If you happen to live in the New York City or Los Angeles area, meeting celebrities in public may be a non-event. But for the rest of us, the chance encounter with one of our favorite television stars or other public figure can leave quite an impression. Our first instinct may be to ask that person for his or her autograph, or seek a photo opportunity. We may want to thank them for their hard work and accomplishments, or occasionally we may want to give them a piece of our minds. Whatever the reason, most of us would love to meet our favorite celebrities in a normal setting, such as in a restaurant or during a vacation.
But, to paraphrase an old saying about the rich, the famous are not like us- they are different. You must respect their right to privacy and discretion. Most celebrities will be more than willing to give you an autograph or pose for a quick snapshot if you follow the same rules that would apply to any other stranger you approach. Here are some rules of etiquette to follow when encountering a favorite celebrity in public.
- If they are with their children or family members, keep your distance. While many celebrities are more than gracious with their fans, they are extremely protective of their family members. Many young children with celebrity parents do not fully realize what Mommy or Daddy does for a living. The idea of total strangers approaching their parents can easily frighten them. Stars may also fear stalkers or kidnappers, and are especially guarded around their own children. You may encounter a very persuasive bodyguard if you approach any celebrity on vacation with their family. Wait until the person is alone before approaching them, or wait for them to acknowledge your presence before getting too close for comfort.
- Actors and other celebrities should still be addressed as Mr. or Ms. If you do approach a celebrity, address them as Mister Hanks or Ms. Roberts, never Tom or Julia. If they give you permission to address them by their first names, then you may do so, sparingly. Maintain a very polite and friendly tone, but never assume that you are a close and personal friend. Overly familiar behavior can cause a celebrity to become nervous and guarded. If you encounter a celebrity while performing your job, you should be especially sure to refer to them by the proper address.
- Actors in public are not their characters. Never call an actor by their character’s name- that is considered bad form universally. Don’t ask them to repeat a popular catchphrase or well-known dialogue. You’re not the first one to approach Leonard Nimoy with a Vulcan salute or ask Jerry Seinfeld to say ‘Yada, Yada, Yada.’ Actors are much more likely to respond to a thoughtful comment on their work or congratulations on an award. The worst thing you can do is berate an actor for their character’s actions. Some actors live in fear that an angry fan will attack them for something their character may have done. Separate the actor from the role before approaching them.
- If the occasion is very informal, relax and enjoy the company. Celebrities lead very complicated lives while ‘on the job’, so vacations are taken very seriously. Many famous people look forward to the opportunity to quit being famous for a short time. If you are fortunate enough to meet a celebrity on vacation, keep the atmosphere light and friendly. Discuss the beautiful weather or that fabulous restaurant in town. Suggest places to see or just grab a few drinks and relax. Don’t get caught up in documenting the entire experience- live in the moment with your new friend who happens to live in California. You’ll have plenty of time to tell all your friends back home who you met on vacation.
- If you encounter a celebrity while on the job, remember your job. Famous people rely on discretion when spending time in public. If you work at the front desk of the hotel they are staying in, maintain your professional bearing. Never reveal their presence or their room numbers to anyone who does not strictly need to know. The same holds true for the wait staff at a restaurant or the workers at the airport. Being a member of the staff may allow you more access to famous people, but this does not entitle you to violate their privacy. You may still approach them for an autograph or picture, but use even more discretion while performing your duties. Celebrities tend to remember those who provide the best service without compromising their privacy. That is the list you’ll want to be on.