Barbara Streisand, Steve Martin, and Other NYC Celebrity Sightings

Published: September 14, 2023
Category: Stories

I remember precisely when I vowed to make the Big Apple my home. During a sleep-over excursion at my beloved Grandma Faye’s apartment in New York City when I was 10 years old, I laid wide awake in bed, transfixed by a cacophony of blaring horns, car radios, and sirens coming from the streets below. This other-worldly symphonic street noise was radically different from the sleepy suburban environment of my childhood home in New Jersey. My Grandma Faye was deaf and, the next morning over scrambled eggs I regaled her in sign language with all the excitement that transpired under her enormous bedroom windows on the corner of Broadway and West 106th Street. In quintessential New Yorker fashion, I vowed then and there at Grandma Faye’s breakfast table that someday I would live in New York City. 

For the next decade and a half, however, I had to settle for frequent visits. When we embarked on frequent family outings to the Big Apple from New Jersey it was always a thrill to traverse the 12 miles that delineated these two alternative universes. Even the drive to the city was a thrill. As we approached the George Washington Bridge, my brother Gary and I would start the countdown: “Ten,” dramatic pause … “Nine,” dramatic pause … “Eight,” dramatic pause … “Seven,” dramatic pause … “Six,” dramatic pause … Slowing down or speeding up until we arrived at the sign announcing our arrival in New York State. “Five, four, three, two, one! Goodbye New Jersey! Helloooooooooo New York!” We always wondered who had actually calculated the precise place in the middle of the Hudson River where the water changed into a brand-new state. As a child, it had been thrilling to think of the cartographers mapping out the exact location.

My dream came true when I graduated college and attended graduate school at Columbia University just 10 blocks north of my Grandma Faye’s apartment. I met my husband Jacob at a B-School party where I asked him to dance, only to discover that we were neighbors diagonally across the hall from each other, yet we had never met. 

Eighteen months later, when we were newlyweds, our first apartment was three blocks north of actor Barbra Streisand’s penthouse duplex. And our first child was a feisty swish terrier named Maxie. Jacob and I took turns walking her, depending on who got home from work first. One lucky night when it was my turn, I suddenly saw the longest black stretch limousine I’d ever seen waiting in front of the Ardsley Building. I knew many of the doormen by name since Maxie had the adorable habit of dashing over to them to get a biscuit or a scratch behind her ears.

Joseph, the doorman, gave me a knowing smile and said, “I have a surprise for you!” I knew exactly what he meant before he continued, “She’s upstairs.” 

Dinner would wait because I was not going to miss my chance. This was in the 1990s, way before cell phones were a permanent appendage to our bodies, so I didn’t have anything with which to play amateur paparazzi. 

About 90 minutes later, Joseph discreetly said “Get ready…”

The elevator doors opened and Barbra swept through the lobby wearing a navy blue wool dress with matching coat and blue beret, navy stockings and navy pumps. Her hair was magnificent, her makeup perfect, and she looked like a true movie star in a time long before TikTok stars or reality show personalities burst on the scene moments before flaming out. Here’s the cool part: Barbra paused directly in front of me, smiled at me while gazing at Maxie and said, “Cute dog!” Then Jon Peters, her beau at the time, held open the limo door and they sped away to some place for an exotic evening. The whole encounter transpired in less than 20 seconds however the magic and allure stayed with me for years.

When I was 15 years old, my parents and I were walking on the Upper West Side following  dinner with Grandma Faye. As we waited for the traffic light to change at the crosswalk, I looked over and was shocked to find that writer, activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel was standing next to us on the sidewalk. I knew I had to seize the moment and say something to this man who had done so much for humankind. 

I took a deep breath and said, “Mr. Weisel …” But, as he looked at me, I got choked up with emotion of meeting such an outstanding humanitarian. I managed to continue. “Thank you for sharing your voice and your story to teach us to remember what happened and to inspire us to make sure that it never happens again.” 

He smiled and took my hand and said, “Thank you for saying that.”  

Thanks to the successful New York City Office of Film and Television, many movies and television shows are filmed in my neighborhood including “Law and Order” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Of course, there’s that famous bookstore from “When Harry Met Sally,” as well. When I was getting my MBA at Columbia University I watched Bill Murray and Dan Aykroid film several scenes from “Ghostbusters.” And then there was the time I sat at the table next to Steve Martin, trying to be cool and let him enjoy his popover and salad with his companion. These days, hordes of people line up outside the Belnord, a stately pre-war building at the corner of Broadway and 86th Street just three blocks west of my apartment. Day and night, tourists are snapping selfies in front of the majestic iron gates to snag a souvenir from this building which is the location of Hulu’s hit show  “Only Murders in the Building” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. 

Most of the time, I pride myself as a quintessential New Yorker who’s seen it all in this city, but I still can’t help getting a thrill from celebrity sightings.

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