Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sorry, Susan...

Columnist says he didn't mean to worry Hollywood star downtown

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SOME things are just meant to be. So it was that I picked up Monday's paper to see movie writer Randall King's lessons on how to behave in the presence of fame.

As fate would have it, the day before Randall's guide appeared, I saw Susan Sarandon in the famous flesh.

We had an unscheduled lunch together at Stella's, the funky Osborne Street bakery and cafe. "We" being me and everyone else who can boast they were there when she walked in.

A few minutes earlier Sarandon had been spotted strolling along Corydon Avenue with a male shopping companion, a short, happy-faced man who was still with her.

Even dressed down with her hair up and dark glasses on you couldn't miss Susan Sarandon. She was a wearing a fitted jean jacket over a black short-sleeved shirt, grey jersey-flared pants and black-and-white Nike sneakers, carrying a tan-coloured bag.

Not that I was staring.

"Don't stare, it's rude," was one of Randall's rules.

But since I hadn't seen his list yet, I had to make up my own.

Coincidentally, "Don't stare," was No. 3 on my own Top Three List of Things Not To Do When You See Someone Famous. Although, after staring at her screen image for so many years, old habits are hard to break.

So I amended the rule.

Stare discreetly if you must.

Just don't gawk.

I was glancing -- not gawking -- when Sarandon took her place in line with a bubbly blond woman who began breaking rules I hadn't even thought of by loudly insisting that the actress take her place at the front of the queue.

Eventually Sarandon sat down at a window table for two, which was two tables away from us. That's when I noticed the couple at the table closest to Sarandon.

Felicity Chappell is the director of employee relations at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, and her husband, Sonny Solmundson, is a retired Westwood Collegiate math teacher.

"Welcome to Winnipeg," Felicity said when Sarandon sat down.

But only after the actress smiled at her.

"Thank you," Sarandon said.

Then Felicity and Sonny sat back and did what I did.

Waited to see if anyone would actually break the No. 1 "Don't" rule.

We didn't have to wait long.

A dark-haired young woman walked right up to Sarandon's table, smiled, said something I couldn't hear, and quickly left.

Very bad form.

Shortly thereafter Sarandon left for the washroom, and her companion -- who turned out to be a wig specialist working on Sarandon's movie Shall We Dance -- turned to talk to Sonny and Felicity.

He asked where he could find a Ukrainian or Polish bakery.

The North End, they suggested. But Felicity made a list of some other places -- Bread & Circuses, Tall Grass Prairie, Mona Lisa -- and when Sarandon was leaving, Felicity handed it to her companion.

"They were very gracious," Felicity recalled later.

"I think it was really neat that she was out walking around Winnipeg."

Our little story of my almost-lunch with Susan Sarandon might have ended there had it not been for something that happened two hours later.

My wife and I had driven downtown to look around, eventually ending up at The Loch Gallery display in the concourse directly beneath The Fairmont.

We had just arrived when I heard someone approaching in the all-but empty concourse.

It was them.

"Are you following us," I asked Susan Sarandon with as ironic an intonation as I could manage on such short notice.

Silence.

"We saw you at Stella's," I quickly added.

"Did you walk or drive?" Sarandon asked as she got closer.

We had driven downtown but what did that matter?

Then I got an uneasy feeling.

Was she thinking that we had followed her?

"We were just looking at a painting," I tried to reassure her.

"Very nice," Sarandon said, as she kept walking.

I watched as she climbed on the escalator to the hotel lobby.

And looked back at us.

By that time Sarandon had slipped on her dark glasses.

I felt terrible.

Inadvertently -- just by treating Susan Sarandon as I would anyone else I'd seen twice in the same day -- I had made her uncomfortable. And, in the process, broken my own Rule No. 2 of Things Not To Do When You See Someone Famous.

I had spoken before being spoken to.

Susan, if you're reading -- please accept my sincere apology.

Maybe, you know, I could make it up to you.

How about lunch?

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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