By Lisa Messinger
The elevator door opened and, as I walked in, my breath was taken away. Huddled alone in the corner this early morning in an oversized slightly rumpled overcoat with tousled hair and no makeup was a woman who had taught me about style, talent, wit and rugged individualism my whole life: Oscar-winning actress Diane Keaton.
I easily could have thought, "There's Annie Hall" from her Academy Award-winning role in the film of the same name. Or there's Kay Adams Corleone from the three "Godfather" films often called the best of all time. Or there's the woman who famously dated her famous leading men (Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino) and famously never married them or anyone else.
Just before the doors shut, I took a breath. I turned, looked into her eyes, and slowly, dramatically said, "I just have to say: Thirty years, EVERY film, EVERY time, wow! Fantastic!" And she squeezed my shoulder, smiled and said, "Wow. You are so sweet!"
Then I asked, "Are you going to Company X?"(the media corporation I worked for where celebrities were sometimes interviewed), thinking I would usher her into the reception area. "Ah, no, I wish," she said. "Unfortunately, I'm going to visit my business manager. Taxes. Ick! What do you do up there? (At my corporation.)"
I briefly told her my journalism duties and she said, "Wow!" The door opened to my floor, I said to have a nice day and thanks again (hoping I was conveying decades of appreciation). She grabbed my hand and squeezed it and said, "Thanks again for being so sweet."
Are you sweet to celebrities? If given the opportunity, would you treat them as people who have had true meaning in your life? Do you think some people treat stars like objects to photograph for their selfie collections? Would you try to take a selfie with your favorite celebrity-or make a real connection?
This wasn't a one-time opportunity to view a celebrity as a human being. The next time I decided to put the person at ease by behaving as though I didn't know who they were. Just weeks ago, I was sitting in my hairdresser's chair wearing a waterproof smock and with my hair straight in the air from the mousse she had just applied. Looking in the wall-size mirror in front of me, again my breath was taken away. Standing behind me was '70s teen two-time Emmy Award-winning actress and movie star Kristy McNichol, her short hair purposely spiky.
She said to our hairdresser, "I finally had a minute to come and pick up those products." As the hairdresser turned to get them, I turned to McNichol, who had starred in "Family," my favorite TV series, a long-running hour-long drama, for which she had won those Emmys, in the classic teen film "Little Darlings" with Tatum O'Neal, and, as a young adult, in the '80s-'90s network sitcom "Empty Nest."
I swiveled my salon chair slightly in McNichol's direction, looked up at her and decided to keep it to mundane everyday chitchat regarding something we had in common, "Ruby (our hairdresser) has unbelievable products, doesn't she? I love her stuff (which was true)." McNichol smiled widely and said, "Oh, my gosh, yes. Last week my friend told me she wanted to try something real 'neat' on my hair and it turned orange! Ruby fixed it right away. I came back to get some of the stuff she used on my hair. I loved it."
McNichol then exchanged a few words with Ruby and turned to me, smiled and said, "Bye. Have a great day!"
I was glad to see McNichol, someone whose talent I had admired and felt such a kinship with as a teen, seeming so relaxed and smiling. Major media reports had relayed that she wasn't always having good days over the years, so much so deciding at times to virtually drop out of show business and keep only to her small circle of family and close friends. That's part of why I didn't want to fawn over her or make her feel self-conscious, but just connect the same way I would with anyone running everyday errands in our joint neighborhood.
Even those who know celebrities sometimes treat them as selfie objects instead of people with whom they could have a real, living, breathing connection. One cubicle shelf after another at outlets I visit for work is filled with employee-celebrity boss selfies, often autographed. Again, my selfie-less self often ends up with what I think is more than that, the kind of real connections I wish for you. More special to me (and it seemed to him, too) than a selfie: The handwritten card I penned to one of my long-distance celebrity bosses on a milestone occasion for him, giving congratulations and detailing how he had impacted my life. The next time I unexpectedly saw him, he (who receives thousands of pieces of fan mail a day), ran up to me, hugged me tightly and said, "Lisa! That card! Thank you, I loved it! I read it at least a dozen times." Did he? Yes, he started reciting it.
Just recently, there has been more proof that celebrities, too, yearn for real, rather than forced, connections. Pop sensation Justin Bieber halted a concert and had a deep, concerned, frustrated conversation with fans about how the entire audience's constant screaming disrupts the true connection they could have with him and vice versa. Millions-seller Justin Timberlake reached out to fans via selfie to vote early like he flew in to in his home state of Tennessee to do. When he was feeling low, singer Aaron Carter revealed he tweeted out his cell phone number so fans might become friends and cheer him up-and they did.
Lisa Messinger has a graduate certificate in Strategic Communication Management from Purdue University and is a contracted blogger for the university's Master of Science in Communication program. She is a longtime columnist at Creators Syndicate and before that Copley News Service and a manager of editorial quality assurance within iHeartMedia, Inc. She has won multiple national first-place writing awards and is the author of seven nonfiction books, including "My Thin Excuse: Understanding, Recognizing, and Overcoming Eating Disorders" with Merle Cantor Goldberg, LCSW. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.