There is currently a popular TV show called Pawn Stars where the hook line in the introduction is Rick explaining why working at a pawn shop is interesting. The line is “…the best part―you never know what’s going to come through that door.” I usually feel that way walking down any street in Manhattan.
I’ve already written about coming out of the subway and having El Exigente, himself, hand me a free cup of coffee. That was weird, funny and memorable.
On the street in Manhattan I almost never bump into celebrities. People tell me all the time, “Yeah, Robert Redford walks his dog over on Park; I see him all the time.” I could probably trip over the dog leash before I’d recognize The Natural.
I did accidentally run into Simon and Garfunkel but it wasn’t too much of an “accident.” The night the duo reunited for a concert to benefit a deteriorating Central Park in New York City, I was making my way towards the grassy area where the audience would sit. The area was north of the stage and we entered the park from the south. After cutting across an open field we came to the road system which brought vehicles to the back of the stage. As we crossed the narrow macadam stretch, a limo pulled up, almost running us over. The door opened and out popped Simon and Garfunkel. They looked in our direction and smiled at us; we were the only humans in evidence.
On the other side of the structure they were entering 250,000 fans waited for that night’s concert. It had rained much of the day but stopped in time for the concert that September 19, 1981. The Mutt and Jeff duo immediately proceeded up a steep embankment towards the stage. We walked in parallel to them about 20 feet away. They went into a stage opening, while we followed the fenced off area around to the front for the concert.
A few years before that, Harry Chapin nearly collided with me on a Central Park path but he was walking towards the Wolman Rink for a concert and I was alone on a path to the back of the stage area. I said “High Harry” in surprise and he smiled back and said “Hi.”
For whatever reason, I missed the performance of Jackson Browne, James Taylor Joan Baez and Bruce when they attended the disarmament rally in the Park on June 12, 1982. This wasn’t too far removed from the No Nukes performances so I guess I assumed it would be the same cast of characters and I must have had something important that day. My memory escapes me.
But New York streets remind me of the Pawn Star’s adage. Except I’d change it to New York City is exciting because you never know what might be coming down the street.
When I worked at 90 Fifth Avenue, the nearest cross street was 14th. It was one block north of the old Lone Star Café. I worked there in the Chelsea section from 1994 to 2000 and the Lone Star closed in 1989. I did make some excellent salads at the bar that replaced it. From the vaulted ceilings, I could imagine how good performances must have been there. The bar was immediately at the entrance on the right as you entered the cavernous hall. At the end of the 40-foot bar, the vaulted opening divided into an upstairs level that wrapped around the open space, providing spectacular views of the band which was set up across from the bar.
That particular day, I was walking south on Fifth Avenue looking for lunch, noticing a stiff breeze blowing north from Greenwich Village. The sidewalks are wide there, maybe 30 feet, and tumbling over and over, as I got almost to the door of the former Lone Star, and rolling towards me was a piece of paper. I remember crouching like a sort of shortstop and fielded the piece of paper like a baseball as it tumbled into my grasp. It was a twenty dollar bill. That was an “only in New York” moment for sure. Lunch money coming to me, a pure definition of “found money.”
But, back to bumping into celebrities―the one time I could not have cared less about a celebrity was when Fabio did a commercial shoot in the Vidal Sassoon salon on the first floor of my office building. I remember several women saying how they didn’t care at all for Fabio, his flowing hair, his amazing physique, whose various poses adorned the covers of all the romance, bodice-ripper paperbacks, but that still didn’t stop them from crushing themselves at the large windows trying to get a glimpse. I suppose if Giselle Bündchen walked down the street in a silver dress I’d probably be there.
In one of those other-world street incidents, I was walking down a street in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima, Peru, on a clear April day in 1988. My wife was pushing one of those twin canvas baby strollers. We had just adopted triplet infant baby girls. They were so small that two took one side of the twin stroller and another along with those mounds of baby necessities took up the remaining space on the other side. They were tiny, even at three months old. The street was pretty much empty when we saw four young men, most likely in their young twenties, walking side-by-side up the walkway. They greeted us and were passing when we all realized we spoke English and immediately they stopped.
I asked them where they were from and they answered “New Zealand.” They knew immediately from our American accent where we were from but politely asked anyway. So I said “New Jersey.” A very happy, excited surprise crossed their faces. “Do you know Bruce?” Note, not “Springsteen” but “Bruce.” My wife rolled her eyes again. No matter where we went, there was some sort of Bruce magnet. Sometimes I did the magnetizing myself when conversations turned to music. This time, I was completely innocent. We were an 8-hour flight, more than 3,500 miles from New Jersey and serendipity brought fans of the Boss together in an unlikely place. I told them some of my concert experiences and how my roommates in college knew him at his early stage. I could have spent the entire afternoon there but the squeaking wheels of the baby carriage announced that the fun was over.