Celebrities & Cranks on the 2/3


Because I work at home, I’m lucky enough to not have to ride the NYC subways during rush hours. Instead, I end up on the trains at odd hours, or on reverse commutes, where I’m heading into Manhattan when everyone is coming back into Brooklyn. It’s a much different experience — not the least because the trains aren’t crowded, you can always get a seat, and you can indulge in one of the great New York pasttimes of checking out the other riders.

Yesterday, for instance, there were two separate remarkable sightings. The first was Kathryn Erbe, Detective Eames from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I’ve only caught the show a couple of times, but I recognized her right away as she boarded the train with her 10-year-old daughter and sat right across from me. I instantly got a great feeling about Erbe, not only because a successful TV actor like her chose to ride the train with us plebes, but because she and her daughter seemed so comfortable down there. You often see celebrities in public all squinty-eyed and edgy, ready to fend off gawkers, but Erbe was cool in her scuffed shoes and backpack, chatting with her daughter, moving over to let a large woman fit into the seat next to her, and just generally being a typical subway rider. I don’t know why, but it gave me a warm glow. Chee!

Coming back home from the City that same day, another character presented himself. This guy, also seated across from me, looked like a refugee from a 1960s commune — but turned out to be anything but. He was about 65, had a grey ponytail, and a number of buttons pinned to his vest. He was surrounded by a collection of Fairway shopping bags filled with groceries. There’s a Fairway on the Upper West Side (traditional home of liberal do-gooders), so in the story I told myself about him, he was like one of my mom’s old friends: Red Diaper Baby, war protestor, ex-hippie. Well, soon enough, the dude caught my eye and handed me a little flyer from the stack in his lap. (Here’s the “don’t judge a book by its cover” part.) The flyer was a hateful screed, on one side anti-immigrant rant (with figures and “facts” from the Heritage Foundation), and the other an Anti-Muslim essay about “pagan Arabs” and their “Moon-god cult.” The fine print revealed that my kindly old “60s refugee” was actually a particularly wacky follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. D’oh!

Hmm. Maybe I’m only a character in an episode of Criminal Intent. Anyone seen the one with the murdered right-wing kook on the 2 train? Check those Fairway bags for evidence!

8 thoughts on “Celebrities & Cranks on the 2/3

  1. I….I so wish I could’ve been there. I’m a huge Law and Order fan….and have of late become an even bigger fan of Criminal Intent….Eames is great as Goren’s partner, nice and steady. I would’ve loved to have snuck a picture of her for my collection of “OHMYGODIT’s -insert name here-!!”…

    1. I’m with you, man. CI and SVU are the only ones I’ve loved.
      Also, Herr Neufeld, did you call the crazy motherfucker out by spitting on his flyer and handing it back, or did he look like he could take you in a fight? ;D

  2. My mom sat next to Chris Noth on a F train once. This was back when he was Mr. Big, not Detective Logan, but New York actors taking the subway and/or shopping in the same shops you shop isn’t unusual.
    It’s always pretty fun though.
    In a store is cooler though, because if you’re casual and quiet you can talk to them by the noticing them in a casual environment, especially when they aren’t instantly recognizable (street notices for me have been Sam Jackson, Harvey Fierstein, Janeane Garofalo and those are seriously always more exciting then working on a movie set with them… not as fun, special or educational, but more exciting).

    1. Yeah, it was definitely a “celebrities are just like us!” moment, and like you say, more fun than seeing her on a set. (Historically, I think Chris Noth was Detective Logan first, on the original Law & Order, then became Mr. Big, and then went back to being Logan.)
      My mother-in-law sounds like Harvey Fierstien if you talk to her after she’s just woken up.

  3. The most famous people I’ve seen on public transportation were super-agent David Falk and Juanita Jordan (his biggest client’s (ex) wife) riding the Metro to the MCI Center when MJ was on the Wizards. Not quite the same, eh?
    I heard somewhere that Carla Gugino rides the subway when she’s in NY.
    I think I would faint.

      1. Actually, I *did* meet her briefly after a Broadway show this past winter, and she’s quite lovely in person, even bundled up in layers of winter garb.
        Armed and naked, though, yeah – I’d faint.

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