Pretty swiftly on my arrival at work one evening at The New York Times, word spread that the singer Rihanna was somewhere in the building filming a scene for a movie.
The excitement about her presence was electric.
Messages on the communications platform Slack stacked up speculating about where in the building she was, what she was filming and how long she’d be at 620 Eighth Avenue.
Me? My attitude was best summed up with the shrug emoji.
(I later discovered she was filming a scene for “Ocean’s 8,” which features an all-female cast in a classic heist movie. There is a scene where Rihanna is downstairs in the building lobby, commandeering a custodian’s cart in the middle of the night.)
I don’t want to sound too blase but yes it was cool that she was there, but I had work to do so I moved on.
By the time I headed for an elevator for the lobby around 12:30 a.m., I had completely forgotten she was in the building.
And then this happened: I headed to the two sets of double doors leading out to West 40th Street, my mind occupied with the commute home.
I really was not paying attention when I realized I was sort of sandwiched between a gaggle of people who were also leaving.
I turned behind me to hold the door open for one of these people and it was this guy, who I swear, filled the damn doorway top to bottom and side to side.
No exaggeration, he blocked out the light.
You know that character from “Game of Thrones” who is known as The Mountain?
In real life, that character is played by an Icelandic named Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who has won competitions to be named the World’s Strongest Man and the first person to win the Arnold Strongman Classic.
The dude is 6 foot 9 inches tall.
Well, the guy in The Times building that night must’ve been his brother.
The Brother of the Mountain gave me a pleasant “thank you” for holding the door but it was only when I turned around that I realize that Rihanna was a mere footstep ahead of me.
And then I realized that this guy was her bodyguard and that I had somehow — inadvertently and stupidly — got between him and his protectee.
That is the equivalent of getting between a mama bear and her cubs: ill-advised and dangerous.
The guy could have snapped me like a matchstick.
When we got outside of the building, a guy in drag called out to Rihanna, who was stunningly beautiful in real life and could not have been more gracious to this fan waiting for her on the street.
She climbed into a big SUV and that was the last I saw of her.
That was my brush with fame — and probably near death if I got any closer to her!