Adding a few to the celebrity deluge

By Wickham Boyle

The hills of Tribeca are alive with the sound and sights of stars. These are not uncommon sites to us locals; in fact we have become almost inured to tripping over celebrities and pretending it is no big deal. But the density of celebrities at the Tribeca Film Festival, in its second gala year, is like the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. Famous film folk flow through our streets in a veritable deluge. In fact, I propose “deluge” as the group noun for celebrities; you know like a dazzle of zebra, a crash of rhinos, a journey of giraffe. A “deluge of celebrities,” has a nice ring to it.

In my family I am famous for mistaking movie stars for people I know, like the protagonist in the “Man who Mistook His Wife for A Hat,” I have been known to believe that I went to high school with Helen Hunt or worked with Edward Albee on Wall St. or was in a play with Robert De Niro – which of course, since we were both at La MaMa theater separated by only a decade, could have been true. I am not as daffy as this may sound because according to Dr, Richard Cytowic, neuro-psychiatrist and author of “The Man Who Tasted Colors,” I am acting on habit and expectation and indeed I do recognize these people on some level. Whew, I’m feeling better.

Cytowic assuaged my fear of warmly greeting strangers by saying that my brain was functioning very well.  “The brain saying ‘hello’ and recognizing people is being itself, it is acting in an ongoing curious way to reach out to establish contact,” he told me. “Our brains are active explorers, they are not passive blobs. Recognition is a bit of the ‘eureka phenomenon,’ the ah- ha, this-is-it moment. A more common one is the incredible excitement of finding a tomato in the garden, even though you indeed planted tomatoes. An excited emotional response to recognizing things and people is actually part of the self-preservation instinct. If we didn’t recognize anything, Helen Hunt aside, we would be killed.”

But what happens when Harvey Keitel, Billy Crystal, Helen Hunt, James Gandolfini, Edward Albee, Dick Parsons or Ron Rifkin all march through your world on a regular basis and then are joined by hundreds of their compatriots? Well that’s the Tribeca Film Festival and our brains should be on excitement overdrive because for ten days the streets, cafes, drug stores, sidewalks and newsstands of Tribeca will be happily choked by this deluge of celebrities.

In a Shakespearean play within a play sort of way, the streets around my house on Hudson and N. Moore have been slowed to a crawl all week with the filming of “Raising Helen.” This movie is produced by Hostage Productions and is scheduled for release next spring; it stars Kate Hudson, Joan Cusack, John Corbin and a host of others that I couldn’t wheedle out of Doug the P.A.

The streets are filled with Kraft Food service tables, cranes are shooting inside out scenes, hair and makeup trailer and cables cover the roads. And then there is the talent; they are everywhere as if to presage the coming of the festival.  After stumbling through this clutter with my trusty bike I was rewarded with leftover flowers after the design crew transformed Bubby’s from funky Downtown pie joint, gone barbeque, into a Parisian type bistro with those ubiquitous green cafe chairs, azule table clothes and tiny jewel box flowers arrangements seemed too precious for real Tribeca. In true Tribeca fashion it turns out Gary Marshall had eaten in Bubby’s and been smitten by the Downtown cute. That happens all the time.

Tribeca even has its first entry in the festival, a documentary called “I’m a Pilot Like You,” made my local filmmaker Bill Brand and artist Ruth Hardinger.

The film is a cinema verite account of the ten days following the tragic death of John Kennedy and Caroline and Lauren Bessette. All three lived in Tribeca and John and Caroline lived in Ruth Hardinger’s building. The artists trained a video camera on the throngs and well wishers and themselves extracting this insiders view showing what it is like to be on the other side of a story represented in the media.

My hope is that beyond the glitz, glam and go-go spirit that the stars and oglers alike will see into our neighborhood and recognize that unlike the movies, there is so much more behind the scenes. Visitors will recognize that every business and home is not a facade but vibrant beyond first glances.


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