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Notes on New York’s Celebrity Infestation

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“The shtick of being a New Yorker is that we don’t care about celebrities,” says Jesse Oxfeld, who was co-­editor of Gawker at the time of the controversy but has since ­parted ways with the site (and subsequently joined New York). “And this entirely belied that. So it offended me a little bit. Because Gawker is supposed to embody a certain Ur–New Yorkerness, which means not being impressed by celebrities. Or, at least, being impressed but knowing enough not to seem impressed.”

As the stars swarm among us, you have to wonder: Are we now destined to become just another L.A., where fawning nobodies hound celebrities, who then escape behind gates and smoked glass? Are Soho penthouses the new Hollywood Hills, where the super-famous retreat to gaze on the milling serfs below, chuckling like feudal lords? Well, no. Heath Ledger’s house hasn’t been thronged by chanting mobs, even though everyone and his dog knows where it is. And now comes the news that Ledger’s bought a $2.3 million modernist box shrouded by trees in Los Angeles, which means there’s even less chance of spotting him on Smith Street. (Not that you care.) Even Gawker Stalker is presented partly tongue-in-cheek, a guilty pleasure that’s heavy on the guilt, its meticulous missives a halfhearted joke about how silly it is to obsess over the whereabouts of Ryan Adams. As for the rest of us, did we ever truly not care? I mean, wouldn’t you have been just as psyched to see Patti Smith in the East Village in the seventies as you are to see Jay-Z today? Or way more so, for that matter?

“I don’t think L.A. and New York are as different as some people make them out to be,” says Michael Imperioli, an oft-sighted Tribeca fixture. “I think it’s more about how people approach you and how they behave—that determines your reaction much more than any difference between L.A. versus New York.” In other words, it’s not that we in New York don’t care but that we know enough to pretend that we don’t care. Which, in essence, is almost as good. You know the drill: Ignore the star as she walks toward you, then start texting all your friends the moment she’s passed you by.

And so, in that spirit, on the following pages, we present our own Star Map, ­strictly Not for Stalking Purposes. It’s simply intended to illustrate the extent to which, in New York, unlike anywhere else in the world, celebrities live among us—truly among us, as our neighbors, if not exactly our peers. In a zoo, the animals and the people aren’t equals, but that doesn’t give either license to poke, prod, taunt, disturb, or pester the other. Rather, they all live in peace, while posing for occasional photos. Then again, what does it matter? After all, we don’t notice the stars.


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