Close encounters (of the celebrity kind)

Actor Mickey Rourke and one his beloved dogs

Spend a decent amount of time in Manhattan, you’ll encounter celebrities — they’re everywhere, and there’s so many of them around that you probably spot only a small percentage of the famous and sort-of-famous in your midst.

They could be sitting at a table in the same restaurant where you’re being revived by paramedics after you look at the wine list and go into fiscaleptic shock. They might be standing next to you at MOMA as the two of you admire one of the Pollocks or Monets. They might be slumped in back of in one of the fifty cabs that pass you by with their OCCUPIED light turned on. They might be sitting next to you at that Broadway show (they’ll be the ones wearing the dark sun glasses in a dark theater unless you’re sitting in the balcony or you’re at “The Lion King” or “Jersey Boys” — they won’t be there and the guy with the sun glasses is probably a potential serial killer visiting from Nebraska or upstate New York).

I’ve encountered more than my share of celebrities in Manhattan. I once saw John Belushi hop out of a limo on Greenwich Avenue, run into a pharmacy, then jump back into the limo. I heard and watched Woody Allen and Diane Keaton outside a movie theater as they argued about where to go for dinner — he wanted to go to the Russian Tea Room; she wanted to go somewhere else for a change. I sat behind frizzy-haired film critic Gene Shalitt at a showing of the Scorcese documentary “The Last Waltz” soon after it opened. I once saw Telly Savalas walking in midtown, a gorgeous young woman on each arm. I think I once encountered Patti Smith in Chelsea. I saw Allen Ginsberg on the subway. I once literally bumped into Stevie Wonder outside a jazz club.

Wait, there’s more! A couple of weekends ago, my companion and I were walking on the fringes of the West Village, heading to dinner with friends at a restaurant off Bleecker Street. A man was walking toward us with four small dogs on leashes, the leashes in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Another man came from the other direction, walking one small dog. Dogs being dogs, they all got excited, and in the excitement, in the tangle of dogs and leashes, one of the first man’s four dogs got loose. The other guy managed to grab the stray pooch. My companion held the first man’s three other dogs – and his cup of coffee — while he got his runaway’s collar reattached to the leash.

The rugged-looking fellow with the four dogs? We’re pretty certain it was actor Mickey Rourke. He loves dogs. He reportedly lives in that neighborhood. And if that guy wasn’t Mickey Rourke, then we had just encountered walking, talking evidence that the government has been conducted cloning experiments — and one of their first successful clones was a copy of Mickey Rourke, this following botched cloning experiments which spawned Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, George Bush the Younger and, of course, Gary Busey.

The coolest thing about encountering celebrities in the city? It’s when you’re cool about it. Little dog back on his leash, there was no “Aren’t you…?!” from us. Leashes and coffee cup were returned to their rightful owner. “Thanks” and “No problem” were exchanged. We headed off to dinner. He kept walking his dogs and drinking his coffee. New York, New York…it’s a wonderful town.

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