Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 1 comment

Celebrity Stalking #3: Erdoğan Yaşaran

Istanbul may not be Turkey’s political capital (that would be Ankara), but it is most definitely the country’s cultural capital - our version of New York City - and pretty much anyone who’s anyone lives there.  It’s actually quite possible that I’ve passed many a famous person on Istanbul’s streets and just didn’t know they were famous.  But now, six years in and familiar with at least the most popular shows and actors, I think it’s about time I start running into them in coffee shops.

At the end of April, I had to go up to see my ear doctor for a check-up and I brought along Anna, a foreign friend who had yet to experience this great city.  I was determined that during our four days there, in between ogling palaces and touring mosques, I would spot someone I knew from TV.

On our second day, as we were standing at the base of the monolithic Galata Tower, I saw him.  He had sunglasses on, so I couldn’t see his eyes, but I was sure the bearded guy sitting with a friend at the sidewalk cafe was the actor who plays Erdoğan Yaşaran on “Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?”  He doesn’t usually have quite that full of a beard, but he’s been in jail for the past few episodes, so I figured he might be going for the scruffy look.  His clothes were pretty plain, and his shoes weren’t what I would call “actor-ish,” but maybe the sunglasses and the attire were just a disguise to keep fans from spoiling his day out.  The character he plays is pretty evil, so if I were him, I wouldn’t want anyone to recognize me either.

I wanted to get a photo to prove that I’d found my famous person, but I’d feel pretty silly saying, “Hi, I love your show but hate your character.  Are you really that big of a jerk in real life?  Can I take a picture with you?”  Plus, he was clearly trying not to be recognized.  So instead, I pulled the classic, “Hey, Anna, stand there so I can get a shot of you...with that famous guy in the background” move. 
(Wouldn't you have thought "Sunglasses Guy" was him?)
An hour or so later, after wandering Galata’s steep, colourful streets and stopping in for a latte break at Cherrybean Coffee, we made our way back up towards Istiklal Caddesi (Istanbul’s most famous shopping street) and passed by the Galata Tower once more.  We tried to be sly as we walked past the cafe where my celebrity had been sitting, but as I glanced to my left to see if he was still there, there he was!  
Or, rather, there he wasn’t.  The sunglasses had come off, and he was clearly not who I thought he was.  In fact, now he resembled a German tourist more than anything.
False alarm.  Close, but no cigar.
The next night, Anna and I were having dinner at the Meşale Restaurant in Sultanahmet.  Every night they have a whirling derviş come do his thing for the tourists.  Since you can only see the real thing during specific religious festivals, this is a good spot to go for a taste of the real thing.  We got a table right in front of the stage, and as we sat there eating our kebap, the show began.  
As Mr. Derviş entered his creepy trancelike state and began his whirling, all heads turned our direction to watch and all the cell phone cameras appeared.  At one point, I turned to get a look at the audience, and I almost choked on my meat. 
“Anna!”  I poked her.  “Don’t be too obvious, but isn’t that our non-celebrity two tables over?” 

She snuck a look.
“I think so, but I can’t tell, cuz I can only see his profile.”
I grabbed my camera.  “I haven’t erased yesterday’s pictures - I’ll check and see.”  
Sure enough, the proof was in the picture - the bald guy in the photo of my Erdoğan Yaşaran lookalike was the same friend sitting with him now, just a few feet away from us.  The fact that he was at this particular restaurant sealed it my mind:  he was most definitely a tourist.  And very likely not famous at all.  Except to us.  
We killed ourselves laughing, and then forced ourselves to calm down lest he recognize us and truly think we were stalking him.  When he and his buddy got up to pay a few minutes later, I halfway considered getting up and telling him the whole story, but decided that might open us up to a new friendship we didn’t really want.  Besides, he might not even speak English.  
So....I didn’t find my celebrity after all.  But finding the same non-celebrity twice in two days in a city of 15 million people counts for something, right?


Ahh, Jamie, I love your writing!