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Where the DNC’s stars aligned

A trendy restaurant and luxury hotels snagged celebrities during DNC

By Théoden Janes
tjanes@charlotteobserver.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. The hot corner for celebrity sightings this week? Fifth and Church streets.

Though it’s somewhat off the beaten path, two blocks removed from the sea of humanity on College Street, trendy 5Church restaurant has been a magnet for DNC A-listers, thanks largely to smart promotion by partner/marketing director Alejandro Torio and a New American menu by executive chef Jamie Lynch.

Diners this week ranged from movie star Jessica Alba to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, from Paul Mitchell founder John Paul DeJoria to PBS talk show host Charlie Rose.

Rose stopped by the restaurant for lunch Thursday, at the same time as Creative Coalition delegation members Patricia Arquette, Rose Byrne, Tim Daly, Wayne Knight and Tony Shalhoub. (The non-partisan group advocates for arts funding.)

Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey was at 5Church, too. After the famous folks spilled out onto the sidewalk, Markey asked Knight (of “Seinfeld” fame) if he could pose with him for a quick photo.

Knight’s top celebrity sighting of the week? The Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“Celebrity sightings as to other people in my business don’t have the same bearing,” the actor said. “If you’re in sports, you want to see people in entertainment. If you’re in entertainment, you want to see people in sports or government.

“I didn’t get to talk to him (Jackson). I barely got to be in the same hall with him. But just being able to be in the hall was exciting stuff.”

Stars align at Ritz, Westin

Your next-best chance for celebrity sightings this week may well have been inside two of the center city’s most luxurious hotels.

Convention-goers tweeted pics Thursday of Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and “Hunger Games” star Elizabeth Banks from the Ritz-Carlton lobby. Jeff Bridges, who left town Tuesday, stayed there; reportedly, Eva Longoria did, too.

Over at The Westin, actress Kerry Washington, actor-musician Jared Leto and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken all were spotted Thursday afternoon. “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm – an unexpected DNC guest – also is said to have been checked in there.

Here’s my own hotel-sighting story: Following up on a reader tip, I dropped by the Westin’s Ember Grille around 3 p.m. Thursday and caught a glimpse of Alba with three companions at one table and “Scrubs” actor Zach Braff finishing up with pink-haired girlfriend Taylor Bagley two tables away.

Braff and his squeeze made a discreet exit out a side door after paying the bill, but I was able to catch him on Stonewall Street.

“Not right now, man,” he said. “I’ve been doing press all morning. I’m on break.”

The couple continued down the eerily empty street as the sun shone on their backs. Sixty seconds later, a drenching rain came literally out of nowhere. Karma, perhaps … But for which one of us?

The late shift on Wednesday

In terms of glitz and glamour, there won’t be another night in Charlotte like Wednesday night.

As rock star/former president Bill Clinton pumped up the crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena, actresses Rosario Dawson and America Ferrera attended Voto Latino’s Purple Carpet Bash at All-American Pub in South End. Dawson spoke to me with fierce, wide-eyed passion about immigration reform, Latino civic engagement efforts and the weather.

The avid comic book fan said she has visited Charlotte “a few times” to attend the HeroesCon convention, but “I did not remember this humidity.”

A block away, at Amos’ Southend, Longoria walked the red carpet at the Got Your Six/Lifetime TV party, looking stunning in a black-and-yellow mod dress and 6-inch heels that still only seemed to make her about 5 feet tall.

At the NC Music Factory’s Fountain Plaza, the Creative Coalition crew – Arquette, Beau Bridges, Byrne, Daly, Knight, Shalhoub and Alfre Woodard – partied at a benefit gala headlined by the B-52s. (Byrne looked particularly darling in a floral blouse and snakeskin sling-backs, Observer staffer Hilary Trenda reported.)

And through it all, rock band Foo Fighters put on a marathon show at The Fillmore: Thirty-five songs over 3 hours and 20 minutes, Observer music critic Courtney Devores reported. A friend of mine summed it up in three words on Facebook: “Best. Concert. Ever.”

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