This past week, I was working in Los Angeles again, and this was a particularly interesting trip. Besides having had several productive sessions with clients and a chance to catch up with our Californian counterparts, I was all atwitter about getting a sneak glimpse at a warehouse full of an upcoming car model. I just now found out, though, that pictures of it have been on the ‘net for a month. So much for that bit of excitement.

My boss had generously upgraded me and our other coworkers to business class on the return flight. He had some extra certificates to use up, and I had used up all the leg and elbow room in economy class on the outbound leg, so it was win-win. We agreed to meet at the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge at LAX after we checked in.

I was the first to get there, so I proceeded to the coffee counter. As I was stirring cream and sugar into my brew, I heard a familiar deep voice behind me. I turned to look and found myself next to none other than Mr. Sylvester Stallone. Yes indeed, Rocky, Rambo and Judge Dredd himself was getting a coffee too.

I did my best not to stare as I found a place to sit and sip. Sly and his lovely wife Jennifer Flavin went to their table. When my coworkers arrived, they didn’t notice the celebrities in our midst at first, so I subtly wrote on my pad of paper: “Sylvester Stallone is by the window”. At first they thought I was writing a joke and were expecting me to explain or write down a punchline, but they eventually turned and saw what I was talking about.

“I thought you might be interested to know,” I shrugged as they turned back to me, duly impressed.

They started doing their best to not stare too.

Anyway, we left to board the plane and took our seats. (Sidebar: I gotta say “riding at the front” is sooo much better than steerage. You know the fresh-baked cookies whose aroma mockingly wafts through the whole plane when you fly Air Canada? We actually got to eat them, along with a serving of Häagen-Dazs.) The seats across the aisle from where my colleague and I were sitting sat empty until the very last minute, at which point you-know-who and his partner got on the plane and filled them. Sly wore big movie-star shades, perhaps to make himself less recognizable to other travelers. I don’t know about you guys, though, but when I see someone wearing movie-star shades inside an airplane, the first thing I do is try to figure out which movie star I’ve just seen.

The five-hour flight was spent chatting with my coworker, and occasionally catching a glance at our famous row-mates over her shoulder. Sly had donned reading glasses to peruse a paperback, as Jennifer reviewed a screenplay. In my efforts to NOT STARE, though, I didn’t catch the titles of their respective reading material. When we landed and stopped taxiing, Sly jumped out of his seat and headed for the lavatory.

“Aha!” I thought to myself. “That’s how celebrities avoid getting bothered at the airport. They hide in the washroom until everyone has left the plane, and depart unnoticed.” My clever bit of deduction was proven silly when he returned to his seat a few moments later. The guy just had to go.

What usually happens when the “fasten seat belts” light goes off is:

  1. Everyone lunges for the aisle and grabs their bag out of the overhead;
  2. Passengers who’ve done this are now packed into the aisle like sardines until the door opens, about five minutes of flight attendant “cross-checking” later.

I’m not usually one who participates in this sort of thing, but earlier, I had been forced to stash my laptop bag across the aisle, and I wanted to reach it sooner than later. Of course, my plan didn’t work, because I couldn’t move with everyone else standing up at the same time. Stuck.

I heard humming behind me, the kind of tuneless dum-dee-dum humming that you might hear from someone who is bored, or perhaps packed awkwardly into an airplane aisle dense with people. By now, there was no doubt about that voice, and I figured it’s not every day you find yourself uncomfortably close to a big movie star, needing to break the ice somehow. So I made smalltalk.

“Are you in Toronto shooting a film?” I asked.

“Not yet,” Sylvester Stallone replied, “I might. I’m just checking it out. Is there a lot of film work happening up here?”

“A fair bit,” I replied. I kinda know this, having a few acquaintances in the biz. “It’s better than the last few years.”

I paused.

“You know, I’m going to have to go out and rent all your movies now,” I grinned.

“Ha! Make sure you get your money back if you do,” Sly laughed.

Then the doors opened, we left the plane, and an Air Canada VIP greeter whisked the VIPs away.

My coworkers and I met the famous folk again at the baggage carousel, as the VIP lady apologetically explained to her charges that it was odd that the non-priority luggage was coming off the plane first. (I just find it odd that the rich and fabulous fly Air Canada in the first place.)

By this time, Jennifer was fielding offers for distributorship of her skin-care products and Sylvester was signing autographs for other passengers who had spotted him. He had turned down earlier requests for this by some Air Canada maintenance workers, but I suspect he tolerated them now because he had time to kill. He then got on his phone and started talking about what sounded like film stuff, using a fair bit of colorful language. Of course, I caught only snippets because I was being so subtle.

So that’s my closest brush with stardom to date. (The second closest was about a dozen years ago when Colin James spattered gold ink all over his shirt when I asked him to sign my guitar with a paint pen you had to shake. With the cap on.)

The fact that I’m making such a big deal of this is sort of pathetic, I admit. I’m not one who tracks the stars, so to speak, and in fact, I have been known to regard such pastimes with disdain. Stars are just people, after all. But I guess I’m as vulnerable as anyone else to being star struck.

Sheesh. I hope writing about the experience got it out of my system.