I was in the bathroom with Scarlett Johansson at Marmalade in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Restaurant and bar staff had deftly fended off the queries of curious patrons–”Is it really her?”–and only one woman had slipped past the velvet curtain separating our quiet, private table from the loud lounge where people came to see and be seen.
In the bathroom, though, all bets were off. The masses know that even celebrities have to pee, and the harpies were lying in wait. Scarlett laughed off the boob comment as I rolled my eyes and muttered “Que sin verguenza” under my breath.
It’s funny how celebrity changes things. If people had seen her at Pueblo, the local supermarket, not knowing it was her, they’d have thought she was a kook–a woman dressed in mismatched clothes, cheap-looking sunglasses, and a camouflage hat buying an inordinate amount of junk food. All she needed was a fanny pack.
The fact that I was with Scarlett was like most things in life: a combination of luck and timing. Friends who owned a guest house asked my husband if he had eight days available in September to offer his private chef services to one of their guests. We were more excited by the prospect of eight days of work than the fact that she was the guest; neither of us has ever been celebrity obsessed.
The week was relatively easy. Scarlett was a laid back, easily satisfied client, thrilled with everything Francisco made. She was down-to-earth, funny, honest, and unpretentious. And she was incredibly gracious… even when people said dumb things about her boobs.
San Juan is a small city. In the weeks following Scarlett’s visit, we were stopped repeatedly in the street by people who wanted to ask questions about her. How did we know her? What was she like? What did she eat? Did we take photos of her? And on and on. People who hadn’t cared one wit about us before were suddenly tripping over themselves to be our friends. If we knew Scarlett–”your friend,” people called her–then who else did we know?
“How do you live like this?” I’d asked Scarlett after the boob remark. “Seriously. We’ve been out for an hour, and I’m going out of my fucking mind. But you live like this.”
“Yeah,” she said. “I just try to be nice.”
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