes they actually WANT to talk to someone and are very happy to talk to you if you give them an opening that makes them feel comfortable with you. At least I never wore goggles & a furry hat & asked them if they saw the fight outside.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:34 AM on September 25, 2007

On preview, what lordsludge said. I don't think they're that different.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:35 AM on September 25, 2007

You can't be nonchalant and still drop names like a human rolodex. Sorry. It has to be one or the other.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:44 PM on September 26, 2007

Actually, yes you can when you spend 18 years with them as your neighbors.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:54 PM on September 26, 2007

Name dropping is typically considered to be a negative — even offensive — is often used to create a sense of superiority by raising one's status. By implying (or directly asserting) a connection to people of high status, the name-dropper hopes to raise his or her own social status to a level closer to that of those whose names he or she has dropped, and thus elevate himself or herself above present company.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:53 PM on September 29, 2007

I wish somebody would pick up all these names that are dropped all over this thread.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:04 PM on September 29, 2007

Stephen Fry's latest blog essay (or blessay, as he calls it) is on Fame - essentially an exegesis from the other side of the coin. There is quite a bit about sleb-little people interaction.
posted by peacay at 9:53 PM on September 30, 2007

One thing that makes Willie Nelson a legend is that he makes time after all of his shows to personally greet fans. When I met him outside of Stubb's in Austin a few years back, he was really nice and soft spoken. My wife (fiance at the time) told him that we were planning to use a song of his as our first wedding dance.

"Which one?" Willie Nelson asked.

"Valentine." she answered.

"That's a good song," Willie replied.
posted by ColdChef at 4:43 PM on October 1, 2007

Stephen Fry has a blog! Great stuff.
posted by tellurian at 5:23 PM on October 1, 2007

I find that namedroppers are usually the ones that are most starstruck.
posted by wfc123 at 10:38 AM on October 3, 2007

This was a thread ABOUT celebrities. If this was a thread about 80s music, I would go on and on about 80s music. If I have experience with something, I'll share it. Travel? I'll go on forever. Ask me about how to find a cheap flight or where to go in Egypt. I'll tell you all sorts of stuff. Wanna talk about typefaces and kerning? Okay, cool. Want to know about jazz music? I'll can on about that! I have experience with those things in my life. So why the Hell would this topic be so different? Why should I NOT talk about it? Why is it such a horrible thing for me to admit -- that I've met a bunch of people?

Honestly, you'd think Lee Majors peed on my leg.

In my daily life, I don't discuss this crap. Celebrities rarely come up except with my friends in entertainment who make a living dealing with them. Most other people who have known me for decades in person do not know any of the stories I've mentioned here. AT ALL. But I shared them with you. And honestly, in my mind nobody should care that much. It's no big deal. I am far prouder of other things in my life. So get over it.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:54 PM on October 3, 2007

I seem to have hit a nerve.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:59 PM on October 4, 2007

stinkycheese writes "I seem to have hit a nerve."

Well, yes, you've jumped into a discussion about "how to talk with celebrities", telling people who have actually talked to many celebrities "you're name dropping by discussing it!". I'm sure if you went to a physics class and shouted "too many numbers!" at the professor, you would strike a nerve there, too. Doesn't mean you've prodded some sort of inconsistency, just that you're being a prat.
posted by Bugbread at 6:30 AM on October 5, 2007

Best answer: *pees on bugbread's leg*
posted by stinkycheese at 7:02 PM on October 5, 2007

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