A Bad Case of Touristacelebapsychosis

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton. Photo: Tom W Ratcliffe III

False celebrity sightings in the Hamptons occur on a frequent basis, especially during tourist season. This doesn’t happen to the locals, because when it comes to celebrities, we know the difference between that which is real and that which is not. After all, we routinely see the rich and famous in our very own neighborhoods. But to visitors, a celebrity sighting might be the exact thing that turns a great vacation into an extraordinary one. They can return to wherever it is they came from and tell everybody they saw so and so. However, tourists, in a desire to create a moment, can mistake someone else for a celebrity.

Don’t get me wrong, celebrity sightings are commonplace on the East End. In fact, those events are often profiled in the South O’ the Highway section of this very paper.

And you can rest assured that the paper has the contacts and resources to verify these events. For instance, recently David Lion Rattiner, Web Editor for Dan’s Papers, was in the New Hampton Coffee Company and spied Bethany Frankel.

In order to add credibility to the upcoming story, he snapped a quick phone photo of him and Bethany together. In the interest of responsible journalism, it accompanied the story.

This year, the false sightings have started earlier than they normally do. In mid-May, my neighbors were at their daughter’s college graduation in California, and they let some of their friends from Iowa use their house for the weekend. I assured them I would check on their first-time guests to the Hamptons and make sure they were getting along alright. Well, by the time I got around to introducing myself, the “guests” had already seen Steven Spielberg and former president Bill Clinton.

I told them that the Clintons were not due in the Hamptons until later in the summer, and that Spielberg was at the Cannes Film Festival, where he was serving as Jury President. I didn’t want to call my neighbor’s friends liars, but at the same time, they should know the truth.

“We know what we saw,” was their response.

Now I was more intent than ever to prove my point. “You probably think the recent panoramic photo snapped by NASA’s Curiosity Rover shows a live rodent instead of a rock, and that life does exist on planet Mars,” I quipped.

This was quickly getting out of hand. I returned to my house and called my Southampton friend, who is also a psychiatrist. He suggested that there is a possibility that these were just average tourists suffering from Touristacelebapsychosis. I had never heard of this term. He assured me that it is real and that it primarily effects visitors to the area, who are so excited about having a celebrity sighting that they actually believe they did have one, even when they did not. During the summer months he typically treats about 10 visitors a week with the same symptoms.

When I hung up the phone, I felt terrible. These people weren’t liars; they were simply suffering from a disease. Armed with this new information, my anger dissipated and was replaced with genuine compassion.

During my conversation with the psychiatrist, he indicated that the best form of treatment is to actually put the diseased person(s) in the presence of a real celebrity, as this had been known to “shock” the tourist back into reality. He also indicated that it was important that the diseased individuals become aware of the real celebrity on their own.

So I went over, apologized for my disbelief, and invited them to dinner at a local restaurant where I knew celebrities frequent. Sure enough, that evening we ended up being seated just two tables down from Alec Baldwin.

Time passed and the people from Iowa made no comment. I remembered the psychiatrist’s instructions, but it was getting difficult not to scream aloud: THERE IS ALEC BALDWIN! I even made subtle hints like, “Have you seen that new hysterical commercial for Capital One credit cards?” The plan was not working. In fact, when Alec left the restaurant, he walked right by our table—still nothing.

On the drive home, I could not resist the temptation. “Did you notice the guy sitting beside us in the restaurant?”

“Sure. Why?” they responded in unison.

“Because that was Alec Baldwin,” I said.

“Oh, Mr. Sneiv. Don’t be silly. I think we would have known if we were sitting in the same restaurant as Mr. Alec Baldwin. We are two of his biggest fans.”

This summer, I am contemplating holding a fundraiser, in hopes of raising awareness for Touristacelebapsychosis. Maybe I can get Bill, Steven and Alec to serve as hosts?

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