They might or might not be “just like us,” but in Orange County they certainly walk among us. We’ve gathered stories from locals and ex-pats about their most memorable run-ins with famous folks.
I was waiting for my sister to finish up her hair appointment at Crystal Cove. My mom and I were in the front waiting room when I looked outside the window and mid-conversation blurted, “Oh, my god, that’s Selena Gomez!” I recognized her immediately as “Wizards of Waverly Place” was my sister’s favorite TV show growing up. I didn’t believe myself at first, and neither did my mom. But as I kept repeating “It’s her” over and over again, my mom worked up the nerve to go and see if it was her. It was. Selena was nice enough to take a photo with my mom. My sister was so mad that she’d missed the whole thing.
—Meg Williams, Laguna Beach
We were sitting at Coke Corner (at Disneyland) when we saw Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale getting some food from the corn dog cart. Her little boy waved to my little girl, who waved back. They were both around 5 or 6 years old at the time. We smiled aat Gwen as they walked by us, and she smiled at us with a knowing “Thank you for not bothering us” look. They walked to the back of Coke Corner to sit down and eat. No one bugged them while they walked by. But the cool part was about a minute later, when Mickey and Aladdin walked through Coke Corner to get backstage. They were rushed, and everyone was cheering for them. I thought to myself, “Isn’t it cool that someone big like Gwen Stefani can come to Disneyland, not be bothered, and it’s Mickey who is the real star of the show?”
—David T., Fallbrook
I saw Alice Cooper at Fashion Island. He was walking with his wife, and he looked normal and almost preppy with a polo shirt on. I turned around to see a store behind me, and that’s when I spotted him. I was going to say “School’s out!” but I just slowed down and smiled as he walked in front of me. I almost didn’t recognize him, but my dad loves his music so even without all the makeup I could tell it was him 100 percent!
—Tanya McLaughlin, Huntington Beach
It was just another normal day at Disney California Adventure. I was (working) backstage at the Grad Nite entrance. I heard over the radio that we had a VIP group coming our way. As we got the last group of kids in through the entrance, I looked over my shoulder and noticed a large group with some actors and actresses, but the one who stood out was David Tennant. I started to fangirl, even though he wasn’t my favorite doctor from “Doctor Who.” While I was freaking out, I blurted out, “Holy shit, it’s David Tennant!” Knowing that we as cast members can’t talk to them, I quickly realized that I’d messed up. After I said it, all I heard was, “Yes, that’s me. Who said my name?” I slowly turned around and waved to him so awkwardly that I felt embarrassed to even be near him. The whole group then walked by, and I knew that I had to play it cool. After they left, I let out a huge sigh of relief.
—Amador Rios, Anaheim
My husband and I saw Harrison Ford incognito walking around downtown Laguna Beach. He was wearing a baseball hat and mechanic’s jumpsuit, but it was clearly him! We couldn’t believe our eyes!
—Mary Madigan, Yorba Linda
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set up his office in our building in Newport Beach. We would see him a few times a week. He’s insanely tall and would walk like a 90-year-old. Very quiet when we did see him, but nice. When they moved out, they wanted to sell a lot of the memorabilia they had, so they sent flyers to the other tenants. Pretty cool. They had so much stuff—lots of Kareem’s personal stuff and lots of gifts from other famous athletes. They were even selling autographed Lakers benches.
—Adrianne B., Newport Beach
About 14 years ago, I was biking back from a late shift at work. It was around 11 p.m., and it was very dark. I saw a guy on the passenger side of a car that looked fancy, pulling something from it. He waved trying to stop me. I wasn’t going too fast, and I didn’t feel I had anything worth stealing, so I stopped. The guy, looking puzzled, asked me, “Do you know where the 405 is?” I just pointed behind me and said, “It’s back there.” Somehow, he looked familiar and I asked him, “You look familiar. Are you famous?” His answer: “I used to be!” and he chuckled. Then it hit me: the hair, the profile, the voice. I exclaimed, “Oh, my god! You’re Eric Estrada!” He just smiled and let me take a photo with him on my crappy flip phone. The part that I find funniest from this is that Ponch didn’t know where the 405 was.
—Héctor González Hernández, Costa Mesa
Jodie Sweetin from “Full House” was in my Spanish class at Chapman (University). Everyone recognized her but no one acknowledged it. There was one day when we had to go around the class and say in Spanish what our favorite show was growing up. All the students were daring each other to say “Full House.” No one did it.
—Stacy B., Tustin
I was at my friend’s funeral. I knew that her dad and my dad had a lot of the same friends and played rugby together. I recognized one of the men getting food and thought he was my dad’s friend. So I went over to him and said, “Hi, how are you? I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Mike’s daughter.” The man had no idea who I was but said, “Hi, it’s nice to see you.” As soon as I heard his voice, I realized he was not my dad’s friend. I knew him from TV, and he was JK Simmons the actor—you know, Farmers Insurance, Juno’s dad. Super famous. It was the most inappropriate timing.
—Samantha Haskin, Huntington Beach
The rapper T-Pain was playing at The Observatory, and his team reached out to us because they were looking for a place for him to have a drink before the show. He came in, and he was super mellow and casual—you wouldn’t even recognize him because he’s so chill. It was just him and a friend. And he’s been back a couple of times since then, any time he has a show in the area. We ended up making a cocktail for him that we put on the menu. It’s called the T’ease Your Pain, and it’s made with Pine XO cognac, pineapple juice, and lemon juice.
—Marin Von Blom, co-owner of Arc in Costa Mesa
Years ago, I was at Montage Laguna Beach and my three daughters were playing in the water. I noticed a man standing near but didn’t think anything of it as I walked closer to talk to one of (my girls). The man asked me if the three girls in the water were my daughters. I turned to say yes and recognized him as Richard Gere. He told me it looked like the three of them were having so much fun, and it made him miss his son. He mentioned he was in Laguna taking a break from work, but a phone call interrupted our conversation. One of the coolest celebrity encounters I’ve had while living in California.
—Janine Williams, Laguna Beach
This was back in ’91 or ’92, probably. I was at dinner with my then-girlfriend and her father at Tony Roma’s in Fullerton—used to be on Harbor and Orangethorpe. There was suddenly some activity near the entrance, and I see the manager-looking lady all smiles leading someone through the restaurant to sit down. And she leads this old guy to the table right beside ours. He sits down beside me and I glance over, and it’s Tommy Lasorda. He looks over and smiles to me. I nod back and say hello This is back when he was doing the Slim-Fast commercials. I think he ordered a grilled chicken breast or something. I remember some guy ran down the street to Sportmart to buy a baseball Tommy could sign. He ran back all out of breath with a new baseball, and the sod was wearing a freaking Cubs T-shirt.
—Andy K., Placentia
In the spring of 1981, I was in my junior year at Cal State Fullerton when I joined the Delta Chi fraternity. As a pledge, we were required to meet with at least 15 active members and also study the values, history, and all sorts of trivial details of the fraternity because at the end of the pledge semester, we would be tested and could be asked anything in order to qualify to be a member.
I had heard that one of our alumni brothers was an aspiring actor and had a couple of movies under his belt and that he would attend the formal initiation night. His name: Kevin Costner. It really didn’t mean much then because he wasn’t a big star yet.
Fast-forward to initiation night: Costner was there, and he was my interrogator. Sworn to secrecy, I cannot reveal the details, but I can say that he was very convincing that I had better get the answer to his question correct. He asked me if I had the required number of deep, “meaningful” interviews with members of the fraternity. I confidently said, “Yes” but I was thinking, “How meaningful?” Then he moved on to the big question.
“Are you ready for your question?” he asked. I had crammed like it was a final exam! I said, “As ready as I’ll ever be.” Then after much anticipation and heart pounding … it was a no-brainer! The easy question was designed to throw me off, but I didn’t want to jump at it. I paused to think and declared my answer. After a few perfect moments of silence for effect, he gave me a big smile, held out his hand, and said, “Congratulations, you passed!”
Thirty-six years later, my wife and I were on our 29th anniversary weekend trip in Montecito at a nice restaurant. As I sat down, I noticed Costner and his wife sitting directly behind my wife. We couldn’t help but hear his now-famous voice. I waited until they got up to leave and as he walked toward me, I delivered the opening line to our secret dialog, “Do you know (confidential)?” He skipped the formal secret dialog and simply responded with a smile and said, “Yes, I do. Which college?” I then told him Cal State Fullerton and that he was my interrogator and blah, blah, blah. We spoke for a few minutes. He congratulated us on our anniversary and introduced us to his wife (Christine Baumgartner) who also went to Fullerton but in a different decade. He was down to earth, easy to talk to, and sincere. It was truly a great experience.
—Kevin R., Huntington Beach
When I walked in to pick up my dry cleaning at a place in Newport Beach, there was a man at the counter having a discussion with the worker about the high cost of his dry cleaning. He turned around and looked at me and asked if I agreed this cleaner was too expensive. I replied that I always use coupons printed on the back of the receipt from the grocery store. I had a couple in my pocket, so I gave him one. I helped Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, save $2 on his dry cleaning bill.
—Sue B., Irvine
I met David Sedaris at the Barclay when I was pregnant with my twins. He was obsessed with my belly (it was pretty big). He asked me if I knew the sex of the babies, and I told him I was having a boy and a girl. He asked me if he could name them—I was caught off guard, but I love him so much that I just nodded my head. He thought about it for a minute and said, “I’m going to name the boy Jolly, and the girl Sister!” Then he reached for a bag nearby on the ground and mumbled something about stealing the lotion from the hotel he was staying at because it was really good, and then he pulled this hotel lotion out of his bag and gave it to me and told me to use it on my belly! It was totally random, but before the twins were Lennon and Lara, they were Jolly and Sister!
—Mona Shah, Santa Ana
Several years ago on a busy Saturday night, I was managing a bar in the Newport Beach area. A guy comes to the front door of the bar. My security guy calls me up.
“This guy says that he has Justin Bieber in that SUV, and they want to come straight in. He also wants to know if we have a VIP area we can put him in.”
“Psshh! Sure, he does. OK, if he really has Bieber, then let him in. Stick him up front; he can have that area to himself.” The bar in question has a bottleneck in the front corner, easy to close off to others.
My security and Bieber’s security chat about it, and the next thing we know, there he is in the front corner of the bar. It was so smooth, only the front door guy and a few of the bartenders know he’s even there. Whew!
But there is no way this is going to end well. OK, time to go check on him. WHAT?! He’s smoking a cigarette.
“He can’t smoke a cigarette inside,” I say to the lead bartender.
“I’m not going to tell him. You’re the manager,” he retorts.
“Touché,” I reply and make my way over behind the bar.
“What’s up, bro?”
“Sorry to do this to you, but you can’t smoke inside bars in California. I gotta ask you to put that out.”
“Ohhhh,” he says, taking another drag.
I hand him a glass. “You can put it out in here. Thanks, man, appreciate it.”
Whew! That went smooth, and he was very nice. OK! We got that out of the way. What? What’s that? He has to go to the bathroom? You mean the bathroom that is beyond 200 feet of crammed-in people who don’t know that he’s here yet? On the opposite side of the building? OK, sure. This is going to be awesome.
They start moving through the crowd, and his security is surrounding him. Passing by me. Halfway there. Then it happens. Some customer recognizes him, and instead of acting like a human, he grabs Bieber’s arm and all hell breaks loose. People are grabbing people. Grabbing his security, my security. His security is grabbing my security. And here I come running.
“Everybody hold on a second!”
One of my security guys didn’t know who he was holding. Oops, I should have told him.
OK. Nobody hurt. Everything defused. Nobody angry. And he makes it to the bathroom. Whew!
But everyone knows he’s here now. He comes out of the bathroom, and 200 people collectively lose their minds at the same time. Grown men are screaming like little girls. People are climbing on furniture. “Hey! Get off the chairs! Were you raised in a barn?!” Everyone’s trying to take photos in the super-dark bar.
His security is pro. They cut through the crowd like it isn’t even there. In a few seconds, he’s back in his little safety area at the front of the bar.
Wow! For how wild that was for a couple of seconds, we managed to get out of that without something scandalous happening. Relief!
Wait, what??? I already told him he can’t smoke in the bar. I make my way back over, “Hey, Justin, I told you earlier, you can’t smoke in here.”
“Oh, sorry about that.”
He just goes straight back to smoking his cigarette.
Normally, that would be enough for me to lose my mind and kick someone out, but I also don’t want to end up on TMZ. What to do? What time is it? 1:30 a.m.
The lights go up. We kick everyone out quicker than usual—everyone but his entourage. They wait around until just before 2 a.m. (Bieber lets a few employees take pictures with him), and then they rush him through the little bit of crowd that’s left and into his SUV.
On a closing note, his security people were super professional and polite, which is incredibly appreciated. Despite the cigarette thing, he was very polite, too. Overall, it was a good experience. Ten of out 10 would not do it again.
—Dan Noon, Costa Mesa
I work for an auctioning company, and I checked in Curtis Stone, the Australian chef, at a charity auction at Montage. I could tell he looked familiar. Later I realized who he was and that it was one of his charities, No Kid Hungry. He auctioned a personal barbecue for 30 people that went for $15,000! He did some autographs after, too. He’s a very kindhearted guy. Once I got to talk to him, he was already irritated at the person who spoke to him before—they were drunk and rude—so he wasn’t in a talking mood anymore.
—Allison P., Mission Viejo
I interned for the movie “Brick” (2005). It was shot at my high school and various places around San Clemente. Working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a pleasure; he is a really nice guy. While filming a shot of him lying on the ground, the cameraman accidentally raised the camera too high and hit the film canister on the roof. The canister unlatched from the camera and nearly hit Joseph in the face. He actually took it really well; I can imagine that most actors/actresses would get very pissed in this situation.
—Zack Schiffelbein, San Clemente
I got a call at my gym, Evolve Personalized Fitness, from a guy who said he was representing Mike Tyson. (Tyson) wanted to come use the gym later when it wasn’t too busy. So they came in at noon, and he wrote his name in the register and I said, “It’s $10 for a guest pass.” And the guy who had called paid for Mike Tyson. All he did was walk on the treadmill, and he didn’t talk to anybody. There were like seven people around and everyone was like, “Is that … Mike Tyson?” At some point, he used the bathroom and went back to walking on the treadmill and then left.
—Megan Czuchra, Dana Point
When I was a kid at summer camp in Irvine, we spent a day at the Aquarium of the Pacific. There was a movie being filmed outside, so we stopped to watch. I waved to Will Ferrell between takes. I was sitting on a hill next to (I believe) the producer and asked him the name of the movie. He said they were undecided at the time. Realized years later they were filming the first “Anchorman.” It was the scene where the actors are yelling in the alleyway and (Ferrell) says, “You leave my mother out of this” and they start throwing punches.
—Kayla Ashtiani, Lake Forest
Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning
“Eleven-time World Surfing Champion Kelly Slater and three-time World Champion Mick Fanning both frequent Outpost Kitchen almost as much as they frequent Orange County’s best surf spots. I’ve bonded with them over their love for healthier living and the Australian coastline, which is renowned for some of the best surf breaks on the planet.”
—Jay Lewis, owner of Outpost Kitchen
A friend and I were in Anaheim for Blizzcon ’08, and Felicia Day had been there with her castmates from “The Guild.” We were out enjoying the town and ran into them outside Bubba Gump Shrimp. I was gushing to her about how I loved “The Guild” and her stint on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She was super nice, down to earth, and very kind to us. She even let me get a picture with her.
—Ryan M., Phoenix
Back in the early 2000s, I took my girlfriend to Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Irvine for dinner. I had reservations and just as they started walking us to our table, Dexter Holland from The Offspring walks in and they totally sat us back down and gave him our table. What’s worse is I am a jet mechanic by trade and shortly after that his CitationJet came rolling into my hangar. Of all people, I had the honor—pfft—of fixing it.
—Stephen P., Irvine
Ed Begley Jr.
I once served Ed Begley Jr. when I worked at a Pei Wei in Newport Beach. He seemed to be in a business meeting, and he was very nice and friendly. I think I helped him pick out which dish to order. I had recognized him but couldn’t recall his name. I had most recently seen him in “Pineapple Express” so I IMDB’d the movie and told my manager, who had me bring him a complimentary order of edamame.
—Shari B., Vancouver, Washington