Minnesotans who don’t care about a Vikings-less Super Bowl — or never gave a hoot about football in the first place — can still enjoy the time-tested game of celebrity spotting.
Media and showbiz bigwigs are starting to pack up their mittens and scarves to join in what promises to be the most star-studded week in Twin Cities history, much to delight of superfans like local radio personality Lori Barghini.
“What’s fun is that people around here are going to have random encounters,” said the co-host for MyTalk 107.1 FM. “You’ll see somebody you know from a show and can’t think of their name. Just say, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful, I love your character. Can I get your picture?’ Most celebrities will go along with it. They’re so used to being ignored in L.A. It’ll be the opposite here. They’re really going to feel the love.”
Some of the biggest names won’t have much time to bask in the attention, with official duties that include serenading NFL team owners (Sting), filling Target Center between Timberwolves games (Kevin Hart) and going live with late-night’s most-watched talk show (Jimmy Fallon).
But even those with the most hectic schedules want to play tourist.
“This is really embarrassing, but I’ve never been to the Mall of America,” said NBC’s Lester Holt, who was intrigued to learn that the Dakota Jazz Club is within sliding distance of where he’ll be anchoring the network’s evening news Friday from the Nicollet Mall.
“It’s not my style to just stay by the set. I generally like to take walks, get a feel for the place. The people I know from Minneapolis love it and embrace it heartily. I want to tap into that.”
Hair, makeup, sightseeing
Making sure the week’s most high-profile visitors who aren’t dressed in pads get time to play may sound daunting, but it’s business as usual for professional wranglers like Lisa Stokes, ESPN’s director of talent production.
“The most difficult part of the job is getting folks to the set, through the crowd and making sure they’re happy with hair and makeup,” said Stokes, who will deal with the challenge of shuttling guests between media headquarters at the Mall of America and her network’s studios in the IDS Crystal Court. “It’s a lot of logistics.”
Bookers don’t have to worry as much about celebrities who are mainly flying in to experience the hoopla.
“It’s my first Super Bowl,” said Candace Cameron Bure, best known for playing D.J. on “Full House.” She’s coming as a guest of the Hallmark Channel.
“I think it’s the first celebrity event my husband has ever wanted to come to.”
Jaclyn Aronson, ESPN’s NFL talent producer, said she’s received more than 200 requests from celebrities to be guests of her network since the matchup was determined.
“There’s excitement about it being in Minnesota, for sure,” said Aronson, who is making her first trip to the state.
“The weather is a factor, especially for people living in warmer environments. Then again, some people love the cold. It’s the Super Bowl. People will adjust.”
The possibilities for fans to bump into Hollywood A-listers under “Fargo”-weird circumstances are endless: How about “Glee” grad Darren Criss stepping in for Paris Bennett during “Ease on Down the Road” at a Children’s Theatre matinee of “The Wiz”? Jamie Foxx sliding in behind the piano at the recently reopened Nye’s? Alyssa Milano charming ice sculptors at the St. Paul Winter Carnival? “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” star Rob McElhenney comparing cheesesteaks to Jucy Lucys at Matt’s Bar?
Ideally, all celebrities with Minnesota connections would be part of the welcome wagon. But some, like Steve Zahn, the “War for the Planet of the Apes” star who grew up next to the Vikings’ training facility, scrapped their travel plans after their team lost to the Eagles.
St. Paul native Nick Swardson, a longtime member of Adam Sandler’s Rat Pack, was set to offer commentary on the NFL Network and maybe make an unannounced appearance at Acme Comedy Co. No more.
“I had to bail,” Swardson said. “That loss was one of the worst moments of my life.”
Others, like “Baskets” star Louie Anderson, will swallow their pride and circulate among first-time visitors, with plenty of recommendations.
“I’m obsessed with Pizzeria Lola, especially in the winter,” said Minnetonka native Jo Ling Kent, who will be coming home from New York as a “Today” correspondent, along with Al Roker. “I love going with my family and squeezing everyone into the photo booth in back.”
For fans who want to offer suggestions of their own — and snap some once-in-a-lifetime selfies — Barghini has a couple of tips on where to station yourself:
The lobby of a high-end hotel, or an ice bar.
“They’re not going to go ice fishing and cross-country skiing, but they will go have drinks where they can wear their Gucci puffy jackets and furs,” said Barghini, who hopes to run into Pink and the “This Is Us” cast. “Plus, in all that cold-weather clothing, it’s easier for them to be incognito.”