Coming home from a recent vacation in Puerto Vallarta, I had a close encounter with a celebrity. I’m not talking about someone from the cast of Jersey Shore. I’m talking about a genuine celebrity who is famous for doing something other than behaving badly on reality T.V.
Standing near the gate, waiting for our flight to be called, I noticed a very attractive man and woman sitting a few feet away; obviously waiting for the same flight. The man was nice looking but did not look familiar. Seeing the woman, however, I remarked; “that woman looks like Vanessa Williams”.
It did not occur to me that she might actually be Vanessa Williams. Why would Vanessa Williams be on our flight from Puerto Vallarta to Phoenix? For that matter, why was VW flying ‘commercial’? Don’t celebrities travel on their own planes?….or on the planes of super-rich friends?….. or carried on the backs of an entourage of minions?
I realized it was, in fact, Ms. Williams when an airline employee asked if her friend could take a photo of them together. I can’t say VW seemed delighted by the request but she was a good sport. She stood up and smiled radiantly for the smart-phone before sitting back down and resuming her conversation.
Beyond the fact of her sharing our flight, there were a number of aspects of this experience that surprised me. Why was she sitting at the gate? Isn’t there some über-VIP lounge where the champagne flows like water. Shouldn’t she be whisked on board just before take-off by a coterie of body guards? O.K., she was in First Class, but she had to wait for her zone to be called just like everyone else. Indeed, she had to ride the bus out and climb the stairs with all the other Zone 1 passengers. Elizabeth Taylor used to live in Puerto Vallarta. I doubt she queued up to board the bus with the rabble.
Why was she going to Phoenix? I have not heard of any upcoming performances in the area. Does she live here? I’ve never seen her in the mall or at the dog park. Celebrity must not be all it’s cracked up to be if she couldn’t even get a direct flight to wherever she was going.
Surprising, the gate agent was the only person who approached her. Don’t these other people know a Grammy winning, multiple Tony and Emmy award nominated star of recording, stage and screen (large and small) when they see one? Have these bumpkins never seen “Desperate Housewives”? At the very least the men of a certain age (mine) should remember the photos in Penthouse magazine that prompted her to resign her Miss America title before going on to become the most successful former Miss America in the entertainment field? Perhaps people were just being considerate. I know all of those things, plus all the words to “Saved The Best For Last”, and I did not ask for a photo or an autograph either. I choose to believe it was courtesy not cluelessness that caused people to keep a polite distance. I observe rudeness, large and small, so often. It pleases me to think people chose to be thoughtful.
Lastly, I was stuck by how absolutely beautiful she is. The few times I have had similar celebrity encounters in the past, I have found the celebrity slightly different from my expectations in some way. The men are shorter, older-looking, or less handsome than I’d imagined. The women, less striking without the benefit of professional make up artists, kind photographers and still kinder photo editors. None of this was the case with Ms. Williams. I am sure time was taken with hair & make up before she left wherever she was that morning. She did not just pop out of the shower looking as she did. Nonetheless, with me looking at her from less than 5 feet away, and she celebrating her 50th birthday in less than a month, she is startlingly beautiful. For some reason that pleases me too; and I’m not even really a fan.