THE LAST FIVE ...

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- Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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- Friday, April 21, 2006

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- Thursday, April 20, 2006

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- Wednesday, March 1, 2006

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Monday, Dec. 5, 2005 - 9:25 a.m.

Spotting in their natural habitat

For once, I was the one who saw the celebrity first. In New York, celebrity sighting is like going on safari in Africa or touring Yellowstone National Park. You're looking for the native wildlife, hoping to catch it in its natural habitat without being spotted so you can see how it acts in its day-to-day life. Sometimes, depending on the wildlife (or celebrity), you hope for a more intimate encounter, an up-close experience that allows you to see how it reacts to everyday people like you.

So on Saturday, instead of someone pointing him out to me, I got the first glimpse. We were having a mid-afternoon lunch at The Spotted Pig, which for New York celebrity sighting these days is like going on safari in the Samburu National Reserve. After a 30-minute wait, we were given a lone table in the front corner where the bar meets the wall; I sat with my back to the wall, facing the front door. Bryan had his back to the window, facing the bar. Casey was across from me, her back to the door. And that's how I saw him first.

"Um, Case," I said, not taking my eyes off the short man who had just walked in, bundled up in a scarf and hat but still recognizable. I didn't need to say anything more when Casey turned to look, then swung back with wide eyes, confirming what I already knew to be true.

"Oh. My. God," she whispered, Michael Stipe standing six feet away.

As on safari -- where you might not be impressed by the antelope but go breathless at the sight of a zebra, while your partner yawns at the black-and-white horse but is transfixed by an elephant -- spotting famous people ellicits different reactions from different people. I think it turned out that I was more excited for Casey, who has loved R.E.M. since she was a wee lass, than I was to see him myself. I had the perfect photo set up, too, but without the flash (not wanting to startle the wildlife) and my inability to hold the camera steady at the right height, the result was a blur of colors and nothing but my word to indicate that the blur at the center is the lead singer of a pretty popular band.

Before our day came to an end at 2 a.m. Saturday, we spotted the antelope to Michael Stipe's zebra as we left Hi Fi in the East Village. Walking out, I noticed a man in a winter coat with a warm furry fringe around the collar and hood. Despite the highlights in his hair, the stubble on Adam Goldberg's face made him more recognizable, even without Christina Ricci on his arm.

"Hey, it's another famous person." Just not of the same caliber as the one in the afternoon. At least not to us.

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