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I Was Talking to a Celebrity, and I Had No Idea!

Published on 09/20/2022

I’ve had the good luck to meet some famous people over the years: Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Child (work events), Barack Obama (fundraiser when he was running for IL state senator), Ali Wentworth (luncheon for her book tour), John Kerry (at a car rental in Los Angeles), Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly (fundraiser for Kelly’s Senate run).

I’ve also spotted (but not met) some celebrities in real life, not counting concert or performance stages. Like Ethan Hawke (resort in Greece), Jerry Hall (resort in Bali), Uma Thurman (resort in Turks & Caicos), Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise (outside a restaurant in Santa Monica).

I’ll admit I get kinda giddy when sighting a celebrity, let alone getting to talk to one!

Recently, I was meeting my daughter at her favorite coffee shop in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. It was a rainy Sunday and the place was packed although very quiet. I got there early and was scouting for a table when I saw a trio begin to gather their belongings. I approached the table as the two women stood up but because he was still seated, I addressed the middle-aged man and asked if they were leaving. He said yes and stood up.

I plopped myself down in the empty seat across from him as he and (what turned out to be) his daughter left the table. The wife/mother, however, lingered. She was standing by the table, fussing with their dishes and looked at me, then asked, “They’ll come and clear these, don’t you think?” I said, “I’m sure they will.” Then I added, “So sorry to barge in on your table like this!” She responded quickly, “Not at all.”

The next moment, and it was really only a few seconds, is what stays with me. The woman, a striking blonde with piercing eyes, looked straight at me, smiled, and cocked her head slightly. Like she was waiting for me to acknowledge something. I smiled back, baffled. She hesitated a moment longer, then turned and walked toward the door.

After the trio left the coffee shop, the whole place, which had been so hushed until now, erupted in loud chatter. The woman at the next table leaned over and asked, “Do you know who that was?” I shook my head.

“Helen Hunt!”

What? And I didn’t recognize her? I mean, I used to watch Mad About You, the Emmy-winning show she starred in with Paul Reiser in the ’90s. Apparently she and her ex (producer Matthew Carnahan, the man I first talked to) were in town moving their daughter into Northwestern University, just a few blocks north of the coffee shop.

It’s interesting to note that had I known who they were, I would not have approached the table. I believe it’s kind to give famous people their privacy, especially when they’re enjoying family time.

People in the coffee shop were very respectful and kept their distance. I bet that’s not always true. I know the woman who told me it was Hunt also said she’d been staring at her, to the point where Hunt smiled and waved at her in acknowledgment. Still, since I did engage with Hunt, I wonder if that’s why she was surprised and perplexed by me. Like, “don’t you know who I am?” Maybe she was expecting me to tell her how much I’d enjoyed her work and to ask for an autograph or selfie. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into one moment!

In any case, Hunt was gracious and I loved that she was concerned about leaving a mess behind at the table. As Us Magazine loves to point out in photos capturing celebrities going about mundane tasks, “Stars – They’re Just Like Us!”

YOUR TURN: Have you had any encounters with celebrities? Share in the comments!

HeleneTStelian Musing
I’m Hélène Stelian, the Midlife Mentor with a passion for facilitating personal development in women 40+. Through my THRIVE community, I help introspective, curious, action-oriented women 40+ deepen their journeys of self-discovery and growth—and create their next chapter with courage and intention.

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10 Comments

  1. Adela

    When I was a teen, I waited on Nispy Russell and didn’t know it. As I went over the dessert menu, he asked if I had Strawberry Tall Cake instead of short cake. I said, “I’ll see what I can do.” I brought him the shortcake tipped on its side, making it taller. Two nights later, there was Nipsy, telling the tale on The Tonight Show. Imagine my surprise!

    Reply
    • Hélène

      Adela that’s amazing! Love that you found a creative way to fulfill his wishes!

      Reply
  2. Sharon

    1) Was this the Peet’s on Chicago Ave? 2) Helen Hunt is pretty nondescript looking (no shade being thrown at all, she’s just a girl-next-door look), so I can easily see not recognizing her, especially if she was in everyday clothes appropriate for moving a daughter to college!

    Reply
    • Hélène

      At Newport Coffee in Evanston. Good point!

      Reply
  3. Rena

    I’m like you. I think they deserve their privacy just like everyone else. I am not good with recognization so I’m not sure if I have or not. Probably not, since I think I would remember.

    Reply
    • Hélène

      I think you’d remember too! Although I had to be clued in!

      Reply
  4. Catherine

    I’ve seen a lot of famous people. I guess Manhattan is a magnet for them: Howard Cosell, George Hamilton, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Henry Kissinger, Jackie O, Willem Dafoe, James Gandolfini, Former Mayor DeBlasio, Oprah, David Caruso, Sarah Jessica Parker. Several years ago, I saw Julie Andrews in a Bed, Bath & Beyond in Manhattan. I couldn’t contain myself and was gushing with admiration when I walked over and spoke to her. She was very gracious and thanked me, then I felt badly for disturbing her, but I was so caught up in being thrilled to see Fraulein Maria in person, that I couldn’t help myself. Since then, I’ve learned to look and smile, vs. approach.

    Reply
    • Hélène

      Whaaat? Amazing sightings! Great stories thanks!

      Reply
  5. Diane

    Wow! I’ve seen none (that I know of!) Although I had a lovely little moment with one of Queen Elizabeth’s horses and her head hostler, Edward. True story!

    Reply
    • Hélène

      That’s pretty close to celebrity in my book! Thanks Diane!

      Reply

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