Do you ever wonder what you’d be like if you were world-famous? Would you stay the way you are, or scream at hotel valets for making eye contact with you?
I’ve lived in a few places and worked some jobs that allowed me to cross paths with some famous people.
One job was working backstage at a concert arena. This is where a lot of interactions happened. The place was London, England. I lived and worked in central London and on any given day, there was the chance you could bump into someone well-known.
These interactions were relatively brief but showed how nice some of these people can truly be — which kind of surprised me.
OK, here we go.
You often hear a lot of interesting things about Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner aka Sting. It’s also easy to create a certain perception about musical artists like him.
Musicians can be pretty intense, and their creative side may make them unpredictable. This was not the case with Sting.
This encounter was backstage at the arena I worked. It didn’t last long, but he was warm, engaging, and extremely polite. He was on his way into the arena and was wearing a tweed jacket, which was incredible. He took a moment to say hi to me and a few other people who worked there.
It honestly reminded me of talking to a friendly English grandpa. I expected him to just blow right by everyone because he’s Sting, after all.
The show was amazing, and it was incredible to see this iconic rock star. And in the most un-rock star move ever, he left the venue in a minivan.
Emma Bunton aka Baby Spice
This was in London, England, around 2008. It was also a complete chance encounter. She was coming out of a bookstore just as I was about to go in.
It took me a second to realize who it was because she still looked like a teenager — and very short. That’s the weird thing about celebrities; they are often much shorter than you realize.
There were a few girls who realized it was her and freaked out. But she stopped and came over for a moment. I’m sure she’s so used to this kind of thing, so it’s easier to engage instead of rushing off and causing a scene.
She was incredibly bubbly, friendly, and engaging. I’m sure someone as famous as her in England would get sick of it, but she seemed as if it was the first time she had ever been recognized and was thrilled about it.
She said bye and jumped into a car that was waiting for her, but that’s when more people realized who was there. As the car pulled away, some guy jumped onto the back of it and hung on until it stopped and they took him off.
I’m sure that happens a lot, too. Honestly, I don’t think the guy had any idea who was even in the car.
This was way back in 2006. Just like Sting, it’s hard to predict what a giant rock star such as Eddie Vedder would be like. Rock stars are notorious for being jerks and impossible to deal with.
This happened in the same location as Sting. Vedder had got to the venue early, but there were still a bunch of fans waiting to catch a glimpse.
It was one of those situations where you wonder if you should even make eye contact, but here came Eddie Vedder, smiling and engaging with everyone. He was carrying a briefcase and made it a point to thank everyone for coming out early to see him.
He was super warm and engaging when I helped to direct him inside. I was not expecting this at all. I felt like I was talking to one of my old high school English teachers and not the lead singer of one of the biggest bands of all time.
I have to be honest; I was never the biggest Pearl Jam fan, but this was one of the best concerts I had ever seen.
I’m an Eddie Vedder fan for life.
This was around 2015 when I was in New York and in Central Park. I was walking through and realized the person walking towards me looked exactly like Spike Lee.
And it was Spike Lee.
These run-ins happen when you least suspect, so it always takes a while to process it. He could tell I recognized him, but it was taking my slow brain a while to process the information.
Again, I’m sure this sort of thing happens all the time to someone like Spike Lee: everyone knows him even though he doesn’t know them.
Since he could tell I obviously recognized him, he was the one who struck up a conversation. This wasn’t long at all, but just a “how’s it going” type of thing.
I’m a huge fan, and I think I was able to spit out something coherent, but who the hell knows. I would have loved to walk and talk to him about a million things, but I’m sure that would have really made his day…
I said, “great to meet you” and tried to walk off without tripping. It still amazes me that someone as famous as him would take the time to go out of his way to engage with a moronic fan like me.
Another chance encounter. This was going through Leicester Square in London, which is where the big movie premiers happen.
The premiere was for the movie The Prestige. I just happened to be walking through on my way to work and was around the back of the theatre where he came out.
Everyone out front was waiting for Scarlett Johansson, so I think he figured he could slip by unnoticed. A few people were waiting, and I walked by right when he came out.
You could tell he was in a rush, but when he saw people excited to see him, he stopped and came over. I had stopped to see who it was and realized who I was looking at. He took time and shook hands with all of us, smiled, looked everyone in the eye, and was as pleasant as could be.
Yes, he is just as dreamy in real life… and actually tall.
Hugh Jackman wasn’t just nice for a movie star, but as a regular person. I know celebrities are just regular people, too, but they live a life that’s hard for us to relate to. I’m not getting stopped for a picture when I come out of a 7/11 at 2 am.
Hugh Jackman no doubt gets stopped on a daily basis, but he was honestly one of the nicest people I have ever met.
I wish I could say the same for one of the other stars of this movie who I had also run into around the same time.
I hope you know who Tyler Oakley is, but if you’ve spent any time on YouTube, you probably do.
The new era of celebrity can be found on YouTube. We watch more of it than we do TV. My younger nieces and nephews couldn’t care less about TV or movie stars — but they worship YouTube celebrities.
I don’t think many kids even watch TV anymore — but they’re glued to YouTube. If you’re older and decrepit like me, TV stars were the biggest thing in the world and it’s been fascinating to see the online world take over.
Regular old TV now seems like the radio, and YouTube is like the new TV.
But back to Tyler Oakley. Tyler has had a YouTube channel with around 7 million subscribers and nearly 700,00,000 views.
Tyler has been an enormous influence on younger people and is dedicated to LGBTQ youth and rights. Other things Tyler has been involved with include The Tyler Oakley Show for Ellen DeGeneres, appearing on The Amazing Race, and being listed in the Forbes “30 Under 30” list.
A few years ago, I worked at a week-long youth event that featured several YouTube celebrities. Many were there for Tyler Oakley and I didn’t realize what an impact he’s had on people’s lives.
Kids were in tears when they met him, but he would always spend an extended amount of time focused on each of them. He engaged with everyone like they were the only person in the world. Even when he was exhausted, he took time with anyone who came up to him.
At the end of the week, there was a talent show and Tyler was one of the judges. There were some really talented kids, and some who were less than stellar — but the fact they were up there was a big deal.
At the end of the talent show, Tyler went through every act and shared all the things that made each one unique and special. Even if it didn’t seem like there was much there to praise, he found specific things that stood out and shared them with everyone.
Tyler had genuinely paid attention and was able to pick out what made each kid unique. Some of these kids had never been praised or appreciated before, let alone in public, and by one of their heroes.
All the kids left feeling better about themselves and that’s a tribute to the amazing human that Tyler Oakley is.
You may have your own stories of a run-in with someone well known, and it impressed you with how nice they were.
There are so many celebrity horror stories out there, but it’s encouraging to see there are still some decent people in their midst.
We all know that they’re still regular people, but they’re people who have made an impact and inspired countless others. It’s nice to know that some of them are actually genuine.
And they don’t even need to punch out a hotel valet.