Celebrity stalking the easy way

22:19, Oct 17 2010

Hey guys, sorry about nary a single blog post last week. I was travel-weary and then I got sick, which didn't help matters. Somewhat belatedly here's the post I meant to treat you with last week.

One of the things that I loved about London when I lived here and that I continue to be captivated by, even as a visitor, is how much stuff is always going on here.  Concerts, performances, and any number of launches, celebrity appearances, premieres or media events happen every day.  In New Zealand, Auckland may think that it's hot teko but London outdoes it in every way imaginable when comes to excitements of a showbiz kind.

Which is sort of how my reality-TV-doused self came to be in the presence of none other than Nigel Barker (noted fashion photographer).

I happened to be in Selfridges indulging in some shoe worship (I touched a pair of Louboutins - it's like touching the hem of a saint or something). Anyway,  I saw a poster promoting a book-signing by the aforementioned noted one.  I've never really been to a signing event before (unless you count Push Push at Brash's in about 1992) and had no idea what it would be like.  Would I be able to get a photo with him?  Touch him? Would I get within eyelash-batting distance of him?

As it happens, very much yes. The instore poster I'd seen gave the time for Noted, I mean Nigel Barker's appearance as 6-7pm on Thursday. I get there a little early at 5.45pm to find that there is already a sizable queue, but having been in England, lo, these several weeks, I am no longer intimidated by queues of a massive length and have accepted that they are simply the way of life if you reside anywhere as populous as London.

I buy my copy of Nigel's tome Beauty Equation and get into line behind a petite Asian girl and a lanky European  youth of unknown origin wearing a heavily slashed T-shirt (and, I think, pancake makeup).


The queue doesn't move.  But that's okay. I'm used to queues not moving now. Practice is all that is required.  That's the way that queues work their waiting magic.  Compared to my 31 hours in detention at Spanish immigration, a queue in Selfridges is, well, a queue in Selfridges.

From ahead of this couple I hear what I pinpoint as a Kiwi accent.  I ask the owner of this accent if he is a Kiwi too and it turns out that he is. We get to chatting about ANTM, Miss Jay, Nigel, my holiday and other miscellaneous things.  It turns out he (James) actually works at Selfridges (though he's currently off duty).

And then suddenly there is excitement from behind (ooer!) where the queue has grown (there must a couple of hundred people here now). And I see a brown, slightly shiny head atop a grey suit striding past. Nigel has arrived.  I take this opportunity to reapply my lipgloss...for no particular reason.

And then the waiting continues. For ages. Eventually a blonde woman comes down the queue with small slips of paper on which she writes the name of the person whom the book is to be signed to.  I have to spell my name about three times.  You'd think there wouldn't be that many ways to get a five letter name that's being spelt out for you wrong but she finds some new and interesting variations. Eventually we get there though. Meanwhile James and I have bonded and are indulging in a bit of excited jumping up and down and the occasional squeal.  We're so chummy I make the person behind us take our picture so he can be on the blog.

Eventually the queue does move and we get towards the front.  The process, it turns out, is that there's a woman whose job it is to take people's cameras and snap pictures of them with Noted Nigel thereby avoiding the one-handed, arm-outstretched double-chin shots that I excel at.

And suddenly it's my turn. I wipe my sweaty palms on my trousers and hand my camera to the official photo taker, pointing out which button to push.  And then, quell my shaking knees, I'm being addressed by The Nigel. 

Nigel Barker, in person, lemme tell ya...the phrase "smooth as a gravy sandwich" was coined for such a man.  And as it happens he has a sort of delicious gravy-brown colour to him as well.

He comes forward with a smile and extends his hand.  Extends. His. Hand.  For a brief moment I am technically holding Nigel Barker's hand.  Jesus playing ping pong, I never thought that'd happen.  And then he's asking my name, and miracle of all miracles I actually remember what it is and excitedly tell him. "A pleasure to meet you," he purrs, "come this way," and gestures toward the four poster bed signing table.

He takes a seat and I proffer the copy of his book that I've been clutching in my sweaty hands.  In the following couple of minutes we discuss me being from New Zealand and the fact that ANTM filmed there not too long ago.  I mention that that cycle hasn't yet screened in New Zealand and Nigel assures me that it will be on soon and adds a conspiratorial "just a little inside information  for you" - honestly, we're as thick as thieves, the two of us.  Well, I am.  There is nothing especially witty coming out of my mouth and I'm a touch disappointed in myself.

We continue chatting and I mention that I've just made a new friend in the queue since we spotted each other as both Kiwis, and Maoris. James has been "Nigelled" just ahead of me.  Nigel thinks that that's just typical of Kiwis who he says are some of the friendliest people he has ever met.  Mind you, when you look like Nigel Barker, I can't help thinking that people probably would be pretty damn friendly towards you.

We discuss New Zealand a bit further and I mention that I'm from Christchurch-where-the-big-earthquake-was. I have been dining out just a wee bit on earthquake stories since I've been here because as far as New Zealand is concerned mostly people outside Godzone don't know where anywhere other than Auckland is.  Nigel looks slightly confused by this reference and so I elaborate, "the 7.1 magnitude quake?"  He frowns and asks when it was and says he never heard anything about it, to which I respond that it was basically just property damage and no deaths.  And then he totally surprises me by telling me that his sister lives in Christchurch (!!) and that she's married to a Maori (!!!) and they have gorgeous children (!!!!). 

I briefly have fantasies of how attractive MY children would be if Nigel Barker fathered them, before snapping myself back to a reality where Nigel Barker already has his own gorgeous children with his equally gorgeous wife.  Still, I can't help wondering if I might one day take a Christmas Day stroll only to have the most stupidly attractive family group ever seen amble into view.  Yup, Nigel Barker and whanau stepping out after a festive family dinner.  Apparently, that could actually happen.  The world is an infinitely strange place, and no mistake.

And then the very tall (and I'm happy to notice, stripey-shirted) Mr Barker arises and we pose for a photo. I am actually pressed up against Nigel Barker.  It's extraordinary.  A mere four days beforehand I was in custody with Spanish immigration, now a famous former model and fashion photographer is within butt-pinching distance.  I wish I could remember what he smelled like but I think I may have been in sensory overload.  It's all kind of blurry.

And then it's over, and I'm being pointed around a rope gate and James and I are comparing photos (and becoming Facebook friends).

The thing I was struck by was how nice and welcoming Nigel was, and that he took the time to chat with every single person in that queue.  He had a decidedly royal air.  I guess he must do that sort of meet and greet thing all the time, but still, that was pretty damn impressive.  Slicker than a slick thing but also quite genuine with it.  Or at least, so good at faking genuine as makes no difference.  Either way, I'm totally in awe of him.  Fabulous.

Anyway, that was my Nigel experience.  Has anyone else met him, or had a similar celeb-stalking experience?  What were your impressions.  Did it increase the fandom, or lessen it?

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