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PopWatch Confessional: Your most embarrassing celebrity encounter

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Lee Pace
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

The perks of writing about entertainment are numerous: early movie screenings, awards show invitations, getting the chance to interview and rub elbows with artists whose work you truly admire. Of course, there are also a few pitfalls to this profession—particularly when it comes to to that last perk. Cue this week’s PopWatch Confessional question: What’s the most embarrassing encounter you’ve ever had with a celebrity? (We’re counting both encounters that happened in a professional context and chance meetings.)

Tina Jordan, senior editor: I dropped my overstuffed bag in Michael Caine‘s living room at the St. Regis: Pens, lipstick, various snacks, a few magazines, keys, bobby pins, notebooks, band-aids, business cards and the all like rained down on the antique Oriental carpet. I mean, there was a lot of crap. I was about eight months pregnant, so poor Michael Caine—who was very nice—had to get down on his hands and knees for about ten minutes to pick up all my stuff. I was so flustered I almost couldn’t get my tape recorder to work.

Mari Dwyer, senior publicist: One time, I showed Toni Collette to the bathroom at a party, and then, when she was done, asked her how it went. She said “smoothly.”

Breia Brissey, assistant editor: Four years ago at an ABC Family event, I had to interview Melissa Joan Hart. I’m not often starstruck, but when she came up to me I froze. Instead of asking a question, I just stood there and awkwardly said, “Oh my gosh. You’re Clarissa.” Multifaceted embarrassment. Crashing and burning in front of Clarissa Sabrina Melissa? Or geeking out over a show that had been off the air for almost 20 years? Take your pick!

Melissa Maerz, TV critic: I was once at a massive house party at my friend’s place, and Tommy Stinson from the Replacements showed up… only to find a giant poster of Tommy Stinson in my friend’s bedroom.

Hillary Busis, staff editor: When I went to a Patton Oswalt show in 2012, I cut in front of some guy wearing a parka and a knit cap at the box office. (I know, I know—but I was late, and the man was sort of standing off to the side of the ticket window, so I figured I wasn’t being the biggest jerk.) I didn’t realize the gravity of what I had done until the lady at the window turned to the man I’d stepped in front of and said, “This’ll only take a sec, Robin.” It was Robin Williams. I of course sputtered out a horrified apology…and a few days later, I had to face him again on the red carpet for that year’s annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit. I’m still thanking my lucky stars that my childhood idol either didn’t recognize me or was enough of a gentleman not to say anything about how rude I’d been to him.

Esther Zuckerman, staff writer: I was at a premiere party for Portlandia at the American Museum of Natural History when I physically walked into someone. That someone was Questlove. He was very nice about it! I also talked to Vinny from Jersey Shore that night, so it was pretty much an entirely surreal experience.

Michele Romero, photo editor: I was on a shoot with Depeche Mode. The photographer was a hip Danish guy who had on this cool Periodic Table of the Elements t-shirt. The stylist and I told him how much we liked it, and then all three of us went into the bathroom and turned off the lights—because he wanted to show us that the shirt also glowed in the dark. Cue a chorus of “That’s so cool!”s. What we didn’t know was that one of the band members was in a stall working on a problem—until he meekly said, “‘Scuze me, there’s someone in here.” Mortifying.

Ashley Fetters, EW.com news editor: When I was three, I pushed Dan Quayle—the former U.S. Vice President, who had just left office—out of my way at at a Dairy Queen counter in Indiana because I had a token for free ice cream that I was eager to redeem. I’m a little embarrassed in hindsight, but also, priorities.

Jen Kovach, managing art director, tablets: This is incredibly embarrassing—and can I add the disclaimer that it happened years before I started working for an entertainment magazine? Still… the shame. The first year I lived in New York, I was walking through Central Park with a friend when we came across a band playing at Rumsey Playfield for Earth Day. I told my friend, “Hey, that guy on stage lives in my neighborhood! He always stops me to say hi to Jasper!” (Jasper’s my dog.) My friend turned to me slowly and said, “‘That guy’ is Kevin Bacon.”

Isabella Biedenharn, editorial assistant: I was picking up the kids I babysit from preschool, and Paul Bettany came walking up the stairs. As I moved aside to let him pass, I accidentally knocked a bunch of framed pictures off the wall with my awkwardly huge backpack. He didn’t even give me a pity laugh when I tried to make a joke about it.

Andrea Towers, EW Community assistant editor: A few years ago, I broke my cardinal rule of not asking celebrities for personal photos in a press room setting because Stephen Amell was there, and I like pretty people. Apparently, I was super anxious about taking up his time because I couldn’t stop saying “sorry,” even though he was more than kind enough to stop and make some small talk about where I worked. At one point in our conversation, he point-blank asked me, “Are you Canadian? You’re apologizing a lot.” Thankfully, we had already taken our photo, so I could just thank him for his time while feeling more embarrassed.

Kyle Ryan, EW.com editor: In 2010, my then-co-workers and I finished up our limited book tour with a big blowout in Los Angeles, complete with a band and celebrity guests. Among them was the writing team behind several hit movies—let’s call them Joe and Dave. I had booked the show, and I ran tech that night too—bringing guests out, hosting, doing a bit of everything. The whole thing was enormously stressful, but fun—and made more enjoyable by the free PBR that kept appearing. At one point, Joe joked to the crowd how my publication panned all of their movies, which got a big laugh. Cut to the end-of-the-show Q&A with the staff, when someone asked why we interviewed people whose projects we negatively reviewed. I answered that you may like the people but not that specific project, and said that often the person reviewing a project isn’t the same one doing the interview. Buoyed by beer and bonhomie, I added, “I mean, even Joe and Dave would probably say [TITLE REDACTED] isn’t the best movie.” Whoops. The next morning, I woke up hungover to find an email from Dave in my inbox excoriating me—at length—for what I said and vowing never to work with me again. He signed it, “F— you, Dave.” Joe quickly apologized for the message, but Dave is still pissed at me five years later. And I can’t think about the whole thing without a full-body cringe.

Jeff Labrecque, senior writer: After shaking hands with a major Hollywood action star, I joked to a circle of my work colleagues that he was wearing lifts in order to look taller. No one reacted—except for the actor’s publicist, whom I hadn’t noticed standing with us.

Alison Wild, design and photo assistant: So one of my best friends from high school is now a male model—and bless his heart for constantly taking me ‘out on the town’ with his B-list celebrity posse when I was in college. One time in 2011, I went over to his apartment to find him and three people I hadn’t met sitting on his couch chatting. By this point, I’m used to him throwing me into the gauntlet with semi-famous people I don’t know and trusting me not to act like a moron, so I pop a squat next to this handsome guy and try to join in the conversation. Luckily, this guy was unbelievably nice for someone with his face, and asked me tons of questions about me and my life (in the most beautiful, richly sonorous voice, if I may add). By the time I’m wrapping up the story of me getting my wisdom teeth taken out, I realized I needed to pump the brakes and ask this guy about his life. “So what do you do?” I asked. He replied with a chuckle, accompanied by, “Ah, well, I guess you could say I’m an actor of some sort.” Before I could pry for more information, he and the others had to leave. I’m left alone with my best friend laughing at me: “You do know that was Lee Pace, right?” I now have to live with the fact that I asked Ronan the Accuser what he did for a living.