Have you met a lot of celebrities? Do you seek them out?
Perhaps ironically, I haven’t and I don’t. I live in Northern California and I’ve been to the LA area many times, so surely I’ve seen more than I probably realize. They just escape my notice. They are very good, when they want to be, at blending in and not being noticed.
I recently read with pleasure and amusement about how pop star Shakira fooled everyone by attending some college classes incognito a while back. She hid her celebrity and, according to one article I read, her sexuality as well, by dressing down and dressing as a boy. Not one person recognized her. Her professor said she was a good student, quite smart, and acted like an “ordinary person.”
The reason this gave me pleasure is because coincidentally it appeared just before I was to get to revising a scene from the first draft of Entertaining Welsey Shaw that was and is one of my favorites: Welsey dresses as a Russian girl in one scene and just goes about her business as another person, with no one, not even our male protagonist at first, recognizing her, so complete is the transformation. Party I wanted to illustrate what a great actress Welsey is–she can completely disappear, Sienna Miller-like, into a character. (And Sienna Miller is shamefully underrated as an actress.) Partly I wanted to illustrate the desire that I believe must be strong among most celebrities (except for those few who can’t seem to get enough of themselves) to take leave from the fame of their own doing and become ordinary people, even if only for a time. Or, in Welsey’s case, another person, unusual in her own way, yet very differently unusual from Welsey.
As I said, I haven’t met many celebrities. I met Claire Danes on Broadway and forgot to even get a picture, though I did give her a box of chocolates which I thought was an appropriate gift for someone playing Eliza Doolittle in G.B. Shaw’s Pygmalion. Musically I’ve met Dizzy Gillespie once, Milt Jackson twice, the rest of the Modern Jazz Quartet once, had a freakish encounter with one of my favorite directors, Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being) in a restaurant, and one with Philip Glass at dim sum. I’ve briefly met Nancy Cartwright, Carroll Channing, Sam Donaldson, Charles Kuralt, and may have passed George Lucas on I-80 once. (If not, he has a twin who likes to drive in the same general area as Skywalker Ranch.) I once hung out with a mild-mannered, bifocaled and balding man in a gray three-piece suit whom I thought was some sort of staff accountant who just happened to be a very good guitar player on the side and later discovered was Peter Frampton. There may be a few more, but off the top of my head, that’s all I can think of.
This Saturday I may get to meet Stephen Sondheim, someone I’ve idolized, to put it lightly, for much of my life. He is appearing in Santa Rosa and I have tickets to see him. Even though it’s doubtful he’s hanging out to meet people afterwards–he’s not the most sociable of folks fromwhat I understand–I will try to get to see him and maybe even get a picture. That would be a thrill of a lifetime for me, but at the same time, persistent as I can be, I am preparing myself for a letdown, as Mr. Sondheim, at 79, has little reason to hang around and meet admirers. A stiff scotch and a nice easy chair would probably be more amenable to him, and he is likely to be tired after a long lecture.
But I will try my best to meet this particular celebrity. The man is a legend, and, I think, the greatest lyricist in the English language. I”ll post photos here, if I get any.