“Just looks like an old guy to me.”
A friend and I were walking through Theodore Roosevelt Park on the path from Columbus to CPW, and as we passed the dog park I noticed a familiar figure sitting on a bench reading. I stopped my friend and said, “Isn’t that Philip Roth?” She turned and looked and said, “Just looks like an old guy to me. Why don’t you ask him?” I wanted to but hesitated because I had heard that he didn’t like being bothered by fans. But then I thought, how many more chances am I going to get, so I walked back a few steps and said, “I’m very sorry to disturb you, but aren’t you Philip Roth?” He said, “I was when I came in.” I would have liked to shake that writing hand, and ask him what he was reading. But I said goodbye and left it there. Goodbye and we will always love you.
— Shoshana Vasheetz
“It’s the only illegal thing you’ll ever do.”
In the late 1990s, I moved to West 87th between CPW and Columbus. The northeast corner of 87th and Columbus featured several row houses, whose lively stoops showcased sunbathing, music blasting, parties, mini flea markets, and indelible characters, including an older gentleman in a rainbow umbrella hat. I pondered why my neighbors socialized on a steamy stoop rather than in the cool shade of Central Park just a block away. Apparently, they curiously observed me too. One hot summer day as I rushed to meet a friend, I glanced across the street and stopped in my tracks. Someone had opened the hydrant in front of the row houses, and everyone was splashing in the iridescent water blast. I was so transfixed by this picture of old New York that I failed to notice the rainbow hat man approach. He broke the spell when he shouted, “Go ahead and jump in! It’s the only illegal thing you’ll ever do.”
— Christine Elbert
“Welcome to the majors!”
I returned to the UWS after a thirty-year hiatus residing in Western New York. Gone were the neighbors mowing their lawns and extending casual greetings to familiar faces. One spring day I stopped to talk with an older gentleman I often saw watering his petunias in front of his 95th Street townhouse. I introduced myself as a newly arrived neighbor who appreciated flowers. I let him know that I was a retired attorney and asked about his field. He told me he had been a teacher and theatre director. I asked if it was high school productions. He smiled and replied no, Broadway. I inquired if it was anything I may have heard of. Without a hint of bravado, Lloyd Richards let me know that he had directed Sidney Poitier in Raisin in the Sun, had brought the August Wilson plays to Broadway, and had been Dean of the Yale School of Drama. I managed to keep my composure as we shook hands and I headed home with the thought: “Welcome to the majors!”
— Ian Mackler
Send your stories of the Upper West Side to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Encounters submission. Keep them around 150 words or less, and please include your full name and address. We won’t publish your address; we need it to deliver a West Side Rag mug to you if we post your story.
This column has turned out to be my most favorite of all. Thank you.
I was fortunate to be in Lloyd Richards’ acting class in a college theater program in Connecticut. He was one of the wisest, gentlest and kindest men I’ve met and a generous and sensitive teacher. All his awards attest to his talents as a director. I can imagine how self-effacing he would be at home.
I can’t stand this encounters thing. The best thing anout NYC is that we ignore celebrities. Oh the ego that goes into thinking an encounter enhances the viewer in any way.
To all the celebrity story haters: you are welcome to contribute a non-celebrity story! As other readers have done. In fact this encounters issue is only 1/3 celebrity; Lloyd Richards’ resume, though impressive, is not what most would call celebrity status, and umbrella hat man surely is not. So I am not sure why we have all the complaints. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, or submit something that you do want to read. Surely you have something interesting to report from your life on the UWS.
Last weekend I was in my local CVS buying milk, as I am wont to do since they keep a cold refrigerator and the brand of milk they stock, Hood, is the one I grew up with and it gives me a little shot of nostalgia every time I buy it. With milk in hand, I went over to the self-service checkout area, which has four checkout stations next to each other. As is usually the case, two of the stations were open, despite a line for the cashiers, so I ambled up to a station adjacent to one that was occupied by a woman who, from the corner of my eye anyway, looked familiar. Not wanting to be impolite, but nevertheless curious, I nonchalantly snuck a glance in her direction. With just a touch of embarrassment at my desire for celebrity spotting, I realized that she was someone that I didn’t recognize from anywhere. Just a fellow human, out shopping at CVS, same as me. What a disappointment.
: D : D : D
Hmm, I talked to Dennis Quaid and Jimmy Fallon while out shopping on the same day. One of them approached me and asked if a baby outfit was the right size for a newborn. Not even 20 minutes later I helped the other one pick out a large cooking pot. Totally random but sometimes it just happens, and ignoring them when they’re in your space seems very snobbish to me. They are just people after all, so why can’t it just be FUN? 😀
I hear ya, but sometimes I can’t help myself. A few weeks ago Katie Holmes was shopping in the same store I was on the UWS and since we’re around the same age, I said I liked her in an old movie, “Go”. She gave a big smile and said thanks. I was surprised how tall she was, as I’m 6 feet and she was eye level.
Because someone makes a living that involves public / media / performing public exposure does not mean they necessarily want to be greeted or spoken to by a dozen people every time time they walk down the block. They should be afforded the level of privacy that you would expect on the street from somebody you don’t know.
Philip Roth was a lefty.
— “Philip Roth was a lefty.”
What difference does it make which hand he wrote with?
Read the story. The person notes that they would have liked to shake the writing hand. Most people shake with their right hands. Reading comprehension is abysmal on this site.
And you are an idiot!
So what!?! And you are a _____?
Philip Milton Roth (March 19, 1933 – May 22, 2018)
We are west side alumni now living in SoCal. So miss it.
Over my years living in NYC, I’ve crossed paths with celebrities dozens of times, not including a few that live in my building. The most exciting was Mickey Rourke, this was back in ’95. I was working as a Union Door Man and he stopped to chat with me. We talked movies for a good thirty minutes. He seemed like a down to Earth, very nice person. It was one of the few times I’ve spoken to a Celeb rather than just nodding as I walk by.
Phillip Roth died.
No one said the encounter was recent
I saw Lady Gaga.
i thought Philip Roth died in 2018. Check out the wiki page.