{June 30, 2012}   I Dig Doogie

It’s not like I’ve never met a celebrity before. My boys and I won tickets to see “Sesame Street Live” a few years ago, and we had the chance to meet and have our picture taken with our pal Grover. Who’s a bigger star than a 6-1/2-foot furry, blue Muppet? So I shouldn’t have been as star-struck as I was on my first night in New York City.

After seeing (and loving) the Broadway show “One Man, Two Guvnors,” my friend Ellen’s daughter, Liz, took us to a “hidden” bar.  We walked up the steps of an unmarked brownstone on Restaurant Row, opened the door and parted velvet curtains to enter Bar Centrale. Reservations are a must for this secret “speakeasy” known for serving classic cocktails, such as side cars and old fashioneds. It caters to the before- and after-theater crowd and also is a hang-out for celebrities.

Ellen, Liz, her boyfriend, Michael, and I were seated at a table near the door. Liz immediately recognized Neil Patrick Harris at the bar. You may know him as three-time host of the Tony Awards or Barney on the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” but he will always be “Doogie Howser, M.D.” to me.

From our seats, Ellen and I could not catch a glimpse of him, so Liz generously offered to switch places. New Yorkers see famous people all the time and remain cool and unimpressed. I could be like that. Or at least try. So I declined Liz’s offer.

A bit later, Michael returned from the restroom and reported that John Stamos (Jesse on “Full House”) was at a table in the back. Did I need to use the restroom?

Why, yes. Yes, I did. Where is it? “Go toward the bar, turn right and the bathroom is on the left.”

I headed to the bar, turned right and took the first door on the left, which led down a set of stairs. A door at the bottom must lead to the restroom. Nope. It was an entrance to a room that was occupied by a private party. Oops! Another door led outside. With nowhere else to go, I climbed back up the steps and returned to our table, embarrassed. (“Awkward!” as my 5-year-old would say.)

When I explained my gaffe, Michael sweetly insisted on walking me to the restroom. Another gentleman was waiting in line near the small W.C. sign, so Michael and I chatted while I tried not to look obvious as I scoped out John Stamos two tables away. (FTR: Yes, he’s very easy on the eyes.) Later, Michael said Renee Zellweger was among the people in his group. Huh? There were other people at his table?

On my way back to our table, I channeled my inner New Yorker and completely avoided looking in Neil Patrick Harris’ direction. Our group sipped our drinks, enjoyed our appetizers and shared good conversation.

On his way out, Neil Patrick Harris had to pass our table to get to the door. As he walked past, I told my inner New Yorker to take a hike, I looked up, and I flashed him my huge Midwestern smile. He smiled back and said, “Hi.” Always quick with a witty response, I replied, “Hi.”

When “Doogie” was safely outside, I coolly turned to my friends and reverted to my middle school self. “Oh my gosh! Did you see that? Neil Patrick Harris said ‘hi’ to me! I said ‘hi’ back!”

Afterward, I wondered why Neil had even greeted me. (We had a moment; I think I can call him by his first name now.)  In a bar where famous people are accustomed to being treated like an everyday Joe, was he disarmed by my brazen recognition of his celebrity?

Did he think for a moment I was the wife/cousin/friend of a producer/star/stagehand for a TV/Broadway/movie production? (Much like this exchange in Spaceballs: Dark Helmet: “I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.” Lone Starr: “What’s that make us?” Dark Helmet: “Absolutely nothing!”)

Or did he fear I was an overly enthusiastic fan like this woman and hope to placate me with a mere greeting?

Probably none of those. Most likely he’s simply a down-to-earth, sociable guy who knows how to return a smile. As a friendly Midwesterner, I can dig that.

That was my brief brush with a star. What about you? I’d love to hear about your celebrity connections.

To read more about my first trip to New York City, click here. And you can learn about my 47 and fearless project here.


Michelle says:

Oh my gosh, I’m so jealous you shared a moment with Neil Patrick Harris! The moments like that I’ve had probably wouldn’t impress anyone because the “celebrities” aren’t really well known in pop culture. I’d have to say that my fav celeb moment was when I met one of my favorite poets, Matthew Dickman. I met him at a poetry festival and he was finishing talking to someone else. When he turned around and saw me, his eyes got really wide, as if I were the celebrity and he was really happy to see me. That totally made my day 🙂

Wow, Michelle! Having someone you admire treat you like that is even better! I googled him…he’s cute and talented! Very cool! I think I would like to meet Tina Fey–she’s so smart and funny. But if I did meet her, I’d probably stare, stutter…maybe drool…then tell her I’m her No. 1 Fan. So if I want to avoid a restraining order, it’s best I just admire her from afar. 😉

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