Friday, January 8, 2010

Celebtrity Sightings

In spite of the fact that I've been commuting to Manhattan for more than 15 years now, I don't have too many celebrity sightings to report. I've once seen Carson Kressley, dressed up like a parrot in heat (or like whatever it is that parrots are when they're desperate for mating), on a downtown 5 train. I also once saw someone who may or may not have been Yoko Ono walking alone down 40th Street where it borders Bryant Park. Once, while sitting at a salad place downtown, I saw CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin lunching with a female friend in the aisle across from me. He looked fatter in person than he does on TV.

The most memorable sighting of all, however, happened at a pizzeria on Park Place, next to City Hall. While eating lunch there one day, I saw a commotion upfront - a group of tall men in dark suits were making their way inside. Soon a very short, older man walked in and slowly approached the counter. This was the billionaire and politician Michael Bloomberg, who was then, as he is now, our city's mayor. The guys in identical suits were his bodyguards. I'd already heard by then that for PR purposes he had taken to riding the subway to work, but I couldn't have imagined until I saw it with my own eyes that his initiative to seem like a man of the people could have also extended to eating pizza. He and another guy eventually settled down with their slices on two little stools by the wall. I'd seen his companion on TV before - he was a political consultant. They talked about the city charter revision, which was in the news at the time. I already forgot whether Bloomberg was for or against this revision, but I will always remember a piece of advice his consultant gave him while I was listening to them in that pizzeria. He advised Bloomberg to paint his opponents on the question of charter revision as "elitists".

I believe that this comment needs to be put into proper perspective to be understood fully. There is a 54-story skyscraper in this city, on 59th St and 3rd Avenue, called the Bloomberg Tower. He pilots his own helicopters and owns multiple mansions in the US, Europe, the Caribbean, and who knows where else. During a now-legendary interview a reporter once asked him how his sex life was going. "I'm a single billionaire living in Manhattan, how do you think it's going?" was his reported reply. So it is this man that was being advised, within my earshot, to portray his political opponents as "elitists". What can one even say to this? And yet it happened.

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