I once read an article (and darn it, I don’t have a copy or a link or anything…if it rings a bell for anybody out there, please oh please post it in a reply!) by a journalist who lives here on the West Coast now but who came up on the East Coast; she talked about how people react so differently to celebrities in, say, New York City. For example, you get in an Empire State Building elevator and wham!–there’s Robert De Niro. If you are a native, you don’t go gawking at him; he has to get to the 85th floor just like you. I loved the article and went around, sticking it under many noses here in Southern California while shouting “Right on, sister!” Well, not really, but I did talk about it for quite a while as additional evidence of my point that the two coasts are different in a variety of ways.
So I had an opportunity to meet a friend at Klatch Coffee this morning. I got a most wonderful chai latte. While we sat and talked, a gentleman walked in and got in line; my friend asked if I knew who he was. I gave my usual answer of “no” and then looked. All she said was “Earth, Wind, and Fire” and he turned around: it was Mr. Philip Bailey. Once I saw his face, I knew it was him. My friend proceeded to say her name; I didn’t. He shook her hand and introduced himself as “Philip.” She made a comment about his music; I mentioned seeing EWF and that doing so has become a family tradition for the end of summer. We both intimated that we love their music. I said it was a small world, running into him there; he responded that he lived there and she asked where (Really??? You just asked Mr. Philip Bailey where he lives??? REALLY??? He is going to think we are stalkers!). He answered (I was too busy processing her question to hear what he said). She asked if they were still recording, while I tried not to wince; he nodded. She asked if he’d ever heard of someplace local that catered to musicians and “people like him;” he smiled and quietly repeated, “ha! people like me.” The conversation ended and he ordered his beverage.
As we continued our conversation, Mr. Bailey sat, reading, at the end of the coffee bar. There were times when I forgot he was there, and then it would come rushing back to me that the leader of one of the greatest bands of all time was sipping a beverage across the room from me.
After our time, I left to drive home and felt rotten. I haven’t been starstruck since my dear friend and I went to see professional (ehem) wrestlers at the Wildwood (NJ) Convention Center one summer a thousand years ago; we screamed afterwards, “Oh my God! I touched his sweat!” (Yeah, you had to be there. Or not.)
I shared the experience with my husband, along with a laundry list of things that I wanted to say, like “Oh, you live locally? If ever you need a percussionist, my husband played professionally when we were back east, and blartey blartey blartey…Here’s my card; let me write his name and mobile number on the back of it, m’kay?” I said none of that and didn’t give him my card, figuring it would end up browning in the bottom of his nearly empty coffee cup as soon as we walked out the door.
And my dear husband said “You should be applauded because you didn’t say or do any of those things. You allowed him to be just another guy for a day. But I would have at least told him my name.”