Safaris and Celebrity Sightings

by journojames on April 7, 2012

Originally published Jan. 25, 2012

I’ve never been on a safari, but I feel like I already know what a wild animal expedition would be like. I live in Los Angeles, far away from the Serengeti, but I experience exotic encounters all the time. My sightings just happen to come in the form of celebrities.

What I imagine a safari would be like, Photo courtesy of Safari

During an expedition, people venture out into the untamed landscape and hope to discover exciting and exotic wildlife in their natural habitat. When adventurers are lucky enough to encounter something out of the ordinary, they usually just admire and quietly observe it from a distance.

I do this all the time in the wild concrete jungles of L.A.

My most recent time was just a week before Christmas.

I was visiting a friend who is recuperating in a small health care home in North Hollywood. He was involved in a terrible, life-altering car accident last summer. But enough about him; he’s not a celebrity.

I was huddled with my friends in the hospital hallway, commiserating about our poor disabled buddy when it happened.

A woman seemed to appear magically at the other end of the drab hallway like an angel. I was immediately struck by her shiny, fine-looking coat and graceful predatory cat-like strides as she approached us. And then I realized the dark-haired beauty’s identity as she came closer into focus.

Land of celebrities, Photo courtesy of the Ugly American

This former Calvin Klein model and her clicking high heels, sounding like tiny hooves, came to a cautious halt near our group. I didn’t want to scare her away so I didn’t budge. I just quietly watched as she brushed her famous hair away from her famous eyes and began talking to a not-so-famous nurse.

I don’t like to name-drop so I’ll just say she is a famous movie actress. Her films are usually awful and her current boyfriend is even more famous than she is. I’ll leave it at that.

What was she doing here? Who was she visiting? Was she moonlighting as a doctor? My mind was racing.

But my bulging star-struck eyes were also giving me away. My oblivious friends finally stopped chatting and looked at me funny.

I nodded my noggin over towards you-know-who as discreetly as I could. They followed my excited bobbing head and looked. They squinted and studied. Then their eyes bulged, too, star-struck.

Celebrities everywhere, Photo courtesy of yankeeexposure

Soon, eyes were bulging all around us. Nurses, patients and visitors, who were lucky enough to pass by, took our cue and quietly began recognizing her, too.

We all stole glances and whispered to each other, slyly texting our friends about our unexpected, exotic encounter.

But nobody dared to make any kind of contact or connection. That would have certainly scared her away. Nobody wanted that.

This is typically how the dynamics of a celebrity sighting work: we see the celebrity. The celebrity sees us. We recognize the celebrity. The celebrity recognizes us recognizing him or her; yet, everyone in the room pretends otherwise. It’s weird.

But that’s exactly what happened in that hallway. We all just watched and admired the famous actress from a safe distance, as if we stumbled upon a precious lioness out on the African plains.

Safari stars, Photo courtesy of prlog

Celebrity sightings, like wildlife encounters, are strange and jarring. Maybe it’s because when we find them, they’re in the flesh and completely out of context, suddenly sharing our own monotonous world.

Whatever the reason, I like keeping my strange and jarring encounters closer to home. Who needs the Kenyan jungle? I can get the same thrills from Mr. Lee’s dry cleaning shop around the corner or up in the Hollywood hills. Sooner or later, I know I’ll see some wild things.

Besides, I’d rather get chased by an angry Sean Penn than a hungry leopard any day.

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