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Thursday, 20 January
Inconsequential Brushes With Non-Greatness

Just a few recaps of my encounters with fame and how they failed to shape me in any way, unless they contributed to me being kind of a dick.

Leaving on a jet plane

When I was a lad, I would visit my grandparents most summers in LA. When I was about eight or nine, I was at LAX with my grandma waiting for my plane back home to Idaho, and my grandma said, "That looks like that girl from 'Little House on the Prairie!'" She was pointing to some plain-looking broad. I glanced at her. Whatever. She looked like anyone else, and besides, "Little House on the Prairie," as far as I was concerned, was the most miserable piece of shit around anyway. Fuck, I lived on the prairie. In a little house. I didn't need to see that shit on TV.

We got on the plane, and as usual when I was flying alone as a kid (does this still happen?), they seated me next to another kid my age. I found him intriguing, as he was an Arab child, and had exotic dietary requests to make of the staff. (I considered trying to order a beer or something, and planned to cite "Methodism" as my justification, but didn't. Probably because I didn't know a Methodist from a Method actor.) Anyway, the plain broad was seated right across from us, and she eventually revealed herself to be, yes, Melissa Gilbert. My buddy a seat over didn't know who that was.

"Do you ever watch "Little House on the Prairie?" she asked.

"Yeah," the kid said. "That show stinks."

Next to . . .

In 1993 or so, when I was in college, a bunch of us went to Portland to see a production of Burn This, a really, really overrated Lanford Wilson play about a complete asshole. The production's naturalistic high point was when Pale (the asshole) makes breakfast, and HOLY GOD HE REALLY COOKED EGGS RIGHT THERE ON STAGE! Yeah, theater fucking magic.

At the end of the show, my technical director asked me how it felt like to sit right next to the legendarily filthy and profane playwright David Mamet. "WHAT?!" I screamed. I had no idea. (In fact, even now I couldn't pick him out of a lineup.) And to this day, whenever I wash my left arm, which surely touched the tweed of Mamet's clothing, I think, "Now I am washing my left arm." It really made an impact.

The Wreck of the Chevy

Okay, I wasn't there there. But I saw it, right on TV. Remember the "Chevy Chase Show"? Even if you don't, the hallucinatory first episode has been mocked by "The Simpsons," so you know what I'm talking about. But I was there, I watched as the incredible unfolded: Goldie Hawn mounted Chevy's desk and earnestly began singing "Look At That Face." This was possibly the most damaging thing I've ever witnessed.

I kept waiting for the joke to come, for the hideousness to be interrupted with a punchline. But Chevy kept sitting there, with that awful expression of beatific smugness, while Goldie kept singing, and I thought, in a moment of satori: Oh, God, they aren't joking. Fall down, Chevy, fall down! Preferably onto Goldie Hawn! With your elbows!

He did not. As I say, I was not there, but I am privileged to announce that I watched that, and survived. I am also privileged to announce that neither Goldie nor Chevy survived it either.

The Sullen Man

When I was in college (and a theater major), I had the chance to see the great-ish playwright Edward Albee speak at our library. I would have been stupid to miss the chance. (Note: The first syllable of his last name is not flattened, as in the name "Al;" it is rather the more snooty "Ahl-", so "Ahl-bee.")

On the day of the meeting, I was walking in the quad and spied an English professor of mine walking with what I assumed was either a desolate hobo or a shambling janitor. Perhaps her pipes had failed.

I approached her and immediately ignored the bum. "Going to the library to see Al-bee, Carol?" (She was one of those profs who liked to go by her first name. In fact, I cannot remember her surname.)

"Going to the library with Mr. Al-bee, actually!" She said this primly, probably to get me in trouble.

He stared at me, for some reason (Hey, everyone's fucking up your name!). "Ahl-bee," he intoned in a gravelly voice. I refrained from explaining that that I was surprised that the renowned playwright wasn't swamping out our dorm toilets.

I can't imagine why I'm not famous yet.


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

shit, the only thing I remember from the first Chase episode, was some video thing introduced by Chevy, which consisted of his face surrounded by several floating Chevy Chase face singing some nonsense song.

Not long after I switched the tv over to Night Court.

Comment number: 004915   Posted by: beige on January 20, 2005 12:54 AM from IP: 24.19.48.164

You confuse and frighten me. I was a theatre major in university who writes poetry.

Are you me? If we met in person, would we immediately cancel each other out?

Comment number: 004916   Posted by: Ice Queen on January 20, 2005 08:16 AM from IP: 198.96.180.245

i went to the same high school as edward albee. my senior year, he came back to direct some sort of revue of scenes from his plays acted by students. my friend rick was in a scene from 'who's afraid of virginia woolf?' at some point during rehearsal, rick and edward albee got into an argument over a line. edward albee ended the argument by saying, 'i should know, i wrote the f@#&ing play.'

the next day, rick came back to rehearsal, having looked up the line and found out that he had been right. when he presented his findings to edward albee, edward albee asked him, surprised, how he had found out the right line. rick answered, 'you should know, you wrote the f@#&ing play.'

true story.

ps. your comment system sucks. i want to swear.

Comment number: 004917   Posted by: kirsten on January 20, 2005 02:18 PM from IP: 148.85.1.102

I do apologize about the comments. I don't know why they suck, because I'm pretty dumb, but I acknowledge their suckness, since a lot of people inadvertantly double-post.

Comment number: 004918   Posted by: Skot on January 20, 2005 03:13 PM from IP: 66.150.9.2

I saw Edward Albee at Hartford CT's Wadsworth Atheneum. He was introducing an exhibition of an artist's collection. Me and my friend Kevin went, if for no more reason to see how many variations on "Don't talk about our son, Martha!" we could work into any conversation. And "ontological syllogism," a phrase I'd once read. I looked up the words, and found that, in essence, it meant "diddly squat."

Kevin was late, so we got there before we could see the actual art. We were seated next to a co-ed with a dog-eared copy of "Virginia Woolf" who was ecstatically scribbling "I can't believe I'm in the same room as Edward Albee!" in her notebook. We were the only people in jeans and t-shirts there, and besides Scribbler, the only people below the age of retirement.

Albee praised the brilliant and "confrontational" art, saying that he owned many pieces. The artist took the lectern and it seemed like the whole thing was a big joke to him. We were mystified when he was asked, "Do you ever use lingerie, or just men's?" The artist laughed at some private joke.

After the complimentary wine'n'cheese reception, we went to the exhibit. His art was underwear glued to giant canvasses, and spray painted black.
SPRAY PAINTED BVDs! We were the only ones in the hallowed halls that just stood there, laffin' our asses off. Well, except for the "artist"--he was also laffin'. To the bank.

Coda: Kevin's t-shirt read "Cop Shoot Cop."
JADED ART GUY: "I can't help but be intrigued by your shirt! What is its meaning?"
KEVIN: "It's a band."
And "ontological syllogism" has become a phrase we use every time we encounter Artiness for Artiness' Sake.

Comment number: 004920   Posted by: Bill the Splut on January 20, 2005 09:20 PM from IP: 69.0.44.208

I sat next to David Mamet once myself, and it was the closest I've ever come to having a MASSIVE PUBLIC CELEBRITY-INSPIRED DORKOUT. I stayed cool, though. Well, I probably bounced gleefully in my chair some, but I don't think anyone noticed. Except that Rebecca Pidgeon kept smiling at me, so - yeah, I probably embarrassed myself. But I did it quietly.

(Oh, and hi - I've never commented before, but have reading your blog and giggling uncontrollably for - a year and a half? 2 years, maybe? Not continually, though. That would be weird.)

Comment number: 004921   Posted by: mercybuttercup on January 21, 2005 11:22 AM from IP: 63.202.150.44

Well damn.. all I got is that once I saw Lindsey from the MMC at a mall in Orlando.

GOD I am sincerely low brow.

Comment number: 004922   Posted by: Melissa on January 22, 2005 10:01 AM from IP: 24.28.2.219

Heee. Man, I liked Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf quite a bit, but by calling Ahl-bee a "desolate hobo" you made a gay girl fall in love with you. Just so you know.
I once sat next to Joel Grey at a play...actually, HE sat, I had standing room. I geeked out and got his autograph and acted like a total ass. I'm usually not such a dork around actors. He was very nice, though. Oh, the play sucked.
My only other vaguely interesting celebrity story is the time I ran into (almost literally, as I was trying to maneuver two hyperactive dogs at the time) Hilary Swank while dogwalking. She's very sweet. Really, I was more interested in her dog. Looked like an all-American 100% mutt - freakin' adorable little fella.

Comment number: 004923   Posted by: CG on January 22, 2005 07:49 PM from IP: 70.18.193.161

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