Service of Celebrity

May 23rd, 2011

Categories: Awards, Celebrations, Celebrity, Charity, Consistency, Manners


I don’t rub shoulders with celebrities very often but you’d have to be living on a different planet if you didn’t read or hear of shenanigans and bad behavior from that quarter. Some believe their press and think that they are above others and act like spoiled brats. It doesn’t matter that they play, direct or write about humanitarians or that they publicly espouse charitable causes or support and speak out compassionately to save the less fortunate. I never met Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward or Alan Alda but get the feeling that they were/are exceptions. 

I met two other exceptions last week at The Christophers’ 62nd Awards ceremony. The King’s Speech was a winner in the feature film category and just happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

Tom Hooper

Tom Hooper

Academy Award winners Tom Hooper, the director, and David Seidler, the writer, accepted the award. Neither was surrounded by battalions of handlers. I didn’t see any. Seidler was there toward the beginning of the cocktail reception prior to the ceremony and although deep in conversation with another guest, he happily and cheerfully joined several group photos when we asked him to.

David Seidler

David Seidler

And both men stayed for the entire ceremony. I have attended and produced countless events where the “very important” dash out the second their bit is over. With some exceptions [such as when a Mayor must attend a funeral or other unexpected emergency], this conduct for an event they’ve known about usually for months reminds me of the restaurant scenes in vintage films where a businessman or celebrity wannabe tips the maitre d’ to bring the telephone over to their table in the middle of a meal to show how in demand they are.

In fact, none of the 2011 Christophers winners slipped out. Hooper and Seidler were only two of the many writers, producers, directors and illustrators in the publishing, film, TV and cable industries whose work The Christophers recognized this–and every-year. The winners are selected because what they create “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” I think that the film works as well as it does because the writer and director are talented, sensitive and genuinely good souls. Incidentally, The Christophers’ programs are guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Do you know of or have you observed celebrities, the real or the hopeful, who act in ways that enhance their images rather than detract from them?


15 Responses to “Service of Celebrity”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    I can tell you for sure that Eli Wallach was /is a true, unpretentious NEW YORKER. I have met him several times in and around NYC, sometimes with Anne Jackson, rarely without, dressed “sloppily” and “unshaven” (before it was KOOL) and just being…himself.

    He smiled and responded to the babbled raves of this fan, and did it sincerely… whether he “meant it or not!” And this is a man who acted with the TOP STARS — Gable and Monroe, Eastwood and Pacino! Yet— he was/is very down to earth! Four Stars on my book for ELI!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I am so glad to hear this about Eli Wallach.

    I am also impressed that you recognize him, shaven or not, especially because I am not a good celebrity identifier and love being with people who are!

  3. Hank Goldman Said:

    Now, as far as Paul Newman, you hear all kinds of evil stories— BUT–
    —They all begin with people NOT giving him his due space or privacy—which would make ANYONE MAD!!!

    BRANDO? a horse of another color—His motto?
    “Leave me the f—k ALONE”!”!”!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You bring up something about Paul Newman and Marlon B. that always gives me pause: Does a celebrity want to be recognized or not? Will you insult them by not doing so or annoy them by smiling and nodding or saying “I loved seeing you in ________” or “Your book or screenplay are at the top of my favorite list.”

    As I tend to be shy in these instances, they are safe with me unless their insecurity chimes in because I haven’t said anything or smiled knowingly. And then–will they kick the dog?

    Celebrities may be like horses: You have to know what they like or you’ll do the wrong thing such as pick the wrong horse because you didn’t know it hates running in the rain.

  5. Nancy Farrell Said:

    My sister-in-law was visiting from out of town with her husband. We were walking and stopped for a traffic light. There was a bit of a delay in the light and Samuel L. Jackson was sitting on a motor scooter, right in front of us. Not realizing that the culture in New York dictates we should leave the man alone, my sister-in-law pointed and shouted, “YOU! You’re, you’re, you’re FAMOUS!” He looked over at us and smiled just as the light turned green. She talks about that meeting to this day.

    Another classy person was Beverly Sills. She could talk to ANYONE and make them feel comfortable. She once introduced herself to my husband at some sort of function (as if anyone in New York wouldn’t have known who she was!)

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I met Beverly Sills at a corporate event years ago and you are right about her: She put everyone at ease. We felt as though we’d known her for years!

    I walked by Woody Allen on Madison Ave one night a zillion years ago. I didn’t dare say “boo.”

  7. Simon Carr Said:

    Two such celebrities come to mind:

    Senator Estes Kefauver was a Democrat populist liberal from Tennessee whose gimmick was the coonskin cap that he wore for photo ops. He was a presidential hopeful in both 1952 and 1956,and ran that year for Vice President on Adlai Stevenson’s ticket and lost. The last thing one would have expected was for the senator to turn out to be was gracious, elegant and sophisticated.

    I happened to be visiting Madrid, Spain from college during the summer of 1955, when Senator Kefauver came through on some sort of fact-finding mission. He and his wife ended up at a dinner to which I had been invited, and at one point after dinner, he said that they were going to their first bullfight that Sunday and could somebody explain to him what bullfighting was all about. For some reason, I was nominated to do the explaining and for the next half hour to 45 minutes, we talked together. He obviously had nothing to gain from being nice to some college kid, but he was friendly and put me at ease through out. He was the opposite of the important man whose time was valuable. Not once did his attention wander, and his many questions were sharp and meant to acquire information, not to show off or put me down. By the time we got through, I was in utter awe, and he knew a lot about bullfighting. He would have made a hell of a president!

    Shirley Temple was probably the most successful child film star of all time; however, as she grew up, she lost her appeal. She left films, eventually married a rich, conservative Republican multi-millionaire, Charles Black, and took up right-wing causes. President Ford appointed her ambassador to Ghana in 1974, and since the company I worked for did business with Ghana, her handlers asked for an appointment for her to meet with me.

    I expected an arrogant, supercilious film star, but what I got was a cheerful, mildly roly-poly pleasant, unassuming woman who genuinely wanted to know about the country she was going to. She was no Kefauver, but her questions were honest and well intentioned. We got along just fine, but I never did find out why on earth she wanted to go to Ghana.

    By the way, I agree entirely about Beverly Sills!

  8. Lucrezia Said:

    Much depends on what is meant by someone being a “celebrity.” In today’s lingo some will shrink from such a title since it often implies “bimbo” “bubblehead” “playboy/girl,” and etc. I think Paul Newman would have been highly displeased to be called as such. He was and still is a household name, best known for his acting and directing abilities along with enormous charitable efforts. The same pretty much holds for persons such as Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood and yes, Ralph Lauren, along with hundreds who are serious and highly respected in their endeavors. Both Newman and Redford were known to be “hated” by the the lower elements of the press (ie Enquirer) because of their avoidance of scandal and refusal to make idiots of themselves.

    There is a huge difference between being “well known” anywhere from a local to international scale as opposed to tawdry and disruptive individuals whose antics make the newspapers, and often land them in the courtroom. Take such persons as the Dalai Lama and Sister Theresa. Each have done enormous good for others, but have/had better things to do than to attract attention.

  9. Nancy Farrell Said:

    You are right-on in your assessment of Ms. Sills. I just loved her and I was lucky enough to work on the same floor as her office at The Met for a short time. I loved seeing her and she was nice to people when she didn’t have to be. That’s class.

    I wouldn’t have said boo either—to anyone. Not that I’m shy but I just think New York is the great equalizer in that there will always be someone thinner, richer, smarter, so no one has cause to think they’re the best.

    At JFK I once got glared at by a member of the Sheen family—and a not-too-famous one at that. The more famous brother at least had the decency to not look at me but all I did was smile—I hate to damage any fragile egos but I pretty much smile at anyone. Ask the guy who wound up taking my purse years ago or the tourists who I held the door for at McDonald’s today.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You obviously were the right person to ask about bullfighting! The Senator could have been as nice and gracious as you’d want, but he wouldn’t have lasted two minutes with you if you hadn’t known anything about the subject and hadn’t been fun to speak with. You were no doubt a breath of fresh air, a young person who wasn’t frozen when speaking with a celebrity.

    I think of Shirley Temple and of orange juice. Too bad she lost her looks as she was a stunning little girl.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve not made a study of it but don’t think that The Christophers have given many bubbleheads an award for their books or films. In any case, I don’t share the same reaction as you do to the word “celebrity.”

    My guess is that the people who enjoy knowing about the loud and disruptive celebrities wouldn’t have been as enamored as I was with “The King’s Speech” and may not know who David Seidler and Tom Hooper are. And for that Seidler and Hooper would no doubt be relieved.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are an equal opportunity smiler…that’s good! Except that you smiled at the creep who stole your purse. Fiddlesticks.

  13. Debby Brown Said:

    I have to give a shout out to actor Mark Raffalo who is an active and outspoken opponet of fracking in the Upper Delaware River corridor. He walks the talk. An Acadamy Award nominee for his role in “The Kids are Alright” he is generous with his time and availability, both locally and nationally, in speaking about the hazards that will have irreversible impact on drinking water in the area and New York City.

    Many years ago, I met Princess Grace of Monaco at a Lincoln Center press event when she was promoting her pressed flower book that inspired a sheet collection for a leading mill. As we qued up to meet her, I learned a business-life lesson: I was told to pin my badge on my right shoulder to enable the glance-at-a-name and hand shake with the right.

    On another personal note, having a dog and living near Central Park for many years, I have encountered many high profile/celebrity “names” that are out there every morning, sharing the joys of the Park and just walking their dogs. Actor Jim Dale, who is also the voice of Harry Potter on audio books, and his dog Georgy Girl, enjoy coffee most mornings at Mineral Springs; the late David Halberstam, missed every day, was just a regular guy, walking his dog, Sasha. Would talk to anyone about anything.

    Playwright A.R. (Pete) Gurney and his first dog, the muse for his play “Sylvia”, was a regular for many years. Now, he and his adopted dog, “Bill” continue as regulars in the morning. Always happy to hear how projects are going from the “regulars”, sign autographs, talk about his or your work.

    I think the bottom line is, celebrities, certainly in New York, are basically like us but perhaps living on a grander scale!

    Debby Brown

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You know/have met some wonderful celebrities!

    I wonder if the celebrities who live on the East Coast are less “all about me” and more secure in comparison to those on the West Coast? Or maybe it has more to do with people who own and love dogs and that they can walk them in NYC. Does anyone walk in Hollywood? Are there sidewalks and parks?

  15. Debby Brown Said:

    Actually I think the NY experience would be hard to replicate in Hollywood; it seems Hollywood celebs don’t walk and there aren’t many sidewalks or dog parks…..

Leave a Reply

Clicky Web Analytics