Girl Abroad: NYC & the Name-Drop Syndrome

Columnist Mosha Lundström Halbert gets a guilty kick out of NYC's fascination with celebrity connections

Photography: iStock. Illustraion: Jed Tallo

Photography: iStock. Illustraion: Jed Tallo

A  supermodel lives on my street. I don’t need to tell you that Manhattan is a small isle with an absurd number of us hustlers and self-actualizers crammed into its every cranny (roughly 27,227 super-freaks per square kilometre). Apparently, though, I do have a desire to repeatedly share (overshare?) that this tawny Tom Ford muse shacks up a few doors down. And I’m not the only one knee-jerk name-checking.

Since moving to New York, I’ve taken note of the blasé way people weave the actors, art stars and auteurs they happen to see into daily conversation as a humblebrag. Call it name-drop syndrome. It’s as commonplace here as discussing the weather—an icebreaker and equalizer. But seeing as I loathe sycophancy, this contagious habit has given me pause. In my professional life, I’ve interviewed and interacted with loads of well-known types and only once let a star-struck sensation get the best of me. (In my defence, you try asking Karl Lagerfeld a question in front of 500 people at a press conference.) So why here, why now, have I become prone to this indiscreet palaver? It ain’t me, babe.

Looking back, it’s easy enough to blame Suri Cruise. In my ­ first weeks here, pudgy paparazzi would lurk on my street most mornings to capture her back-to-school style. Sick, right? While those guys gave me the creeps, I must admit that I found the whole ritual oddly intoxicating. Same with the taut A-list actresses who would sweat it out at my ­ fitness studio (Naomi Watts and Anne Hathaway).

Or the fashion oracle with whom I share a tennis instructor (HRH Anna Wintour). For as gratuitous as society’s cult of celebrity is, perhaps I subconsciously sought validation of my own choices by affixing a boldface name to them. Was it Lainey Gossip and the Daily Mail’s fault that I even cared? Or is this kind of  flâneur-style indiscretion part of the shameless fun of New York City life? The topic came up when I went for dinner at Omen, a legit-Japanese spot in SoHo, with two girlfriends. We were waiting for Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling to sign the cheque already and give us their table. “The cool thing is to not care,” said the hyper-soignée French PR director.

“They’re talented, but a few years ago, no one would have given them a second glance,” ordered the neo-goth Norwegian jewellery designer. They agreed that to ever publicize these star-crossed sightings (whether verbally or via smutty social media) was a cardinal sin and the antithesis of all that is chic. I cavalierly nodded in agreement. Time to delete those Jay Z, So­fia Coppola and Grace Coddington stalkergrams, shut up about Suri and shake this silliness already. The stoic Europeans were right. As for that supermodel, I’m now used to seeing her around, and we exchange knowing glances. I’d tell you her name, but that would be terribly uncouth. She’s my neighbour, after all, not just some name-drop. Who do you think I am?