Fate and Neil Diamond

Williamson: Fate and Neil Diamond
By Danielle Williamson/ Daily News Staff
Tuesday, December 6, 2005 – Updated: 12:38 AM EST

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SHREWSBURY — Neil Diamond likes pancakes, orange juice, and, at least yesterday, preferred decaffeinated coffee to regular.

I know this because, as fate would have it, I found myself sitting just booths away from the star at IHOP.

When my waitress drew my attention to an unshaven Diamond’s presence two rows parallel to mine, I nearly choked on my cranberry juice. There, in the flesh, was the irresistibly cheesy pop star my co-workers tease me for adoring. I saw him in Boston this summer, and would have been at his Worcester show last night had my paycheck allowed it.

I would later tell Diamond exactly this. Unfortunately, this admission didn’t earn me free concert tickets or a backstage pass.

But it did give me a good anecdote to tell my co-workers and friends, who seemed less concerned with what Diamond was wearing, eating or what he said to me than they were with why, of all places, he was eating at IHOP.

“He’s not very friendly,” my waitress whispered after introducing herself to Diamond and a burly man I assume was his bodyguard. She felt rejected from his reaction to telling him she had recently sang “Sweet Caroline,” along with a room full of people.

“He said, ’Yeah, they do that sometimes,’” the waitress said, visibly disappointed.

I did not let the waitress’ story deter me from making a move. What a wimpy reporter I would have been had I left without introducing myself! I ran to my car, got a pen and a business card, and camped out in the lobby, waiting for him to leave.

Wait staff fell over each other, grabbing the nearest pen and blank sheets of receipt paper as Diamond got out of his booth and put on a black winter cap and long black coat. He politely signed autographs and asked for directions to the nearest pet store.

After learning how to get to Marlborough’s Solomon Pond Mall, he headed my (and the door’s) way. I got a close-up look at his glasses and a black (diamond-less) long-sleeve shirt.

“Excuse me, Mr. Diamond, I’m sorry to bother you,” I said, later wondering if I sounded stupid or if “Diamond” was actually his real name. (His official home page says it is.)

He shook my hand and let me continue nervously blubbering. I told him I had seen his August show in Boston. He looked surprised, perhaps noticing that I’m a few decades younger than his average fan. I then told him I would have been at the show in Worcester, but I needed to save money for Christmas presents.

He smiled, which I took as a cue to awkwardly shove my business card toward him and ask for his autograph.

“Who’s this for,” he asked, ushering me out the door, presumably to get closer to his car and away from star-struck onlookers such as myself.

“Danielle,” I said, later kicking myself for not sacrificing the memento to an older friend or family member whose appreciation for Diamond is not limited to seventh inning stretches at Fenway Park.

He took a few seconds, scribbled with my blue pen, handed me back the card and walked out, calling me “dear,” and saying “we’ll see you again.”

It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever see him up close again.

But I will always have my business card: “Daniel, Love, Neil Diamond.”

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