The Nexis of Celebrity Spotting in NYC

If celebrity spotting were considered an art, I’d be a modern-day Picasso. Well, at least a young Picasso before his Blue Period. There’s no way for this to not sound like bragging, but I’m good at. Really, really good. It’s one of my few natural talents. While out and about in New York City, I’ve spotted everyone from the can’t-miss (Lindsay Lohan on Central Park South) to the pretty famous (Josh Brolin in line to get into Book of Mormon) to the you-know-you-know-him-from-something (Victor Garber in front of The London hotel). And then there are the spots of people who just happened to have been on TV: Justin Deabler from The Real World: Hawaii at our local gym and a girl from an episode of Say Yes to the Dress at a dance performance.

After nearly a decade of spotting, I think I’ve come across a locale that, if frequented often enough, is likely to result in a sighting (warning: sightings not guaranteed).

Behold, the bar stools facing the window at Taboonette, a tasty Mediterranean sandwich shop.

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My husband and I were here for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon. About 10 minutes into our pitas, I spot Dylan McDermott walking past. At this point I utter the words: “I bet this is a great celeb watching spot.” My rationale for this was: Though celebrities tend to live in West Village, Tribeca, Nolita, Chelsea and even Uptown, many are concentrated in Greenwich Village, along those gorgeous blocks off Fifth Avenue below 14th Street. Taboonette is on 13th Street between University Place and Fifth, a prime artery of this neighborhood, especially if one wants to avoid Union Square.

Back to the story. About 60 seconds after I’d uttered those words, Julianne frickin’ Moore walks past. And suddenly, every celeb I’d ever spotted in the vicinity came rushing back to me, a la the “aha” montage in Memento. Mark Ruffalo one block west. Olivia Wilde two blocks south. Chris Noth one block east…

A few pointers:

Know when to go. You can’t just go any ol’ time. Celebrities are migratory creatures. They tend to avoid the city during deep summer, deep winter, long weekends, award show weekends (those taking place in LA), etc.

Be observant. I’m an observer by nature. I’d never walk down the street listening to music because I’d be too nervous I’d miss a bit of excitement. I use the city streets to tune in, not zone out. It’s hard to recognize anyone when your mind is elsewhere.

Leave them be. A familiar refrain about New Yorkers is that they’re famously unfazed. Here, unlike elsewhere, people tend not to make a big deal about anything or anyone, whether that anyone is a person dressed in a suit of garbage bags or a celebrity. When they see a celeb, most will turn their heads in recognition, make a “is that who I think it is?”-face at whomever they’re with, let the celeb pass without incident, and then compare notes with their companion.

(And then write a blog post about it, obviously.)

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