June 03, 2005

The Big Apple

Olivia Kember has just returned from New York...

There’s no point describing New York because it’s been done already already, over and over, in print, paint, film, pixels, for the delectation not just of all the poor barbarians who don’t have the fortune to live there but also for the New Yorkers themselves, who are obsessed with their own city.

All that attention, I think, must be to blame for a common Gothamist characteristic: everyone in the city who isn’t famous has to tell you about all the famous people they know. Immediately.

This is possibly a great big lie, because I was there for only five days (this was after I lost my boogie board bag) and I did only leave Manhattan once for lunch in a part of Brooklyn where the artists are being replaced by account managers... so I guess I may have failed to meet with a representative sample of the highly diverse population of eight million.

But still. Everyone I spoke to was terribly eager to reveal their close personal relationship with an MTV host, a designer of clothes for celebrity slappers, a pre-millennial newsreader, or Kylie Minogue. One man was so desperate to prove his connections he walked me round a bar and told me where all the celebrities usually sat, even though none of them was there. I have seen the imprint of B-list celebrities' rears.


The closest I got to celebrity (not counting pretending to be one by latching on to somebody prepared to pay entry to the VIP bar... in the darkness all VI bar-goers could easily pass as having a small role on a daytime soap, and they also have sufficient “complimentary” drinks and food to delude anyone into believing they’re important) was watching the paparazzi waiting for Gwyneth Paltrow. Sort of meta-celeb spotting.

And in respect to the great citizens of that great city, I’m going to tell you about it.

So, we were having lunch at a café across the road from her house, and there were about twenty cameramen (they were all men) lurking, eight on each side of the road with a few more amongst the traffic. While we tried to spin out small expensive salads, a limo arrived and all the photographers twitched. Some of them even stood up and took aim.
Oh, yeah, I know where she lives. Uh-huh.

Alas, it was only Gwyneth’s sister. She got out, crossed the road and went into the house. The photographers returned to the stoop, but with an added alertness. They even sat up straighter. We sat up straighter too, to be ready for whatever it was that was about to happen.

Passers by paused.

The traffic, intimidated by the cameras, slowed respectfully.

A cameraman edged out into the centre of the intersection, to get a prime view of Gwyneth’s front door. Then the door opened.

Gwyneth’s sister came out of the house again, and this time the paparazzi shot up, because she was carrying.. could it be? – baby Apple! At least I suppose it was baby Apple. It could have been a bag of fabric, but the photographers showed great interest in it, though they snapped and clicked with a slightly tragic air, since it wasn’t being held by Gwyneth.

The guy in the middle of the road ran right up to the pair to get his shot, and backed away again. Another person (perhaps a nanny, we deduced from our vantagepoint) came out. They crossed the road and got into the limousine. And then they drove away, with a few paparazzi trailing behind. And everyone went back to their normal lives, having almost seen Gwyneth Paltrow.

My other New York story involves fish in a bar, so I’ll save it for later.



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