Take a walk in Jersey and you never know who you might see

If you live in Los Angeles, I imagine spotting celebrities is like spotting gas stations: There’s one on every corner.

How do you like John's jaunty hat?/Photo by Gretchen Dietze-Johnson

Not so in Jersey.

Case in point: My friend Gretchen ran into an actual, oh-my-gosh-I-know-this-person celebrity yesterday afternoon on the relatively mild-mannered streets of Princeton.

She was walking along Witherspoon Street on her lunch break when she passed by John Lithgow (he of “3rd Rock From the Sun” fame). And here, in Gretchen’s own words, is what happened:

“I knew I recognized him, but I couldn’t place the last name. A few moments later when I remembered the name, I turned around and walked quickly back to him.

Me: Excuse me… excuse me…

Him: Yes?

Me: I’m sorry, but you look like John Lithgow.

Him: I am.

(He shakes my hand and gives me a friendly hug.)

Me: Oh my God, can I get a picture?

Him: Sure.

Me (as I’m fumbling for my iPhone): I SO loved you on ‘Six Feet Under.’

Him: I”m sorry, but I wasn’t on ‘Six Feet Under.’ Are you thinking about ‘Dexter’? If so…

Me: YES! Oh my God, I’m so flustered!

Him: Hehe, that’s OK.

Me (after taking the picture): Thank you so much!

Him: You’re welcome.”

I always love hearing stories like this. John was excellent, by the way, in last year’s season of Showtime’s “Dexter” as the Trinity Killer. I also loved him in “The World According to Garp,” in which he played a transsexual former football player.

John, for the record, was in town performing his one-man show, “John Lithgow: Stories By Heart,” at the McCarter Theatre. His father, it just so happens, served as the theater’s executive director from 1963 to 1971. John is also a Princeton High School grad.

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