We’re on the corner of West 10th and Hudson Streets when the young woman appears.
“Excuse me,” she says. “I’m your biggest fan.”
The girl is stylish, faintly mod, with enormous fringed pinwheels for eyes. She’s speaking very quickly in a British accent and rifling through her handbag for something I can’t quite see.
“I love your eyelashes,” says Sarah Jessica Parker.
“Thank you!” says Pinwheels, digging deeper. “I have a denim brand. It’s British. And I would absolutely die if I could give you a pair.”
“Well, you don’t have to,” says Parker. “You just tell me the name, I’ll find them, you don’t have to give me anything—” But her fan has indeed produced from her handbag an entire pair of designer jeans, crosshatched on the rear pockets. She is literally pressing them into Parker’s hand, which is trying to press them back. “Oh, my,” says Parker in astonishment. “You just, you just happen to have them in your bag?”
“I was meant to see you. What size are you?”
Parker tries hard to say no, as politely as possible. “I don’t like to take anything from a new designer, because you need to sell them,” she explains—“They’re at Intermix!” interjects the British designer—“Oh, good, I can go there, I can find them on my own. Don’t give them away. Give them to people that need them. Don’t give them away to me.”
“I love you and would absolutely die if—”
“I will. I’m happy to purchase them! And much good luck to you.”
“Thank you. Bye.”
“You’re welcome. Nice to meet you. Bye,” Parker says and turns toward me with an arched eyebrow. “All types! Wonderful types here in the city.”
We begin to cross the intersection toward Gourmet Garage, where Parker is planning to pick up some pork chops for dinner. She shops there all the time, she tells me. She worries about her son being such a picky eater, since she and Matthew Broderick love good food: They used to have a regular post-theater Sunday dinner date across the street, at a French restaurant that burned down a few years back. But suddenly, the designer has returned. And this time she won’t take no for an answer. She forces the jeans into Parker’s hand and begs: “It would make my whole entire world.”
“Well, all right,” says Parker finally, giving in, the jeans dangling from her hands like a fish from a hook. “Thank you very much. Don’t get hit—” Because Sarah Jessica Parker’s biggest fan is already running away from us, back into the traffic streaming down Seventh, her hair flying behind her, yelling out a final passionate “I love you!”
It is a famous fact about Sarah Jessica Parker that she is a good girl. She objects to things that are “vulgar.” She uses phrases like “a bee in my bonnet.” She is reflexively prim and has been that way since her teen years—“although prim is not a good word; modest,” clarifies Cynthia Nixon, her co-star on Sex and the City, who got to know Parker when the two were 13, filming a movie of the week in Nashville, back when rolling down a hill outside their hotel seemed like the best fun in the world. (In Nixon’s memory, the actress was a conservative dresser but a master accessorizer: “She would take a different ribbon every day and braid it into her hair.”)
But Parker, now 43, is also a person who knows how to steer her own ship. We meet just after a photo shoot she’s doing in the East Village, in a studio that used to be a gay bathhouse. Parker runs downstairs, having changed from her stilettos into silver flats, and she is so hostesslike, so obliging, it’s almost indecent—full of compliments, her head tilted, touching me on the knee, offering me a drink, literally running off theatrically when she has to go pee. It’s a type of friendliness that might seem over-the-top if it weren’t so disarming. She’s tiny, with enormous blue eyes. She looks her age, but then, so do I.
The last time we’d met, four years ago, it was in a trailer outside Silvercup Studios, where Parker was worrying out loud about Sex and the City’s final episode, parsing the future of Carrie Bradshaw as if she were a real person—could she please her single-girl fans and be happy “on her own terms”? That question seemed to apply to Parker as well. The show she was ending (and it had been her choice, both as star and as executive producer) had transformed her at 35 from a quietly famous person into the sort of celebrity who is as much brand as actress, a fashion magnet who tugs strangers down the street, convinced that Parker will make their entire world.