A Hollywood meeting in the Sweet Shop
Let me just come out and say up front that I am unabashedly star-struck. When we’re in New York, and I see an actor I recognize, my husband has to steer me by an elbow as I gape.
There was the time that I pulled a quick 180 in the men’s department at Barney’s to whip around and follow Jerry Seinfeld past the ties and belts, to the fragrance department, where he stopped at a selection of colognes and began to sniff.
I sidled right up to him. “Smell anything good?” I asked.
He took a beat with perfect comic timing, and responded. “Not really.”
And there was the time when I stumbled onto the set of the movie “Home Alone II” and nearly made it into the film. Walking up one of the avenues in Manhattan, I spotted a movie set and pulled another 180 as I moved past the actor Daniel Stern, seated in a makeup chair.
At the corner, I lingered. A kid with a clipboard approached.
“Are you in this scene?” she asked.
I didn’t hesitate an instant. “Yes.”
She directed me into a street scene, where extras portraying a mom with a stroller, a guy with a briefcase and other passers-by were waiting. I took a position and waited with them.
But eventually, another kid came with a clipboard and began counting. One, two, three, four, five. six? She spotted me.
“You’re not in this scene, are you?”
I fessed up and left.
So, when I learned that the actor Tamara Tunie would be in Shepherdstown for the Contemporary American Theater Festival, I had to get face-to-face. Because in addition to being a star-stalker, I am an unabashed “Law and Order” junkie, and she plays Dr. Melinda Warner, the medical examiner in “Law and Order, Special Victims Unit.”
I’m embarrassed to admit how well I know the series. I remember when Dr. Warner was hit by a bullet, when she found a mummified child’s finger, when she shot a guy in the leg, all the DNA tests she’s run and all the secrets she’s discovered on dead bodies. The newshound in me wanted to interview a bonafide television star, but my inner fan was just plain excited.
I got downtown early enough for a quick bite before my 12:30 interview, and ducked into the Shepherdstown Sweet Shop for a Tex-Mex chicken salad sandwich, which is diced chicken in a chili mayonnaise, with pepper jack, cheddar and roasted red peppers on sourdough bread.
The prepared sandwiches and croissants at the Sweet Shop never disappoint; they are always fresh and delicious. Surprising was how flavorful the unsweetened ice tea was.
More than brown water, into which flavors can be injected via lemon or sweetener, it really tasted like tea.
My unread book sat in my lap. I was too distracted to read.
I let myself enjoy the passing street scene: the informal peloton of heavily bearded guys on bicycles; the woman in yoga pants who stopped in for a boule; the stunning woman with long silver hair, wearing flip-flops, who exited the shop with no more than an Orangina; the moms buying cookies for kids; the bus-trip seniors who enjoyed eclairs and hot chocolate.
Now here’s the cool thing: the play in which Tunie will appear, “We Are Here,” was written by Tracy Thorne, who herself has appeared on “Law and Order.” As soon as I saw her, I recognized Joyce Draper, the tragic character whose desire to do the right thing led her down a very wrong path.
While Tunie remains very much an actor, Thorne has evolved from interpreting lines theatrically to writing them. She says she enjoys the control she gets in creating worlds, and likes the solitude a writer enjoys.
Both women were kind and accommodating of my Law and Order addiction, with Tunie exclaiming, “You DO know the show!” when I revealed plot knowledge that only a bonafide wonk would have.
And she even put an arm around me to have a snapshot taken.