There are lots of celebrities in Paris. They like it here, or so people say, because people “act cool” and give them their space. Presumably, Parisians are so busy themselves trying to act cool and nonchalant that they wouldn’t dare whip out their smart phones, stop and stare or just freak out generally when they see a celebrity in the vicinity.
Everyone has a story about the time they saw a celebrity in Paris. Several friends have seen Natalie Portman working out at the “chic and exclusive” l’Usine gym (she has been living here on-and-off while her husband Benjamin Millepied has been heading the Paris Ballet, although not for much longer). The Wilson brothers are also frequently sighted here (more of that below), as well as the usual fashion pack suspects during pfw (Anna Wintour, various Kardashian/Jenners, etc.).
The prize for the best celebrity-spotting story among my friends goes to Patrick and Katya, founders of Paris’s most popular picnic delivery service Paris Picnic, who were playing mölkky with friends a few summers ago in the Jardin de Luxembourg when a guy strolled over and asked if he could play with them. They said yes, of course, and it turned out it was none other than White Men Can’t Jump star Woody Harrelson. They played a few rounds with him and had some beers, no big deal. They proved themselves to be true Parisians.
Unfortunately the “act cool when you see a celebrity” rule is one that I personally have a lot of trouble respecting. I get very easily star struck. It first happened when I saw Toadfish Rebecchi from Neighbours at the Races back in 1999 and it has gone downhill from there.
My first celebrity sighting in Paris happened a few years ago. I was out to dinner at the Mini Palais (a restaurant inside the Grand Palais, which has a particularly lovely terrasse in the summertime) when Will Smith walked in. Lucky for Will, he was a far distance away from me (and I was dining with two non-star struck Parisians), so I couldn’t cause much damage. But I was surprised how the people in the restaurant just went about their dîner as usual. Didn’t they want to take a picture? Didn’t they want to yell out “Yo, home to Bel-Air”?
Then there was the time I saw Owen Wilson at Bob’s Kitchen in rue des Gravilliers. He was just chilling out by himself – mere meters from me – having a bowl of vegetarian goodness. Everyone was acting so cool, nobody was freaking out but I was inwardly losing it and could not stop staring at that crooked yet-oh-so handsome nose of his. Again, I managed to keep it together and resisted my urge to take a photo. There was hope for me yet!
Another time my boyfriend and I were going for a romantic dinner at the wonderfully awesome Septime. When we arrived, we were guided to a table in a row of tables that were very close together. We saw another, better table for two closer to the window and asked if we could have that. We got the table and only moments later Romain Duris (of L’Augbere Espagnole fame) walked in and took the table we had turned down. Lucky for me, he was seated within my field of vision so I could stare intently at him throughout the meal (#sorrynotsorry, boyfriend). I swear we made eye contact on several occasions. Or maybe it was just that he looked in my general direction and could not avoid my hawk-like gaze. Either way, we connected.
And recently I had my first celebrity double-whammy when I saw Gwyneth Paltrow walking down rue des Capucines in the 1st arrondisement and then, not ten minutes later, Luke Wilson getting a velib out the front of the Mandarin Oriental on rue Saint Honoré. Coincidence? I think not!
I have also had the pleasure of seeing some Australian “celebrities” around Paris who are genuinely enjoying their anonymity because nobody actually has any clue who they are. (**WARNING: The next few paragraphs require at least basic notions of the world of B-grade Australian celebrities**).
First there was the time I saw Gold Logie award-winning Karl “Laugh a Minute” Stefanovic in the street in the 11th. I immediately unleashed my celebrity stalker side and went right up and said “Hi Karl!” and started talking to/at him like I knew him (because of course I feel like I do). Poor Karl began awkwardly laughing and backing away from me. But hey, I still got him laughing.
Another time I was lunching at Chez Janou (a fun “provinçial“-style bistro near the Place des Vosges known for its bottomless bowls of chocolate mousse) with my family who were visiting from Australia. I saw a woman sitting inside who reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t think of who (was it someone from the Aussie kids’ show Play School? The 7.30 report? Someone from my primary school’s mum?). Both my mum and my sister couldn’t figure it out, either. It was only when my brother-in-law went to take a peep that we realized it was the former Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh.
I also enjoy stalking supporting Australian musicians who come to Paris. Often they do not have as big of a fan base here as they do in Australia (with some exceptions such as Tina Arena, who randomly has a bigger following here than in Oz) so they play smaller, more intimate venues. Perfect for stalking supporting. I have been known to stake out Boy & Bear at the end of many a gig. Last time I even got them to sign a record for me with only minimal levels of awkward laughter and backing away.
But my most notorious – and ongoing – celebrity sighting relationship goes to Pharrell Williams. I first saw him in the street in the haut marais on a dusky Sunday evening a few years ago. He was walking towards me with one or two other people – no crowd, no entourage – and by the time I realized it was him he had already passed me. It turns out he was in town for his expo G I R L at the Galerie Perrotin. As soon as he was gone I immediately cursed myself for not taking a picture, saying hello, singing “Happy”, generally going cray, etc.
So, I was only too happy (genuinely no pun intended) to see him recently at colette. I was lunching with a girlfriend when a buzz went through the room. Even the über-cool pfw crowd seemed to be excited about whoever had just walked in. Believe it or not a few smart phones even came out, including my girlfriend’s who snapped this pic of the two of us:
When it came time to leave, I knew it was my chance. All of the rules about acting cool went out the window and I tried to take a photo as we were leaving via the elevator (right next to his table). Alas, I was promptly shut-down by the waiter who told me “pas de photo“. But I did make eye contact with Pharrell and mouthed “Sorry” to him (as did my girlfriend). In response he gave a smile and bowed with his hands together like the Japanese folded hands emoji. It was obviously love. And it showed me that, at least on this front, I’ve got a long way to go before turning Parisian.
*Shout out for this blog idea to my posse of celebrity-loving not-so Parisian friends, who get as excited as I do about celebrity sightings (Camille, Sara, Kees, Beth, Leah and Sophie) xx