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What is proper etiquette when bumping into a celebrity

Melissa Leonard has been wowing clients and readers over the past few years with her fun and dynamic approach to the often perceived 'stuffy' world of etiquette. After having two children (well-behaved, of course!), Melissa took her inno...

OMG! Can I have your autograph?

Say you're in Los Angeles visiting family and you happen to find yourself at a Pinkberry or Starbucks. You're waiting patiently in line when you realize that you vaguely recognize the girl standing behind you. And then it hits you: You don't actually know her -- you just saw her in the latest hit movie! It's so out of context, your brain needed a minute to make the connection. So... what now?
OMG! Can I have your autograph?

Your question:

"What is acceptable behavior when bumping into a celebrity in a restaurant or at the airport? If they're out in public, does that mean its okay to ask for an autograph or a photo?"

The expert answers:

Remember, celebrities are the same as everyone else in the sense that they are members of the community, may have families and have a job. The only difference is that job is often seen at the movies, on stage, on television or in the gossip pages of popular magazines.OMG! Can I have your autograph?So before you go over and start hounding someone famous for an autograph, stop and think before you act. Remember, they are there for the same reason you are: to grocery shop, watch their child try to score a goal at a soccer game or to eat dinner -- they're not walking the red carpet to promote their celeb status.No matter what the situation, there has to be common sense. If you see a celebrity on their cell phone or dining out at a restaurant -- just try to imagine how you would feel if someone came up to your table and started bugging you. That's what you might actually be doing if you gush, ask for an autograph or try to initiate a conversation with someone who is actually a total stranger. (See Sharon Stone at right, eating lunch with a friend. She doesn't look like she's hoping someone will some interrupt her meal.)There is a time and place for everything. Personally, I would not approach a celebrity when they are eating dinner or engaged in conversation. Don't stare or hover expectantly nearby, either -- that can be very disconcerting.If the opportunity arises and you both are scanning the pasta shelves, or you are standing next to Orlando Bloom at the restaurant bar (thus, the timing is right), etiquette dictates that it is perfectly acceptable to go over, say hello, express your admiration of his or her work or shake hands -- but don't be overly "stalker-ish." Keep it short and sweet!

To speak or not to speak?

The stars are aligned (no pun intended) and there you are -- face to face with Tim Robbins. What do you do? As much as you would like to give him a great big bear hug for his awesome performance in "Mystic River" or "The Shawshank Redemption," keep it to a handshake. OMG! Can I have your autograph?With the five seconds you have to make that decision before your opportunity passes, use your common sense. (And screaming and grabbing are always out of the question.)

When can you walk up to say hi?

Timing is everything. If you see Glenn Close walking into the ladies room stall, certainly now is not the time to follow her in and tell her how much you admired her role in "Fatal Attraction" and to ask her what she felt was the hidden meaning of the film -- she is liable to dial 911 for your potentially fatal attraction.Likewise, if other fans have surrounded Robert DeNiro on the street, it's best not to add to the mayhem by frantically yelling his name over and over. And especially if there are a bunch of people there, don't block the star's way in or out by adding yourself to the human barrier. Just be satisfied to know you were there by taking a quick cell phone pic of him in the midst of the crowd.

Be normal, be nice

Finally, whether or not you approach the star, remember your manners. Don't stare. Don't take it personally if they don't want to sign autographs or pose for a picture. Say "Thanks!" when they are able to take the time to sign something for you or stand still long enough for you to snap a photo. Let them get on with their lives, as you get on with yours -- and know that now you have a great memory and something cool to brag about to your friends.

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