The other day on his radio show, Howard Stern was making the point that although many celebrities claim they want to be left alone when they're out in public, the security measures they employ sometimes seem designed to attract attention to them.
His example was one Beyonce Knowles, whom Stern recently encountered at a Miami hotel. Beyonce was reclining poolside with an enormous security man in a suit and sunglasses standing protectively over her. As Stern recounted, he wouldn't have even noticed her if she hadn't had her goon in tow with his out-of-place demeanor and attire.
What was odd was, of all the celebrity names he could have mentioned, he picked the one with whom I had a nearly identical experience a few years ago.
It was September 2003. We were in New York City for the U.S. Open tennis tournament. One evening we attended my friend Jeff Marx's play, Avenue Q, which had just opened on Broadway six weeks earlier. This was on the same night that the MTV Video Music Awards were being broadcast from Radio City Music Hall. By coincidence, our regular hotel was around the corner from Radio City.
After the play ended to a thunderous standing ovation, it was a pleasant evening and we decided to walk back to our hotel. We were making our way up the west side of the Avenue of the Americas as the VMAs were winding down across the street when I noticed a glamorous young woman walking just ahead of me.
She was certainly attractive, but she was mostly hard to miss due to her gold sequined dress, high heels, and the fiftyish man in a three-piece suit accompanying her. He looked like an ex-Navy SEAL who could rip a telephone book in half. No way they're on a date, I thought, she must be a pop star.
The man was obviously a bodyguard, plus there were literally floodlights and throngs of people across 6th and along 50th Street as the MTV cavalcade wore on. Even our hotel, which generally catered to celebrities, had served as an informal staging area that afternoon; the likes of Snoop Dogg, Green Day, Method Man and Evanescence were all around us.
This was 2003, so I had heard of Beyonce, but since I hadn't paid much attention to her career, and she hadn't yet broken out as a pop diva or movie star, I had no idea at that point what she looked like. I also missed the VMAs that year so I couldn't identify her that way.
In fact, I might never have learned who she was except that twelve hours later, when I alighted from the 7 train at the USTA National Tennis Center, a vendor was selling the New York Post. Splashed across the front page was the mystery girl in the gold dress: Beyonce.
I'm not making the same point Stern did. I don't fault Beyonce for having a bodyguard with her on the streets of New York late one evening. But it was funny to hear him cite her as an example of a celebrity he randomly bumped into with her security man, because my experience with her was so similar.
Unfortunately for Beyonce, that was the only time our paths would cross. She eventually gave up trying to find me again and, with a heavy heart, settled for Jay-Z instead.