There was a big deli at the bottom of the street I stayed on that’s apparently famous for its roast beef sandwiches. I figured millions of New Yorkers Can’t be wrong.
What I found was that millions of New Yorkers can be wrong and that millions of tourists will be be drawn in by hype.
What I also found was a severe case of celebrity worship from the proprietor. I’m always slightly bemused by restaurants in Melbourne that put up framed photographs of famous people eating at their restaurant. On the one hand it’s a good endorsement because people can look at the picture and say ‘if it’s good enough for an ageing Bill Clinton then it’s good enough for me!’ On the other hand there’s always something slightly undignified about being proud simply for having met someone.
Fair enough if you are a great admirer of someone’s work or you feel inspired by them. But it seems like there’s a lot of folks that get intense satisfaction simply by being photographed with anyone who has a higher profile than them. In the states it’s a pretty big constellation when it comes to celebrities so your chances of meeting someone famous is pretty high. But instead of diluting the thrill it just seems to mean that everyone can play the game.
So many restaurants and shops had photographs of celebrities in their store or wearing their merchandise. Conversations often found their way to encounters with celebrities. One guy in Detroit told us all about valeting for Ryan Gosling the previous week (he drives a van). One street stall in Williamsburg even had a laminated paparazzi photo taken from several meters away and from behind of Leonardo DiCaprio (possibly) looking at his stall. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take away from that. Leo was so impressed by your merchandise he paused to look at it for a few seconds in 2007 and. . . what?
Katz’s Deli in the Lower East side is absolutely wallpapered with photos of visiting celebrities. Some of them are yellowed and faded by age. Many of the people in question have little dymo-labels of their name. Others don’t. This provides a rough insight into the blinkered worldview of the average American (or Katz patron at least). Dennis Quaid’s brother obviously needs no introduction but Gorbachev needs a caption.
Still, the pastrami was pretty good.