NYC – I love it. I love the thrum of energy that you can feel in every step on the streets. I love the crush of the crowd everywhere. I love that at 1:00 in the morning, Times Square is just as bright and busy as it is at 1:00 in the afternoon. I’m fairly certainly I would love to live in NYC one day.
Of course, my view of the city is probably shaded by the fact that I always stayed on the upper west side in a super “swag” condo that one of our business partners owned. It’s not a place I would have stayed at on my own, but I was able to stay there several times before our business relationship soured. And during one of those stays, I had a literal brush with fame.
I’m not star crazed, by any means. When I was in high school, one of the Detroit Red Wings (Kris Draper) came into Vie de France at 12 Oaks Mall, where I was working my very first job. While my coworkers were salivating and acting like fools, I shrugged my shoulders and felt bad for the dude – why couldn’t people just leave him alone? A few years later, I was ringing people up as a cashier at Hiller’s, and everyone started freaking out – Kirk Maltby, also of the Red Wings, was in my lane. The lady behind him asked him for autographs… I just nodded at him and tried to act cool. At the Original Pancake House in Birmingham, a gigantic man walked in and sat two tables over – it was John Salley from the Pistons. I was way more interested in my pancakes. Mmm. Pancakes.
Anyway, celebrities don’t impress me much. In fact, I had seen at least one second-tier celebrity in the condo complex in NYC before – this guy.
He was the husband in “Double Jeopardy” and the President in “National Treasure 2”. He apparently had a condo there. Whatever. Who cares, you know?
So one morning, I decide to go to the market next door for some lemon pound cake and orange juice. I step outside, take a breath of NYC air, and turn to the right, making my way to the market. As I am walking in, two guys are walking out. One guy is a pretty big, buff dude. The other dude, the one closest to me, is smaller and chatting away on the phone. He is walking straight towards me, clearly under the impression that I should get out of his way. I continued walking towards him, under the impression that he needs to be getting out of my way. Any guy knows exactly what is about to unfold – a test of wills. Who will be the one who cracks? Who will make way for the winner?
It wasn’t going to be me.
I continued walking towards him. He continued walking towards me. The space between us disappeared. There was one last second… one precious moment where we could have chosen to be the bigger person, to be considerate in the face of our fellow man.
That moment passed.
I purposefully jutted my shoulder out as we passed each other, ensuring that I struck him as we both continued at full stride. He swung around a bit as I won the manliness battle. His friend turned and gave me a glare, but the other guy just kept walking. I smirked at the big guy, and walked into the market.
As I waited for my lemon cake, I looked out the window and saw my two “friends” waiting by the curb. The big guy had stepped into the street and was clearly waiting for a car to pull up. The other guy was still on the phone. As he turned towards the window, I realized who he was. It was Freddie Prinze Jr.!
Now, this was in the mid-aughts, so he was still in the fullness of his popularity, before he had been relegated to starring in kid’s movies about talking dogs. He was still worth covering in US Weekly and in girly magazines everywhere. And I had just shoulder bumped him out of my way. The other guy appeared to be a bodyguard. I bumped a celeb in front of his bodyguard and got away with it! As I watched a black Mercedes pull up and whisk them away, I pulled out my phone. I called my wifie, excited about a celeb for the first time in my life.
“Guess what? I just bumped into Freddie Prinze Junior – literally!!!”
“OMG – did you talk to him?”
“No way! I tried to knock him over!!!”
“I just walked into him because he wouldn’t get out of my way!!! Isn’t that awesome?!?!?”
“………..What’s wrong with you?”
Well, at least I thought it was exciting.
Unfortunately, over the years, Freddie’s star has faded. Now, I try to tell the story to my students, and only one in 30 has even heard of him. But I like to think that the reason no one has ever heard of him is because one day in NYC, he was pushed aside by an everyman from Detroit, and his confidence has never been the same.
The more years that go by without a FPJr. comeback, the more I am convinced that this is the absolute truth.