Thursday, January 25, 2007

Celebrity Sighting in Rome

Funny thing about Rome. I’ve been here over five years and I’m just now coming to the realization that as long as I live here, there will be moments when I will run across minor or major celebrities when simply going about my daily life. The other night is when this finally hit home for me.

Ale and I went to a symphony orchestra concert at the Auditorium. When the lights came up at the intermission, we in the peanut gallery look down at the expensive “platea” seats on the main floor and Ale says, “Hey, there’s Bruna Vespa.” Those of you in Italy will know him as the host of the nightly national talk show Porta a Porta, where, inexplicably, the theme music is “Gone With the Wind” and when a guest enters, Vespa discreetly pushes a button to ring a doorbell and you hear DING-DONG and it’s like “Oooh, who’s there?” Then they cue up some more “Gone With the Wind” and the guest walks in. So cheesy.

When Ale came back from walking around during intermission, he says to me, “Hey, I saw Ciampi out there.” Ciampi. Yes, THAT Ciampi. No less than the 10th President of the Italian Republic. “Whoa! Where’d you see him?” I ask. “He was waiting in line for the bathroom with me.” I start laughing. Hey, even an ex-president is only human.

Here are some other personal examples of how daily life in Rome can have you rubbing elbows with the famosi:
  • One day two summers ago I was waiting on a street corner near my office, going to lunch, and traffic suddenly stopped. The main street was deserted, not a single car moving in either direction. We weren’t allowed to cross the street. No one moved. It was one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced here in Rome. After about 5 minutes of dead nothing on this busy main street, Pope Benedetto comes by, standing up in his pope-mobile, waving to the crowd. I was “this close.” Of course that was before I started blogging, so didn’t have my camera in my purse. Doh!
  • When I went to see Nanni Moretti’s last film, Il Caimano, at a certain point I noticed my colleague’s son playing soccer on screen. Turns out he goes to school with Moretti’s son and that’s how he got to be an extra.
  • Eating at Augustarello, a super down-home and rough around the edges trattoria in my neighborhood, we spot Martina Stella, who I think lives around the corner from me. She was the man-stealer in L’Ultimo Bacio.
  • We used to get our traditional cappuccino and cornetto all the time at this one bar near Piazza S. Cosimato, that is now sadly under new management. Sadly, because the cashier there was this feisty old lady who we adored. One time we went to see the latest Carlo Verdone (Italian comic legend) film, and at a certain point, there she was, feisty as ever, with one rude line to yell at someone in the movie. Hilarious! We’re like: that’s the lady we pay for our cappuccino! Turns out Verdone knew her too, and appreciated the comic value of her energetic Roman-ness, so gave her a one-liner in his movie.
  • Speaking of Verdone, Ale has had a few “sightings” of both him and Cristian De Sica, another famous Italian comic actor, at coffee bars near the Monteverde Vecchio neighborhood, where I think both of them live.
  • When I was getting my hair cut a while back, my hairstylist, who works alone, got a call on his cell phone. “No, I told you, you can’t just come in here like that! Oh, fine. But hurry.” Next thing I know, my hairstylist Alberto is washing some guy’s hair in the sink next to me, and I can swear I recognize him from somewhere. I don’t really watch Italian TV but I got to chatting with him and he was telling me how he’s “the voice” of Will Farrell here in Italy. (You do know that every foreign actor has an Italian voice counterpart that does his or her voice in every film? It doesn’t change until the dubber dies!) I looked the guy up online and it was Pino Insegno, a minor celebrity on the TV and stage circuit here in Rome. I’ll never look at Will Farrell the same way.
  • Another time when I went to lunch during work, I saw these yellow signs everywhere that said “To Set.” Not trying to be too discreet about that one! As I walked by the Pantheon, a huge crowd was gathered. Turns out they were filming a scene from Ocean’s 12 that day, and everyone was waiting for someone like Brad Pitt or George Clooney to come out.
  • At our church one morning I saw a guy with a ton of bodyguards, praying silently. It was another ex-president, Cossiga.
  • Speaking of our church, we’re taking this mandatory pre-marriage class, that frankly is more than a tad dull. One night though when we show up for our “lesson,” our teacher says, “I was thinking, instead of having a class tonight, maybe you would like to go into the church for a prayer. There’s some Nobel Prize winner visiting, Tutu someone…” We’re like: Desmond Tutu? Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize? Seeing him speak definitely beat the normal lesson!
Maybe you'll remember my brush with 80s celebrity when I picked Don Johnson up from the airport in Trani this summer, where they were filming the movie that one of Ale’s clients was producing. Turns out “DJ” is now doing “Guys and Dolls” at London’s Picadilly Theatre and invited us to come see him, so we got a 1 cent Ryan Air flight for early February (after World Nutella Day, that is!). From Sonny Crockett to Nash to Italian Mafia boss to Broadway star—what will he come up with next? Did you know he sings? This was total news to me, people! I’ll report back on our “new pal’s” performance.

Celebrity sighting to me sometimes seems like an exotic sport with wild animals. I sure wouldn’t want to be one of them.

Have you ever had any celebrity “sightings”? What do you think about the whole phenomenon of spotting celebrities?


Jeff Gromen said...

I don't have much but imagine this... The WWE wrestlers were in Italy last year some time and I was walking down my street when a huge guy on a small scooter goes by going the wrong way. I see him again going back and pack of laughing kids at the end of the street. From the newspaper report I think it was Rikesi (sp?) in town to promote wrestling!

Jeff in Puglia

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Jeff: LOL! Isn't it funny how WWF has become such a big deal over here? One time I saw it on TV and the commentator speaks Italian with a heavy American accent, but I can't tell if he's really American or an Italian faking it on purpose. Funny stuff.

Waspgoddess said...

Hello, I have been lurking for a little while, but since I have such a good "celeb sighting" it seemed time to step out of the shadows.

As much as I try to play cool if I happen to catch sight of someone famous, I once saw Cate Blanchett shopping at my local supermarket and she completely floored me. She was just luminous. I stood there, jaw on the floor while she calmly selected a jar of jam. I love her forever...

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Ciao Wasp! Thanks for de-lurking--great to see you! That's a good story. Cate Blanchett is an ethereal goddess. I loved her in Veronica Guerin.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Because of my job I have to see and deal with actors all the time but when I was in Rome during my first trip I saw President Clinton walking down Via del Corso. It was so random. I worked on his campaign and haven't seen him since he left office and there he was in the middle of Rome just walking down the street. He had some Secret Service men with him of course.

Martina is very sweet. We went to Cafe Marzio (spelling?) and I noticed how the guys kept trying to sneak looks at her.

I think the culture of celebrity is out of control in the U.S. There are so many people who are now famous for being famous. It seems every week there is a new celebrity magazine coming out. It's only going to get worse.

triplecreme said...

I recently met an Italian actress who lives here in LA named Jo Champa. Do you know who she is? My mom's friend is her new nanny. She was very sweet.

Me and Him said...

We sat in an airport lounge in Fiji, back in 98 chatting to a lovely young lady sitting near us, who was very friendly. When we left the lounge we walked past a newstand, Hubby points out the cover of People(?) magazine and says isn't that the girl we were just talking to? It was, it was Sarah Michelle Geller or Buffy.

Working at a hotel in Japan back in the early ninties, Billy Joel and Kylie Minogue and various others stayed in our hotel. Quite a few movies/tv shows are filmed in Vancouver, so celebrity sightings are becoming more common.

Elizabeth H. said...

I saw more famous Americans in a year in Rome than I did in five in NYC. They were filming Gangs of NY at Cinecitta. Leonardo di Caprio was living in Trastevere and was spotted al over town.

Jessica Brogan said...

One morning my Roman Art Class was "on sight," and I got lost. I ended up alone, and walking right into the set of "Envy." I stared at Ben Stiller, and then decided to get my five seconds of fame. I hunkered down next to the fountain in the background until I finally got bored and walked out of the "set" which was the whole piazza. Two minutes later Ben bumped into me on the way to the hotel, man he's short. A year later i finally saw Envy . I remember which scarf I was wearing that day, and I can see it, and a long blonde ponytail, just wisping by in the background.
you know, there was absolutely no reason for them to go to Rome in that movie. I heard Ben just likes going, so he put the scene in!

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

These are all great stories! "The celebrities are among us..."

NYC: I can only imagine! This summer on the movie set I went to dinner a few times with one of Italy's biggest soap stars who had become a friend of ours, and you wouldn't believe the stares, and how people "try" to be discreet. Imagine what happened when we'd go to eat with another star of the film who is an ex-porno diva! And the scary part: her "fans" were all like 15 years old. Mamma mia!

Triplecreme: I've heard of Jo Champa but can't quite place her. Small world!

Tinker: You met Buffy? How funny that she just happened to be on the cover that week... surreal!

Elizabeth: I know...Rome often becomes a living movie set, check out Jessica's comment as well!

Jessica: This is classic. Your ponytail's 15 minutes of fame!!

Anonymous said...

During the Rome Film Festival we had lunch with Willem Dafoe. Okay, he was at the next table rubbing up back to back with me and droning on about some "New Project" he's working on. But there he was dining in the down-home place like us, so I'll give him that much!

triplecreme said...

I forgot to tell you my Don Johnson experience! Several months ago, my frined and I we sitting at the bar in a restaurant in the swank Argyle Hotel on Sunset Blvd. DJ was dining with his wife and a friend. I started to smell cigarette smoke (which is not allowed in restaurants or bars in CA), and I looked over, and he had proped the window open enough to stick his hand out! He was smoking at the table. Of course, the managemnet did nothing. If it was some Normal Joe, he would have been asked to stop. Seeing celebrities is fun, but the preferential treatment they are given is outrageous.

John Cropper said...

Eric Clapton has a house 10 minutes from me in Columbus, and i've pulled up next to him at a stoplight probably three or four times, though i've never seen him out of the car.

Also, there's this little town south of Columbus called Yellow Springs, where my friends and I would always go to see shows or go to the great comicbook/book shop on the main strip. Once, while perusing the used book shelf, I turned a corner and there was Dave Chappelle, leafing through a book. I just stared for a few seconds and then left. Evidently he has family in Ohio.

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Triplecreme: This is funny. I totally agree with you, it's outrageous. Your comment reminded me of something worthy of an eye-roll. You know when he came to film the movie here he came with his assistant (a guy, about 30 yo) who brought over his special brand of cigarettes?? Something about them being filterless, I don't know, they had an indian on the package (I don't smoke) ... American Spirit or something like that?

Johnaesthetica: Both good "sightings..." they walk among us! ;-)

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

PS I was meaning that the assistant brought over the cigarettes for DJ... if that wasn't clear...

Alec said...

It's really interesting where I live in London. There are lots of celebrities here, but Londoners are very proud people and if they appeared fazed/surprised then other Londoners would smirk and think "Hmph, must be from the countryside!". So if there is a celebrity, Londoners pretend to not even notice/care but really I'm sure everyone's thinking "omg omg omg omg omg" lol.

DiscoverSoriano said...

Oddly, in the little village of Soriano nel Cimino (an hour north of Rome), we have had:

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Red Sonja was partially filmed in Soriano)

Burt Lancaster (Marco Polo filming)

Eric Estrada (on vacation)

David Hasselhoff (on vacation)

and many others.

On this side of the pond I am in L.A... I could fill 50 pages if I were to start.

triplecreme said...

Yes, American Spirit cigarettes. They are organic. As if that makes them healthy!!?