Painful Conversation Starters For Talking To CelebritiesLiz Smith is awfully excited about her recent close encounter of the Clooney kind. She ran into The Salt-and-Peppered One at a recent party for Leatherheads at 21, and offers advice for conversing with the stars on her WowOwoW "women over 40" website.

What do you say when you actually encounter a famous name, and how do you avoid sounding stupid, lame and like everybody else? Peter Bart, who is the editor in chief of Variety, wrote about this the other day, saying fans usually offer up some version of "What's happenin,' dude?" which makes them feel "in," but may offend the celebrity. Others say, "I've always been your biggest fan" which is okay, but a little trite. (People often reverse this without thinking, saying, "You are my biggest fan!" Celebrities hear this one all the time.) Mr. Bart noted that we all grasp for some straw of familiarity with the famous.

Unless you're Michelle Tanner addressing Uncle Jesse before a live studio audience, you don't want to open any conversation with "What's happenin', dude?" Ever. Might we suggest: "I thought your decision to wear a shirt throughout the entire second half of Failure To Launch was extremely brave, Matthew."