Fifteen minutes of Hollywood fame

Teachers share their encounters with celebrities

Literature teacher Terry Anderson  was caught in the crossfire of paparazzi. Math teacher Colin Anderson dated Tom Hanks’s niece at UC Santa Cruz. Literature teacher Jessica Kaufman rejected James Franco.

Even though it might be tough to imagine teachers having a life outside of school, teachers at MV do not live in a drawer of their desk—they have connections to some of the hottest stars of Hollywood.

“No, I don’t want coffee.”

Kaufman went to UCLA.In the last quarter of her senior year, she found that she had a celebrity for a classmate. He was in three of her four classes that quarter, one of which was “senior seminar,” a small class of 10 to 15 people that focused on Thomas Pynchon’s works that quarter.

“I was running late that morning, late to class,” Kaufman said. “And I was like ‘What are the odds of him being in that class? Probably none.’…I sat down in the only open seat, and I turned to my left and said ‘Hi’ to the person on my left and I turned to my right and I was like ‘Crap!’ I sat right next to him. And he turned and said, ‘Hi, I’m James.’ And I’m like ‘Yeah, I don’t know who you are.’”

She worked with James—James Franco, that is—on a project and exchanged emails, but when Franco asked her to coffee, she said no.

“At the time I was sort of flustered,” she said. “I was like “No, I don’t want coffee.’…[But] he’s really nice, just not really my type of person. Celebrities don’t really faze me too much.”

At the time she met him, she knew who he was. He had just finished Pineapple Express, and she saw him in Spiderman.

“And when I met him,” Kaufman said, “I was like ‘Oh, you’re nothing like what I thought you were.’ He was a lot smarter than I thought he was, and a lot more awkward…He was in the spotlight so often…He should be good with people.”

Talking to him makes it clear that he isn’t as person-savvy as one would think.

“He’s in his own head a lot,” Kaufman said. “When he talks to you, you get the sense that he’s thinking other things in his mind … There’s something he’s trying to get out of you, and like he’s trying to size you up or something.”

So maybe Franco isn’t the greatest person to go out with. When Kaufman taught at Homestead, students went wild. People who she didn’t even know came up to her to ask if she really turned Franco down. She doesn’t care if people know or not.

“He was just a person to me,” Kaufman said.

Ando to Marlon Brando

For Colin, his celebrity encounters were mostly spontaneous, with the exception of a backstage meeting with Journey. He met Mike Tyson at Bellagio and Harrison Ford’s son at a party.

But one thing was not intentional—dating Tom Hanks’s niece. Of course, he didn’t know her connections beforehand.

Although he could never meet Tom Hanks in person, Colin gained a quasi-celebrity status himself.

“[One] student…could connect me to any movie star,” Colin said. “[She would ask,] ‘What’s the connection between Ando and Marlon Brando? Well, Brando is in this movie with so-and-so, so and so is with Tom Hanks, Ando dated Tom Hanks’s niece. So Ando to Marlin Brando is only four steps.’…She was amazingly good at it.”

Colin still wants to see Hanks, though.

“I would like to meet Tom Hanks,” Colin said. “to see how his niece is doing. And Tom Hanks’s son has the same first name as me. I’m not going to take the credit for this, but hey, clearly we’ve got that connection…That could be fun.”

A day in the life

Terry has met a lot of celebrities. She and her husband, an automotive reporter, have been invited to prestigious events like the Producers Guild Awards, movie premiers and after parties. At such events, she has seen George Clooney, Queen Latifah, and Clint Eastwood (who rudely “snubbed” her when she tried to greet him).

When she used to live in Santa Monica, near LA,  her home was a block from the beach and a block from Montana Avenue, a major celebrity hangout. Consequently, she ran into many celebrities without going out of her way to find them. On her first trip out of the house, she ran into Pamela Anderson  a block  from her home; on her birthday, she saw Winona Ryder at an upscale Chinese restaurant.

“I happen to have this incredible talent for spotting them,” Terry Anderson said. “I have really good visual memory so I don’t forget faces … Sort of bizarre, I didn’t even know that I had this sort of ‘gift’ or whatever you want to call it.”
But the experience that changed her the most among her celebrity encounters was most certainly her meeting with Marcia Cross, who played Bree in “Desperate Housewives.”

“I was going for a walk one Sunday afternoon,” Terry said, “and she was coming out of a shop, and I happened to be walking beside her, and the paparazzi was down in front of us. And I’m walking by Marcia Cross and the paparazzi is taking pictures of her…It was just such a weird experience. I sort of had a feeling of what it would be like to be her, to be photographed like that.
So I looked her and said, ‘My Gosh, how do you deal with this all the time? This is so strange…’ [And she replied,]‘Yes, isn’t it? I’m a really normal person. All I do is take care of my kids…I’m really boring. I’m really actually boring!’”

They’re just normal people

“I’m not going to lie,” Terry said of rampant celebrity hypes. “It’s exciting, it’s sort of fun to see them and talk to celebrities…But really, they really are just regular people. And they just have these personas that blow them up out of proportion and turn them into mythical beings.

Even if he has gained fame for who he’s met in his own circles, Colin also thinks the hype over demagogues is unnecessary.

“The attention they get should be for what they do,” Colin said. “Not for who they are. Tom Hanks is a nice guy because you like his movies, you like his acting. Who knows about his political beliefs? Who knows what kind of parent he is? Or what kind of uncle he is…What you see is not really what they are…Some people have to put up an image…to pretend they’re something else for public perception.”

And Terry Anderson believes that those inflated figures serve as a major distraction to society.

“I actually think that people in our culture, the media, distracts the public from more important issues,” Terry Anderson said. “Sort of feeding the public with entertainment news, sensational news that may not be really all that important. And I think that it’s completely intentional…Americans are very shielded and are even pacified by the entertainment news. Sometimes it reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984.”