Blogmas Day 20: Missed Connections – Celebrity Edition

I’m not gonna lie. One of the things I was looking forward to when I moved down to LA county at the start of college was that Tinseltown would be within reach, which meant inevitable run-ins with famous people. Growing up in Sacramento, any chances of meeting or running into celebrities were incredibly few and far between, only being able to see them from our TV and computer screens, and maybe in person if they were to come by on a tour of some sort. So it’s easy to understand why the idea of meeting a well-known person in the entertainment industry was such an exciting concept. Having now lived here for almost seven years, the excitement has gone down quite a bit, but I haven’t necessarily grown numb to the possibility of meeting one of my favorite famous people. I’ve gotten the chance to attend meet and greets, conventions, and show tapings where I got to share the same breathing space as celebrities. After going to a handful of these, it’s safe to say that I’ve gotten my fill of rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t get excited at any opportunities, should they come my way. While I have formally met some of my favorite Hollywood darlings, there are several that I came so close to getting to meet, but just barely missed my chance. I hope these stories frustrate you as much as they frustrated me at the time.

1. Jesse McCartney

Here’s a little backstory. It’s pretty well known at this point that I am willing to go far out of my way to try a new coffee shop. I will sit in an hour and a half of LA traffic just to go coffee shop hunting in the greater Los Angeles area, and will gladly do it again should I feel strongly enough about it. In a blog post a few days ago, I mentioned that my favorite coffee shop is Verve in Los Angeles. I found out about this coffee shop because Jesse McCartney – the Justin Bieber of the early 2000s – posted about it on his Instagram, and so what better reason to try a new coffee shop than because a celebrity openly endorses it, right? And whaddayaknow, the place was actually worth trying – so much so that I take trips there as often as I can. Basically what I’m trying to say here is that Jesse McCartney and I apparently have the same taste in coffee.

During one of my visits to Verve, I didn’t have any assignments or studying to do, so I wanted to have a nice Saturday to myself to have some quiet time, and maybe squeeze in some blog writing. I went in, ordered my coffee and pastry, sat down at a nearby table, and began my business. One thing I dislike about some coffee shops is that parking is extremely sparse, and being in LA, street parking is even more sparse on a Saturday, and whatever parking you could find has a two-hour limit. I was getting near the end of my time limit, and so I decided to save my blog post draft, choke down the rest of my coffee, and then be on my merry way back home. I packed up my stuff, turned around, and who should be at the counter? None other than Jesse, the man who inadvertently introduced my favorite coffee shop to me, there, several feet away, perhaps ordering the same thing I was drinking. I began walking towards the door. He began walking in my direction. Then before long, we walked past each other, just barely brushing shoulders, me on my way out the door, and he towards the table I was just sitting at. As I walked to my car, I kicked myself for not sticking around a little while longer and deciding that getting to literally rub elbows with Jesse McCartney was not worth a parking violation. I guess when it came down to it, I wouldn’t have had the stomach to try and start a conversation, and this next story will probably prove it.

This past weekend, months after this ships-in-the-night encounter, I decided to go back to Verve, having not gone back for quite some time. Earlier that morning, I went to my sister’s apartment because I had to help her with something for a party she would be having later that day. Not wanting my day in LA to end quite yet, I decided to have a much needed coffee shop day to myself. I went through the same arduous process of looking for street parking close to the coffee shop. Since it was the early afternoon, I was able to snag a spot in a nearby neighborhood. The building that Verve resides in has floor-to-ceiling windows, and Verve itself shares a wall with a health bar. As I was rounding the corner of the health bar, through the window in my peripheral, I saw Jesse McCartney packing up his food order and making his way towards the door. As I kept walking, I noticed he was headed in the same direction I was – towards Verve. I got to the entrance of the coffee shop with him at my heel, and remembering the dismal interaction we had the time before, I jumped at the chance to have a smidge more of an interaction this time – by holding the door open for him. As he walked in, he acknowledged me with an enthusiastic “thank you,” and I responded with something along the lines of “yeah.” I went to the counter to order my coffee, then sat down at a table, and may have eavesdropped on a conversation he was having with someone else he ran into.

2. Hilary Duff

Anyone who knows me is abundantly aware of my obsession with Hilary Duff, the queen of Disney Channel. These same people also know that I’ve had the immense pleasure of getting to meet her, not once, but twice during the time I’ve lived down here. So why is Hilary featured in this blog post about missed connections? Here’s the story.

More backstory: I follow not only Hilary’s personal Twitter account, but also one of the bigger fan accounts, HilaryNews. It’s the best way that I am able to track how many times she was hanging out in the San Fernando Valley when I wasn’t. It’s also how I know that before she moved to Beverly Hills, she lived in Toluca Lake, a neighborhood in the Valley, not too far from where my sister currently lives. Within walking distance from my sister’s apartment in Sherman Oaks is a veterinary hospital. One weekend when I was driving down that street on my way to visit my sister, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lone paparazzi take someone’s photo outside of the hospital. Being the nosy person I am, I took a quick detour and drove past the vet office again to see who that person may have been. As I drove by, I couldn’t really distinguish anyone, so I just left it at that, not really thinking too much about it.

Later that day as I was scrolling through Twitter, I noticed several tweets from the Hilary Duff News account that contained clusters of paparazzi photos that were taken earlier that day. As I perused them, I recognized the wooden exterior of the vet hospital I had passed by earlier that day – also in the photos was Hilary Duff taking her dogs into the building. The caption of each photo set read something along the lines of “Hilary Duff at the vet’s office in Sherman Oaks” with that day’s date at the end of the caption. After reading that, I realized that that day just so happened to mark exactly five years since I met her for the first time. I just about lost it at that point, but since I had met her twice before, I quickly got over it.

3. Viola Davis

About two summers ago, a friend from high school came down to visit me and to go to VidCon. After the convention ended, we still had an entire day to spend together, so I decided to take him to spend the day in LA before his flight back home. One of his requests on this trip was to get brunch and mimosas. For my 21st birthday several months before, my sister took me and my parents to a cafe in the Valley that served bottomless mimosas. When my friend requested this, I immediately remembered Jinky’s Cafe, and decided to take him there. What I didn’t realize was that there were two different Jinky’s locations in neighboring cities – one in Studio City (the one my sister took me and my parents to), and one in Sherman Oaks (the one I mistakenly took my friend to).

When we got to the Sherman Oaks location, having realized I took him to the wrong location, I offered to bring him to the one I had intended, but he insisted that we stay since we were already there. As we were scanning the menu after we were seated, I glanced around the packed restaurant, and several tables nearby, I noticed a young girl with a plate full of fries in front of her. My immediate thought was, “What parent lets their child eat french fries this early in the day?” I looked at the adults at the table, immediately recognizing one of them was Viola Davis. I immediately looked back at my friend, told him to look at the people sitting a few tables away from us and tell me if he recognizes any of them. He looks, gets wide eyed, and gives me a “No (expletive) way” look. We sat quietly not knowing what to do. She was clearly having a nice breakfast with her family, but the chances of us, especially my friend, running into her again, were slim to none. I tried to play it off as someone who was no longer phased by the presence of a famous person, much less an Academy Award winning actress such as Viola Davis. I told him he should go ask for a photo. He kept insisting to leave her alone, trying to mask his apparent flusteredness. I kept egging him on. Finally, she was getting ready to leave, so he mustered up the courage to walk up to her and ask for a photo, which she amicably obliged to. I sat in my chair, stunned, and watched this all happen, swimming in a cocktail of jealousy, astonishment, and pride. After she took the photo, she walked towards the door, passing by my table, and we briefly held eye contact before she left with her family.

One of the main reasons why I choose not to go up to a celebrity out and about in public is that they are usually looking to go about their day as normally as possible without attracting any attention. I trust that most of the time, they will gladly have small talk with you at the very least, but I’m sure being recognized in public will never be something anyone could get used to. While I do get flustered at the mere sight of some well known celebrities, I will still choose to give them their space and instead admire from afar.

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