Really tall. And cute. He's Robert Hoffman and he graciously played second fiddle to Ashley Tisdale at Mall of America on Thursday. They star together in the not-yet-released-but-probably-quick-to-be-forgotten "Aliens in the Attic." Hoffman's big screen claim to fame is "Step Up 2: The Streets." But that could soon change: He told me cryptically (his agent was nearby) that music is in his near future. "In the comedy realm. It's a big thing I'm producing with MTV." If it's major, you heard it here first. If not, forget this ever happened.
Either way, Hoffman seems like a gentleman and I hope his handlers let him shop a little at MOA – he really wanted some new skater shoes.
Never would Sharpay be seen in public sans makeup, but "High School Musical" actress Ashley Tisdale didn't seem to mind that fans were already lined up when she sauntered in to Mall of America at 8:30 a.m. Thursday for a sound check with nothing on her face but shades. Getting her glammed up (Janelle from Juut at Southdale helped) for her 11 a.m. concert, followed by a screening of her new movie "Aliens in the Attic" apparently took long enough that la Tisdale had NOTIME to hit even one store with me. (Too bad, I might have suggested a top that would have revealed a bit less of her black bra. You can try to go rock – but the 5-year-old fans bring you back to pop. The mismatched bracelets and biker boots were cool.) If she had walked the corridors rather than the secret hallways of MOA, she likes Urban Outfitters.
Are you kidding me, Kevin James?
A friend emailed me over the weekend with concern: "Did you have to go shopping with Perez Hilton?" she asked.
Have to. Ha. Shopping with celebrities is one of my favorite columns to write for the St. Paul Pioneer Press (here I am with Valerie Harper shopping on Grand Avenue in 2006), which is the only reason I put up with all the aggravation that goes along with setting up each and every interview. There was Nick Lachey, who couldn't be distracted from rehearsals when he was in town to perform (guess it wasn't enough); Kathy Griffin, who had no time for local media, despite her D-list roots, when she was here for four nights (and four long, open days) of shows; Ashley Tisdale, who didn't dare leave the green room when she visited the Mall of America, for fear of being mobbed by fans…and the list goes on. I've been rejected by the best – and worst – of 'em. Perez just "didn't have an extra moment" in his schedule when he rolled through town over the weekend. And "King of Queens" star Kevin James, who is in town today to promote a movie I will not name declined to hit even one store with me while he's at the MOA, which is especially insulting considering the film he's here to hype is about a mall cop!
I don't blame you, Kevin, I don't. I know that if the publicity game was such that I could simply call you directly and say: Hey, aren't you tired of answering the same five reporter questions over and over? Couldn't you come up with some funny bits as we strolled the mall? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to pick up a shirt at the Gap and get your publicity at the same time? – I know you're the kind of guy who'd do it. But, you've got that team of pr agents surrounding you and they have to make themselves feel useful and they think it makes you seem more important if they tell local reporters like me that you are very, very, very, very busy…even though I've been around enough celebs and publicity tours to know you'll end up sitting in a back room for an hour while waiting to do your three minute spiel.
But I've got broad shoulders and the dumb drive to keep at it. Some celebs are savvy enough (or desperate enough – no difference to me) to recognize an opportunity when it presents itself. You guys need fans between the coasts – we go to movies too. And we watch you on Letterman and the "Today" show and "The View" and we get tired of hearing the same bits and seeing the same clips over and over. We'd be much more interested in a story that told us something new, even if just your favorite brand of socks. Besides, I could have shown you where they're on sale and saved you the sales tax.