August is vacation month -- for celebrities as well as for the rest of us! With so many clients reporting celebrity sightings from all over the world, I have put together this brief etiquette guide in case a star crosses your path!
Upon arrival at the vacation destination where I will be spending August, I found myself in line at the country grocery store behind an A-list world famous actress and director and her partner. While I recognized her immediately, I tried to instantly conceal the fact of my recognition. The island on which we both found ourselves is known for the discretion and privacy it offers many celebrities.
As the star fumbled with the crackers and skim milk in her grocery basket, exchanging mundane conversation with her mate, I let my eyes roam upon the aisles of food and the other people in the store, all while my mind was laser-fastened on thoughts of her amazing talent and film making as well as the less than red carpet appearance before me.
I stood awkwardly behind her for a good 10 minutes, wondering if it was weird not to look at her at all--did this signal that I had in fact recognized her? I periodically glanced at her grocery basket as I might any civilian's, to avoid detection of my "sighting". I wondered if the people behind me -- a mother and her roughly nine-year old son -- had recognized her. If so, they were behaving well. The son was probably clueless. Too young. Everyone else in the store behaved normally. While checking out, the cashier did not seem in the know. Was she also too young? Or was she too concealing her secret euphoria at being 6 inches from one of most renowned actresses in the world? I could not tell from the way she bagged her groceries, though perhaps she did fondle the star's tomatoes a little too long...
This was the first sighting of the summer. Last August, we had dined at the same restaurant as President Obama--a last minute reservation and sheer fluke. Along with the other tony clientele at the restaurant, we attempted to continue to eat casually while being on high alert for the moment when the President (and Michelle!) would emerge from their private room in the interior and head towards the fleet of black SUVs blocking the small town street outside. At the first rumor of POTUS movement, every sophisticated diner stood up, smart phones raised high, to catch their presidential portrait. Hardly a class act for a distinguished crowd.
Like the rest of us, celebs need vacations. And it is natural for them to tire of their mountain retreats in Idaho and want to vary their leisure time. For muggles who may be tempted to oggle at a star who looks quite different than they do in People Magazine, some decorum and etiquette is called for. Here are a few strategies that will safeguard celebrity privacy as well as your own self-respect!
1. Ignore the celebrity. This is a classic approach that has stood the test of time. Upon recognition of the individual, adopt a stony, indifferent expression and fasten your gaze on a completely unrelated focus point until the moment has passed and the celebrity has moved away.
- Dividend: You have not stooped to the sway of fame.
- Bonus points: For not acknowledging their presence in any way.
- Downside: They may be a celeb who thrives on being recognized, in which case you chose the wrong strategy.
2. Embrace the celebrity. Upon recognition, find your moment to casually and sincerely acknowledge the individual's accomplishments and appeal. Your conversation must be terminated within a minute of its initiation or is in danger of turning into a stalking encounter.
- Dividend: You get to speak to your idol and they might even respond!
- Bonus points: For getting in a sentence or two about yourself or referring to a common acquaintance.
- Downside: They may hate you for speaking to them and ignore you completely which will make you feel worse than adopting Strategy #1. Whatever you do, don't ask for an autograph!
3. Luring the celebrity. A quasi-effective, passive aggressive approach is to position yourself in proximity to the celebrity and while seeming to ignore them, enliven and louden your own conversation so as to make yourself and your entourage irresistible. Once you have attracted their attention, smile broadly, as if to communicate a willingness to adopt the celebrity and see if they respond.
- Dividend: Possibility of celebrity joining your dinner table.
- Bonus points: For getting a return invite to celebrity's exclusive gathering.
- Downside: Misinterpreting celebrity's glances towards you as positive, whereby they may just be wishing you would keep your voice down.
4. Use your kids. If you and celebrity both have kids (perhaps the sighting is taking place at a sweetly rustic local playground?) don't hesitate to use your kids' proximity to full advantage.
- Dividend: Potential of unlimited playdates.
- Bonus points: For not being the one to initate them.
- Downside: Kids being friends doesn't necessarily lead to a relationship between their parents.
5. Intellectual charisma. If your celebrity resides in the intellectual sphere, you can resort, of course, to the ultimate prop--a book. In a kindle-driven age--nothing attracts like a solid hardback title. Avoid "beach reading" and go for controversy. All serious questions are legitimate conversation starters.
- Dividend: Summer reading!
- Bonus points: Summer reading!
- Downside: Your literary tastes may diverge considerably from your target celebrity's, in which case be prepared to castigate the book in hand.
All the above strategies of course depend on your actually recognizing a celebrity. Years ago, I was walking down a town beach minding my own business when an attractive couple crossed my path. "Excuse me--we are really just trying to have some privacy while we're on vacation," the wife said. Confused, I said "Sure, no problem," not quite understanding why they were drawing this to my attention.
Later I learned the woman of the couple was Uma Thurman. The incident called my attention to the fact that many celebs may be going around in certitude that everyone that sees them recognizes them (even without make up). That's a hard bubble to escape from--even by going on vacation.
Dominique Callimanopulos is the Founder of Elevate Destinations, a philanthropic travel company. In August, she can be found on an island off the coast of Massachusetts.