Do you know that old song “Orange-Colored Sky“?
I was walking along, minding my business
When out of the orange-colored sky
Flash! Bam! Al-a-kazam!
Wonderful you came by.
That’s how I felt last week, when I happened upon Glenn Close in Central Park.
(No, I didn’t take this picture.)
My partner and I were walking our pup in the park, as we often do. After 9:00 p.m., four-footed friends can run free without leashes, so our dog often seeks out playmates. That night he zeroed in on a couple of white dogs (he loves white dogs, for whatever racist reason) and immediately began running in happy circles, trying to get them to chase him. We sauntered along behind him, to where the dogs’ owner was standing. I semi-consciously registered that she was on the phone, but I didn’t really look at her.
That is, until my partner whispered, “That’s Glenn Close.”
My first reaction was sheer starstruck-ness: my pulse raced, my head felt all fizzy, and my knees really did get weak. Holy hell! Glenn freaking Close! I have adored her for as long as I’ve been aware of my own adorations, so she occupies a very large space in my cultural consciousness. (Large enough for me to have had more than one erotic dream about her, but I’ll save that topic for another day.)
Glenn does not, however, take up much space in real life. She looked very tiny to me, considering her giant talent. She’s slim and of average height. Her clothes were quite ordinary: capri pants, flip-flops and a light blue boatneck shirt with three-quarter sleeves. Her hair, however, was extraordinary — the woman has gorgeous hair. It seemed to outshine the dim lamps of the park.
So there we were, in the presence of greatness. She had finished her phone call but was checking e-mail or doing something else on her phone, so she didn’t look up as we approached. When she did finally raise her eyes a little to see our dog zipping around, I somehow found my voice and said, “He’s determined to get chased by your dogs.” She looked up fully then, and chuckled. I’m surprised I didn’t actually swoon.
But I didn’t express my internal glee. I moved to New York City just a couple of years ago, but that’s long enough to know the unwritten rule among New Yorkers: don’t acknowledge that you recognize a celebrity. (That falls under the heading of Things Only Tourists Do — it’s as gauche as looking up at tall buildings or willingly setting foot in Times Square.) There’s also an unwritten rule in the NYC dog community: talk about your dogs, and don’t get more personal than that. In Glenn’s case, that was a fine topic of conversation, because she’s obviously very fond of her dogs. In fact, she has a dog blog.
So we watched the dogs and exchanged pleasantries. And we all said a friendly good night when the dogs started to go their separate ways. Luckily, though, Glenn’s dogs circled back, and what was my partner to do but pet them? We ended up walking a bit more. Strolling along. With Glenn Close. For about 15 minutes, the world had nothing in it but three dogs, three people, the sights and sounds of the park at night, and idle conversation. I felt floaty yet simultaneously more grounded — which, come to think of it, is not unlike how I feel when Glenn is at the height of one of her ferocious, mesmerizing performances on-screen.
She was nice, down-to-earth, reserved yet affable, and her voice nearly undid me. That’s been one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about bumping into celebrities: hearing an unmistakable voice (like Close’s or Lauren Bacall’s — yes, we met her once, and she and Glenn have chatted about dogs too!) in person. Her voice was richer and yet softer, more vulnerable. It’s so much more three-dimensional — like everything else about a person who’s standing next to you, compared to a person on a screen or even a stage.
And the eyes. It’s common knowledge that Glenn Close has intense eyes that sometimes seem lit from within. They’re even more stunning when they meet yours directly. I know it’s a cliché, but you could drown in them. Or maybe tremble before them.
Those eyes and that voice and that hair and that generally profound presence … they’ll stick with me for a while. And I needed the boost, because last week was the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death. He used to tease me a lot about my idol-worshiping ways; he’d see a picture of Barbra Streisand or Julie Andrews on my bedroom wall and say, “They’re just normal people, you know. No different from you or me.” I’d tell him he was wrong, that I looked up to them and they were gifted. They were just more somehow.
I no longer feel that way about most celebrities, of course — not even all the ones I showcased on the walls of my childhood bedroom. (I still love you, Kristy McNichol and Maria from Sesame Street, but it’s not the same.) These days we don’t expect celebrities to be role models; in fact, we’re surprised when they’re not train wrecks. But a handful of stars still seem “bigger” to me, and Glenn Close is one of them. I’m glad she’s found a way to keep soaring above all the dreck. And I wish I could call my dad to tell him about one of the few stars that are still shining.
So there’s my Close encounter. I was hoping this post could fully capture all the details; that I could distill them, preserve them, get them down forever, but I don’t think I can really make those glorious moments last. I’m just grateful to have experienced them, and I’m so glad I got to be on this planet (and in that park) at the same time as Glenn Close.
Postscript: This past weekend we watched Serving in Silence to commemorate the occasion, and how about that kiss? Hard to believe it caused such a ruckus at the time, but easy to see that Glenn is a good kisser: