*A version of this story is published on The Vineyard Gazette.
The time I met Mariah Carey. I've told this story a few times, but always the shorter version and there are a few things that I have left out. Here it is in full. I hope you enjoy this very 90’s pop culture memory.
It was 1994, I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and obsessed with Mariah Carey. Her music, her image, all of it. She was climbing the charts and was a pop goddess, as far as I was concerned. My parents brought me to the record store so I could buy her newest album, Music Box, on tape. I listened to it non stop. I was studying piano at the time and was even learning to play some of her hit songs like, Hero and Vision of Love.
I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and my father, Mark Lovewell is a reporter and photographer for the Vineyard Gazette. He often let me tag along on his assignments when I was little. That summer, President Bill Clinton was vacationing again on Martha’s Vineyard and the word was out that Princess Diana was visiting the Island too. My dad got the assignment to get a photo of her, and when he and his colleague at the time Jason Gay asked if I wanted to join them, I was ecstatic. I loved these kinds of assignments! It was late, the stars were out (in more ways than one), and there was a certain kind of energy, a buzz on the streets of Oak Bluffs as we looked for Princess Diana.
We were standing outside the restaurant, Oyster Bar, when a woman ran out and excitedly said "Mariah Carey is eating dinner in there!" My heart dropped. I remember looking at my dad wide eyed, and he read my mind. He handed me his notebook, and Jason handed me his red felt pen. They pushed me inside the restaurant, and told me to go meet her.
I stepped inside the Oyster Bar alone, a nervous child, walking through this dark and loud restaurant. I was wearing glasses and a red flannel button down, (probably a hand-me-down from my older brother). I searched for their table, and found Mariah sitting with her husband. Her perfectly wavy hair was unmistakable and she wore a navy sailor’s dress with white lined detail on the trim. She was stunning — a beautiful queen in my mind.
I stood in front of the table, holding the pen and paper and said nothing. Mariah smiled at me, then she and her husband asked, “Are you our waitress for tonight?”
I smiled back, my face as red as my shirt and the pen. I handed over the paper and pen and Mariah signed her name. To this day I am not sure I ever said anything at all to her but I will never forget that moment.
We didn't see Princess Diana that night, but this is not where the story ends. My dad and Jason received a tip that week — Princess Di was out on the historic boat, Miss Asia, in the Edgartown harbor. My dad, a sailor and knowledgeable on the water got on a friend’s boat with Jason and went looking for the Princess. It didn’t take long to spot her. My dad snapped a black and white photo on his film camera and at that moment he became the first person to ever take a photo of Princess Diana on that trip to the United States. That photo made a few headlines and it was the talk of the island, and far beyond!
When I remember meeting Mariah Carey, I can’t help thinking simultaneously of Princess Diana. I wouldn’t have met my childhood idol if my dad wasn’t searching for her. That summer was special, memorable -- the summer of 1994 where in my tender mind my dad and I both met royalty.