I was unnerved. Celebrities don’t sweat; they have underlings to take care of stuff like that. Upon arrival at Jimmy’s, I ordered a beer to help ease the anxiety and set about constructing a plausible backstory. Nobody would accept a pear-shaped, sweat-drenched clod as a celebrity, right? I’d have to sell myself as Somebody With A Capital S: George Clooney’s pity wingman, the lost Mumford son, the second-place finisher on the third season of a reality show that doesn’t exist but sounds like it could (ever seen Model Chef USA?). I also flirted with identifying myself as an actual celebrity whom I vaguely resemble. To nearsighted individuals on an hour of sleep, I could maybe pass as a craggier Michael Cera.
In the end, I decided to keep it simple and walk the streets as a guy named Larry. I didn’t have time to overthink it: Roberts called at 12 on the dot. “We’re ready to go,” she said, and hung up.
As I transitioned from shadowy-bar darkness into brilliant sunlight, I sensed nothing unusual. Pleased by this discovery, I started walking across 44th Street toward the heart of Times Square. Looking back, I was ripe for ambush.
It came in the form of four photographers. They darted out from behind an illegally parked truck and, before my brain registered their presence, positioned their cameras inches from my face. As if this alone wouldn’t command my complete attention, they affirmed it with a persistent chirp: “Larry! Hey, Larry! Here, Larry!”
My first instinct, as it is when dealing with petulant co-workers or impotent customer-service reps, was to fall back on “do unto others … ” and be as accommodating as possible. “What can I do for you?” I asked. They clicked away, stopping only to ask me to pivot to the left or right. No problemo. Seriously? I thought. This is what celebrities complain about?
That confidence lasted three steps. When we turned onto Broadway, the photographers started badgering me with questions. “What are you doing in New York?” “When’s your movie out?” “When’s the wedding?” Glib, I’m not. I confused People magazine with Us Weekly (“Tell your editor I totally wore it better than Jack Black.”) and answered the de rigueur “What are you doing later?” query with an accurate if not interesting, “Having lunch.” To the obvious follow-up, I responded, “Salad, perhaps with a light vinaigrette.”