According to popular wisdom, each of us is good for about 15 minutes of fame, more or less. If that's true, I've definitely been short-changed.
Some years ago I was rushing to a meeting in midtown Manhattan, walking because cabs were impossible, and some guy stopped me and asked if I was an actor. He caught me by surprise and before I could say "No, sorry, I'm not Robert Redford", he said "I saw you in a movie, right?"
In a nanosecond my urban survival defenses sprang into action and I figured he was the part of a pickpocket team whose job was to distract me. But, no, he was for real. So I told him I was not an actor. He had mistaken me for someone else. It was over in seconds and we went our separate ways.
The incident rattled around in my head for a while. Thoughts like "Maybe I should wear this suit more often—with sunglasses." I also wondered—and still do to this day—who the hell he mistook me for. Robert Redford, maybe? Warren Beatty? Gene Hackman? Oh, good God, not Michael J. Pollard???
It was flattering but I've long since come to terms with accepting the fact that I will never know if the people who hand out the Oscars might also confuse me with Redford or Pollard. Interestingly, I have never once thought the guy couldn't see worth a damn.
I do recall how flattering it was to be mistaken for some celebrity-type. I walked a little taller right after that. It felt pretty good for a while just to be singled out as an almost-celebrity. That kind of attention can be seductive and problematic. What if every time I stepped out in public, people would look at me a little longer, perhaps with a hint of recognition, a little nod of the head (New Yorkers are used to celebrities in their midst; they don't make too big a deal out of it, but still ...).
Doing normal everyday things would take on a completely different character. Getting a seat in a restaurant without a reservation might be easier, certainly. But standing in the checkout line at the supermarket and glancing casually at Soap Opera Digest might send the wrong signal. I'd probably think more carefully about what I put in my shopping cart, too.
I mean how do you live a normal life if you are a legitimately recognizable celebrity? Would I never be able to wear that suit in public again?
I am reminded of a separate incident I once had with a recognizable celebrity. Meryl had been invited to a private movie screening in midtown and I was to meet her there. I arrived early in a small anteroom with a piece of paper that would get me past the gatekeeper. As I sat there waiting, a tall fellow with a big fuzzy head of hair got off the elevator and spoke with the gatekeeper for a moment. It didn't take long to realize that he wasn't going to be admitted. No tickee, no entry. An awkward moment. But by this time the movie had already begun and since Meryl still hadn't arrived I turned to the guy and, feeling sympathetic about his embarassment, in a spirit of generosity I quietly handed him my entry pass. He gave me a brief look of acknowledgment, not even bothering to say "thanks", took the pass, handed it to the gatekeeper, and disappeared into the screening room. When Meryl arrived later I explained how I had given my pass to Art Garfunkel because I honestly felt sorry for him.
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. When you're down and out, When you're on the street, When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you (ooo)
Being a celebrity isn't all it's cracked up to be (ooo ooo ooo).
So I think I going to pass on my remaining 14 minutes and 45 seconds. Any takers?