...but several of his guests and "friends" have... ...can you spot them all? Jan. 21, 2014 Knicks Have Aa Star Magnet: Courtside Seats By SARAH LYALL They call it Celebrity Row, the six prime courtside seats in Madison Square Garden reserved for the three most prominent celebrities (plus guests) at any given Knicks game. For the game against the Miami Heat on Jan. 9, they were filled by an actor, a musician and a model: David Duchovny, Paul Simon and Kate Upton. No other basketball team except the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates the presence of big-name fans at its games as aggressively and as unabashedly as the New York Knicks do. In a city where fame is its own reward, and proximity to fame is nearly as exciting as the thing itself, celebrities in the stands help promote the exceptionalist notion that the city is special, the Knicks are special, the Garden is special and Spike Lee is a better kind of fan than Jack Nicholson. Celebrities, of course, are different from you and me, and the Garden has developed a well-oiled system of cultivating and cosseting them. â€œIf youâ€™re an A-level person and we know the fans are going to go bananas when your picture goes up on the scoreboard, then thereâ€™s a value having you there,â€ said Barry Watkins, the Madison Square Garden companyâ€™s executive vice president for communications and administration. â€œWe think itâ€™s a big part of the brand. Win or lose, itâ€™s one of the reasons people come to the games.â€ (In fact, at 15-26, the Knicks have been doing a lot of losing this season.) How these celebrities end up at the games; how they get assigned their particular seats; how they are treated when they arrive at the arena; what they do in return â€” all these apparently simple issues are in fact immensely complicated, reflecting the Gardenâ€™s policy of never missing an opportunity and never leaving anything to chance. The Garden, it turns out, has an ad-hoc celebrity-handling team whose members determine who in fact counts as a celebrity and to what degree; pursue relationships with those people (or their representatives); and deflect demands from lower-level personalities who wish they were celebrities but in fact are not. On game nights, the team also has to contend with such tricky questions as, is Katie Holmes more important than Liam Neeson? And, when you have two rappers with the same last name â€” Mike D. from the Beastie Boys and Chuck D. from Public Enemy â€” should you seat them near each other? At the recent Knicks-Heat game, the answers could be found, as is so often the case, on an Excel spreadsheet. Entitled â€œVIP Locationsâ€ and organized according to some mysterious proprietary formula, it mapped out exactly who would sit where â€” John McEnroe in the third row, the boxer Miguel Cotto in the fifth row, a gaggle of New York Rangers in the 17th row â€” and it reflected various unspoken rules of V.I.P. placement. Make sure they all have decent seats. Make sure that some, but not all, end up sitting with other celebrities. Make sure to put the most important people in Celebrity Row â€” this calculation is â€œbased on the A-level natureâ€ of those celebrities, Mr. Watkins said â€” while not hurting the feelings of the people whose level hovers down at the sad end of the alphabet. The arena has lots of seats suitable for famous people, including courtside spots not along Celebrity Row. Depending on demand and availability, the Garden often finds itself accommodating 20 or more celebrities at a time (some pay for their own tickets). Celebrities who become â€œfriends of the Garden,â€ as they are called, get plenty of perks. Among them are a special side entrance into the Garden; a special elevator, so they do not have to ride the common escalators; a special V.I.P. clubhouse known as Suite 200 that is free of charge and that has an open bar, a frozen yogurt station and an extravagant buffet always featuring a special item by Jean-Georges Vongerichten; and a personal escort to usher them to their seats. But there is a quid pro quo, and agreeing to be filmed at your seat for broadcast on the GardenVision screen during games is only the beginning. Some of the celebrities work for the Knicksâ€™ Garden of Dreams foundation, a charity that helps disadvantaged and ill young people. Others appear in interviews and promotional spots during games and on the MSG Network; attend parties for Garden employees; shoot scenes from movies and TV shows at the Garden; or even appear in recruitment videos designed to lure potential players to the Knicks. The late James Gandolfini appeared in character in two such videos alongside his â€œSopranosâ€ co-star Edie Falco, explaining to Amarâ€™e Stoudemire and LeBron James why New York was a good place to relocate. (It worked for Stoudemire, but not for James.) â€œYou donâ€™t get something for nothing, and if it helps the Garden if they see someone of my celebrity status â€” however high or low that is â€” Iâ€™ll put on my best Armani suit and go out there,â€ Mr. Neeson said in a telephone interview. He was there alongside the other V.I.P.â€™s â€” figures like Prince Amukamara of the New York Giants and Damaris Lewis of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition â€” in Suite 200 before the game. (The Garden let a reporter visit Suite 200, as long as she agreed not to approach any famous people or â€œtalk about any celebrity interactions,â€ as one staff member put it.) Michael J. Fox, who in his memoir â€œLucky Manâ€ discusses the celebrity-camaraderie phenomenon wherein they all know one another, even if they donâ€™t, said that the Garden really takes care of its celebrities. â€œItâ€™s all very managed â€” the line blurs between whatâ€™s an extended courtesy and whatâ€™s a special attention to keep you from going rogue â€” but in a very nice way,â€ he said in a phone interview. He added: â€œItâ€™s not a thing that any of us deserve or any of us earn â€” itâ€™s just something the Garden does to make our life happier.â€ Normal fans do not get to enjoy the ministrations of Ken Zrubek, Suite 200â€™s longtime maÃ®tre dâ€™, who among other things keeps an array of emergency supplies â€” phone chargers, laptop cords â€” in his office. â€œI get them things they need in order to keep going,â€ Mr. Zrubek said in a brief glide-by interview, â€œand right nowâ€ â€” here he named a celebrity wife â€” â€œneeds some Advil.â€ One of the most prominent celebrity Knicks fans, Woody Allen, is no longer welcome in Suite 200. He pays for season tickets and used to be a Suite 200 regular â€” albeit without ever talking to any of the other guests, Garden staff members said â€” but was asked to stop coming after, the Garden said, he refused on three occasions to do small favors for them. His spokeswoman, Leslee Dart, said that he had been asked to do only one thing â€” film a short promotion for a movie of his that was being shown on the MSG network â€” and that he declined because he never promotes his own movies. In any case, she said, when the Garden told him not to come to the suite anymore, â€œhe understood completely.â€ During the games, the transmission of celebrity images is just one of many diversions the Garden uses to keep the crowd perpetually entertained. Some fans find this more thrilling than others. At a recent game against the Phoenix Suns, Samir Patel, 43, who owns a liquor store in Parsippany, N.J., pronounced himself mystified by the eveningâ€™s celebrity offerings, which included Michael Zegen, identified on the screen as an actor from â€œRescue Me.â€ â€œIâ€™ve heard of â€˜Rescue Me,â€™ but not him,â€ he said sadly. But Sabrina Rogers and Ariana Bruschi, both 17-year-old high school students from New Hyde Park, N.Y., said that to them, it was all about fame. Once they spotted Chris Rock at a game, they said, and this time they saw a famous person they referred to as â€œthat baseball player.â€ â€œIt makes a huge difference,â€ Sabrina said. For a brief, giddy moment the other night, the pair thought they had spotted Kim Kardashian. â€œIt was like, â€˜Oh my God, Iâ€™ve seen her,â€™ â€ Sabrina said. They immediately posted the news on Instagram and other social media outlets, only to realize they had been mistaken. â€œWe tweeted it,â€ Ariana said, â€œbut then we had to un-tweet it.â€ Mr. Watkins said that the Garden occasionally getsippy queries for â€œfront row or nothingâ€ tickets, to which the Gardenâ€™s response is, generally, â€œnothing.â€ Leslie Sloane Zelnik, co-president of BWR Public Relations, said that most of her clients are grateful to get tickets at all. â€œIâ€™ve honestly had A-listers sit in the second or third row and not complain,â€ she said.