I've picked up a few celebrities over the years. I'm not really sure how many, for I probably didn't recognize all of them. But, some I noticed.
A doorman hailed me on Waverly Place near 6th Ave. As the fare walked from the door to my cab, a distance of about six feet, he was stopped three times by passerbies with words of awe. I couldn't see him from my angle, but when he got in, I was excited to see that he was Michael Moore. I'm a big fan his and admire him greatly. I asked if I could shake his hand, and he replied that he would be honored.
Now, a month or so before this, he was a guest on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, where they discussed politics. Moore said something about how the right wing always claim that the opposite of capitalism was communism, but he felt the opposite was actually democracy. Bewildered, Lehrer said that capitalism was an economic system, not a political one. Moore replied that capitalism was both economic and political, as was democracy. He went on to say that with capitalism as we currently practice it, we cannot have a true democracy.
I thought that that was brilliant (and still do), and I wanted to discuss it with him. But, as I started heading to his destination, I saw him frowning at his Blackberry, and I didn't want to disturb him. I didn't want to be one of those fawning fans that never give one a break. Besides, I generally do not bother my customers. If they want to talk, I'll talk. Otherwise, I leave them alone. Also, I'm shy.
So, I took him to his destination in silence, and on arrival, he thanked me and gave a generous tip. I finally worked up the courage to mention what I heard him say on the radio, and how it really made me think. He ended up spending ten or fifteen minutes just sitting in my cab and talking politics. The man is passionate about his beliefs, and apparently is always ready for conversation. To think, I probably could have chatted with him during the whole ride. Definitely one of the highlights of my career.
Nathan Lane was my first celebrity. We didn't talk at all. Like I said, I'm shy. He tipped well.
Sammy Hagar was just plain silly. I didn't recognize him when he got in, but I had heard him just the night before on the radio discussing his new album. I only recognized him because of his laugh, which is very distinctive and jovial. He was laughing because I passed a few other vehicles very closely with inches to spare, and he was making jokes to his friends about New York cabbies. It was in good jest, so I pushed the envelope a little to give him something to remember. At one point, he said, " Oh, Jesus, he almost hit the hot dog cart. Can you imagine hot dogs all over the street."
Alfre Woodward spent the entire ride on the phone discussing a movie offer she had recently received. She had been offered the role of the mother on a remake of Look Who's Coming to Dinner. She told her friend that if it was to be a serious movie, she would want to be a part of it. But, it was a Bernie Mac film, so she was worried that it would become a cheap comedy.
When the movie came out, I checked. She wasn't in it, and, according to the reviews, it was a cheap comedy.
Christian Bale was polite to a fault. I picked him up in the Village, and he wanted to go to Williamsburg. He apologized for taking me to Brooklyn, and then apologized for knowing the address, but not the cross street. I looked it up on the phone, and took him there. While paying, he thank me profusely, and apologized again for taking me to Brooklyn. I told him no problem. He tipped well.
Getting in with two guys, the first thing Paris Hilton said was, "Can we have sex back here?" I said, "Sure." They didn't actually have sex, but she did show the boys her breasts. At one point, she said, "I'm famous. I have a TV show." This was years ago during the first season of The Simple Life.
Arriving at her destination, the fare was $4.60. She paid with a hundred dollar bill, and I gave her $95 in change. We cabbies often round up, most people don't want the coins anyways. She took her change and said, "Sorry, we don't have any more money." She left me with a forty cent tip. Heirhead. I should have called Page Six.
I picked a guy up in Soho and brought him elsewhere in Soho. The fare was five dollars, and that's exactly what he gave me. As he was getting out, a lady was getting in, and she recognized him. She told him how much she enjoyed his work and how cool it was meeting him. He thanked her and held the door open for her.
After she told me where she was going, I asked who the guy was. She said he was John Singleton. I told her that he didn't tip, and she said that he probably forgot and that he's a really great director and a nice guy. I didn't think so. I thought he was just a cheap ass.
Recently, K and I were at our favorite bar having dinner and a few drinks. We struck up a conversation with a lady sitting nearby. The course of the talk turned towards New York in the eighties and how much seedier it was then. She told this story of a time she was on the subway late at night, and she noticed that the man sitting across from her was staring at her and masturbating. She was horrified and then shocked when she realized that it was John Singleton. She swore it was him, and that she was completely creeped out.
Now, I probably should be a decent guy and not repeat salacious gossip that I hear from a random woman in some bar. I have no way of verifying the story, and she had been drinking. For all I know, she could have been making it up, or just confused, or on drugs or something.
Then again, the cheap ass should have given me a tip.