Before you see them, you can hear them. The sound is low but insistent, a hum that gradually develops into something recognizable. OmigodOmigodOmigod. Dan DanDanDanDan. Gotalktohimgotalktohimgotalktohim!
Samantha Ahern and a group of her girlfriends, in from Smithtown, Long Island, for Samantha's 16th birthday, are scurrying down 51st Street all at once, their legs moving quickly and purposefully, as if they were one big millipede in True Religion jeans. Their eyes are glassy, their camera phones outstretched. DanDanDanDanDan. It's the Ultimate Sighting.
Penn Badgley, who plays sensitive and wise Dan Humphrey on the CW's teen soap opera Gossip Girl, is standing outside the Palace Hotel, where much of the Gossip Girl action takes place. It is there that, later today, Penn's character will take his girlfriend Serena's porcelain face into his hands after she has missed the SAT for reasons unknown. He will gaze deeply into her eyes as he says tenderly, "I'm not mad, Serena. I'm worried. Please help me understand what's going on." He will do this with complete unself-consciousness, despite the fact that his arch-nemesis Chuck, who also happens to be Serena's newly acquired stepbrother, is standing there smirking, because 17-year-old Dan is not the sort of teenager who fears public displays of affection. He is sensitive, smart, and loving, not to mention hot, and to teenage girls, for whom such creatures exist only in daydreams, he is perfect.
As the girls chase Penn into his trailer, we (and there are two of us writing this story, but on the subject of Gossip Girl we are like one) know exactly how they feel. One time we played hooky from work for an hour and skip-walked all the way from our offices in far west Soho to the East Village to catch a scene of the show being filmed. Technically, we're a little old for Gossip Girl--our own high-school experience was kind of a while ago. Like, 90210-was-still-on-the-air a while ago. But it's not just tweenage girls who are hooked on the show.