The DOs And DON'Ts Of Spotting A Celebrity When You're In Los Angeles — Because You WILL Run Into Someone

Whether you’re a full-time resident of Los Angeles or a first-time visitor from somewhere there are actually seasons, if you spend any length of time in certain parts of the city (where my novel, Oh! You Pretty Things , is set!), you’re inevitably going to come face to face with a face you’ve only ever seen in a scene on a screen. (If you’re an aspiring actor yourself, that sentence can be used as a mouth warmup for your next audition. You’re welcome.)

Maybe you’re in line at Peet’s and you happen to spot the unmistakable hairline of your favorite premium cable hottie right in front of you, or maybe you’re on the hunt because you’ve got a cousin in town from No Name, Colorado and you’ve been prowling the scene for days. Whether you’ve been hitting all the right cafes, restaurants, clubs, and parties, or you’re just in the right place at the right time, it’s inevitable: a bonafide celebrity sighting is as common in L.A. as a pigeon in the Piazza San Marco in Venice.

Here are some tips on what to do — and what NOT to do — when you see one of these exotic creatures in their natural habitat. (I’m talking about celebrities, of course. Stay away from pigeons; they’re rats with feathers.)

DON'T

  1. Don’t stare. Yeah, they’re used to it. And it may seem like they’re oblivious, but they’re not. They have room radar. It’s an occupational hazard.
  2. Don’t approach if they’re doing something obviously private like eating dinner, shopping for groceries with their kids, or...picking their nose. (Besides, would you really want to shake their hand after that?)
  3. Don’t ask them to read your script, introduce you to their agent, hire you for something. That’s some crazy thing you’d see in a movie. Life is not the movies. If you’re trying to break into the business, do your homework. Don’t be a stalker!
  4. Don’t ask them about their breakup that you read about in a recent copy of the National Enquirer. It might be true.
  5. Don’t draw attention; be discreet. One enthusiastic squeal and next thing you know there’s a swarming mob. No one likes a mob. Except for Frank Sinatra.
  6. Don’t go all paparazzi. I didn’t think I even needed to say this one, but a Facebook acquaintance just posted a stealth pic of Melanie Griffith in the aisle of an airplane. NO! Don’t do this! Seriously, DON’T. Politely ask to take a picture instead, if you must. But be prepared for a rejection, and if they say no, thank them and beat it. They don’t owe you anything except their performances.

DO

  1. Approach at events and engage in real conversation. This is not the time for a monologue. Brush up on your social cues, okay? If they’re glancing from side to side or giving you one word answers, you’ve worn out your welcome.
  2. Tell them you like their show/movie/work (no one gets tired of hearing that), but don’t just say: “I’m your biggest fan. I love you.” Where do you go from there? And have you seen Misery?
  3. Want to build rapport? Tell them about something you have in common. Maybe your cousin designed the sunglasses he/she is wearing to avoid being recognized. See the irony? (Wait, is that irony? I always get confused because of that Alanis Morissette song.)
  4. Lastly, just be yourself. Don’t try to be “memorable.” You may succeed, but it almost certainly won’t be in the way you were hoping.

BONUS FEATURE: If you are on the prowl for a sighting of your very own, here are a handful of places you’re likely to spot a familiar face or three: Barneys on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills; anywhere on Abbott Kinney in Venice; Robertson Blvd. between Beverly and 3rd in Beverly Hills/West Hollywood (yes, The Ivy has been around so long it’s practically a trope for this topic, but it still brings ‘em in); Larchmont Blvd; Sunset Plaza.