I’m not a celebrity. I can count the number of times on almost one hand that I’ve been given the celebrity treatment (actually two hands, but who’s counting? Okay, me. I’m counting.) I used to include the time I was chauffeured around at a film festival in a black Lincoln Town Car. Volunteers escorted other filmmakers at the festival in shitty, little economy cars, but since our film was chosen as the closing night gala screening, I thought that it was nice of the festival organizers to afford us the distinction of a black Town Car with tinted windows. It felt very rock-n-roll to pull up in front of screenings and parties – disguised by the tinted windows – pouring out of the back seat in front of everyone gawking. Then I learned that it was by pure chance that the volunteer assigned as our host was a funeral director. He drove a company car – a black Lincoln Town Car with tinted windows. My rock-n-roll fantasy was shattered by the thought of all the mourners who had sat in that back seat waiting in funeral processions. Black suits and ties and dark sunglasses. Grieving families. It ruined the whole rock-n-roll fantasy. Travis, if you’re reading this… you still made us feel like rock stars.
Or the time I watched an Oasis concert from a private suite. That was nice, I must say. But I was honestly uncomfortable with the elitism of watching a concert from a suite with catered food and a guy who ran over to give me a new beer before I could swallow the flat, lukewarm backwash at the bottom of the old one. I should be out on the floor sweating and getting doused with cups of beer. Regardless, the Gallagher brothers of Oasis were whining away and most likely loaded and uninspired. So, I leave the suite to use the bathroom. (I’m switching tense if you don’t mind.) I notice a guy double back and follow me into the men’s room. Standing next to me at the urinals, he glances over a few times. This is always an awkward scenario. Is he gay? Does he think he knows me? Is he just doing a quick, harmless survey size comparison?
I finish at the urinal – thank God I don’t have a shy bladder – and walk to the sink. The guy follows. “Can I help you with something?” I’m annoyed, now.
“Sorry, man, you’re just… you’re so funny… you’re a fuckin’ riot, dude,” he says.
“Thanks, man.” Honestly, I’m flattered. I’m a whore for any compliment.
“I love everything you’ve done,” he says.
“Thanks. Can I get a paper towel?” Wait a minute. Everything I’ve done? I think about it for a minute while I dry my hands. Everything? I starred in an independent film that he probably hasn’t seen. I had just received a call from a network to tell me that the show I had been written onto as the famous-actor/star-of-the-show’s “new, masculine friend” had been cancelled. They thought the show needed a new, comic, “guy’s guy” to beef it up. It was flattering that the producers thought of me as anyone’s “new masculine friend” but the network cancelled the show. More heartbreak and another lost job. But that’s the biz.
“So, who am I?” I ask.
“No, seriously,” I ask, “who do you think I am?”
“Dude, you’re Andy Dick.”
Let me say something quickly in my defense. I was wearing black-framed, Dolce&Gabbana glasses and my hair was particularly moppish and curly that night. But Andy Dick? C’mon! I was just cast as a famous actor’s masculine friend. So, how can I now be mistaken for Andy Dick?
“Sorry, dude, I’m not Andy Dick. Can’t you see how masculine I am?” I would have settled for anyone else… maybe even David Spade with better hair. Why Andy Dick?
The guy laughs, “You’re fuckin’ with me. That’s funny.”
I walk out of the bathroom. He follows me.
“C’mon, just meet my friends. We’ll buy you a beer.”
“I ’m not Andy Dick.”
A few steps later and I’m standing in front of a whole group of guys. They look so eager, excited.
“Guys, I’m not Andy Dick. Look at these pipes… (I flex, shamelessly) I’m too masculine to be Andy Dick.” They all laugh.
They want to buy me a beer. They look so sincere. What harm is there in letting them buy me a beer? Or two? Or three? Import, even. And what harm is there in affecting a bit more of a feminine lilt to my voice and physical posturing that didn’t suggest time spent in a gym? And maybe the subtlest of lisps? I wasn’t impersonating. I was entertaining. I know it’s unethical and I’m not proud, but the guys bought several rounds and they seemed very pleased. And damn, was I funny! Everything I said scored. I was just killing them.
I went home, got a haircut and put the glasses away.
Okay, I’m at a film festival and I’m drinking a martini with Graham Greene, the Oscar-nominated actor who played Kicking Bird in Dances With Wolves. Film festivals create unnatural hype for average, small-budget films to experience the attention of A-list star-driven vehicles. It’s kind of like being voted Most Popular at a Summer Camp full of nerds. So, anyway, I know I’m being cynical, but I’m tired of the whole film festival scene. It’s like being at a bad high school party where everyone gets drunk and you might have a chance to fuck someone that you wouldn’t normally have a chance with. Again, forgive me. I’m laying the cynicism a little thick. So, back to the festival. There I am at a party sponsored by Grey Goose Vodka and a local chocolate factory – which is a brilliant combination, by the way. I’m drinking a martini with Graham Greene who is incredibly complimentary about my performance in our film. It’s weird because I absolutely loved Dances With Wolves! And here I am talking shop with Kicking Bird and he’s drinking a huge martini in a fancy glass and wearing a loud, Hawaiian shirt. He’s very cool. And I desperately want to put my fingers up like buffalo horns and say “ta tonka, ta tonka” but I know that would be very uncool.
So, as we sip martinis, two guys are looking at me from across the room. Finally, they walk over and say “We saw your movie and we were just looking at you… We could probably take you. You’re so much smaller in person.”
“Well, maybe you should try.” I say.
I look at Graham Greene for a little help – “you got my back, right Kicking Bird” – but he just keeps sipping his martini.
They two guys back down. Not because I intimidated them, but because the party hosts had just set up a huge chocolate fountain behind me with a mountain of free gourmet chocolate.
This experience wouldn’t be so bad if it happened just once, but I got that same comment (without the physical threat attached) at several screenings where I appeared to do a Q&A session: “You’re so much smaller than I thought you’d be.” So, apparently I’m disappointing in person. What do they expect, that I’ll lumber into the party and be 17 feet tall like I was on the movie screen? It just isn’t fair.
Speaking of shit-flinging apes… I’m at a Hollywood bar. I hate Hollywood bars. A group of guys stand in a corner – the type of guys that you just want to throw a bottle of beer at and yell, “Douchebags!” That’s no way for a guy with a master’s degree to behave, so I don’t. But these guys with their perfectly messed up hair and well-thought-out, seemingly casual sartorial ensemble. These guys… They’re Ben bashing – just ruthlessly ripping the oeuvre of the American actor, Ben Affleck. They turn to me… I don’t have anything bad to say about Ben Affleck. What am I supposed to say, “Yeah, he’s a fag! He sucks!” Or, “Gigli was a piece of shit.” “How come he can’t get it on with a girl who isn’t named Jennifer?” How about… “I met him and he’s so much smaller in real life.” No. I don’t say anything. At this moment I realize… I don’t hate Ben Affleck. I just don’t. Does that make me unhip? I don’t hate Brittany Spears, either. And Tom Cruise seems a little over-enthusiastic but so was Howard Dean and he’s okay. I realize that there is one thing America loves more than a celebrity… a damaged one.
I met Ben Affleck at a party once. I’ll be honest. He’s better looking than me. He’s much taller than I expected (most actors are tiny). And his career is quite a bit more successful. Are these reasons to hate him? Absolutely! But I don’t. He was actually very nice, charming and he’s a die-hard Red Sox fan. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have fantasies of beating up Matt Damon and becoming Ben’s new “masculine best friend.” Ben and I going to Sox games together in matching Ortiz jerseys, fishing and canoeing together, practicing a special handshake, buying squirt guns at Fanuiel Hall Marketplace and chasing each other all the way to the State House. That would be weird.
In all honesty, I guess I really don’t care about Ben Affleck. Why should I? I mean, I wish him well like I would anyone. But I’m shocked when I hear people get so worked up bashing celebrities. I mean, who gives a shit who Brittany Spears marries? And whether she’s pregnant or just loves Ring Dings and Hostess cupcakes?
Have you ever seen a celebrity eat? I saw Jennifer Lopez (Ben’s first Jennifer) eat a fruit cup with all the grace of a Jersey cow, but she’s still beautiful and sexy.
And I don’t hate her for it. Celebrities eat and shit just like the rest of us. I was in a bathroom at the Fermosa in Hollywood and a well-known actor – famous for his role in “Pulp Fiction” – walked straight into a stall, sat down and started singing at the top of his lungs, a perfect Frank Sinatra impression, while evacuating his bowels…
“The Summer wind… comes blowing in… (audible fart)
Across the sea… (louder fart)”
This experience begs the question: Is the mechanism of evolution – an intelligent drive toward a more complex, sentient, self-aware being – evidence of the will of a Supreme Architect? A God? Or are we a bunch of orphans who construct elaborate fantasies about a loving Parent who is concerned with every action we take? Are we sad, soulless robots in a Philip Dick novel with an inherited imprint of survival and a refusal to accept the terrifying possibility that our existence is meaningless and ephemeral?
So, back to Ben Affleck, schaudenfreude and celebrities in general…
There was one time at a Dodger game that a woman came up to me during the one week that my film was playing in Los Angeles and complimented me on the movie. She thought I was great in the lead and I never stood up from my seat to give her a chance to say that I looked smaller in person. She was genuine and sincere and, for the life of me, I can’t say anything cynical about the experience. It felt really cool. People all around me turned and looked. Granted, they all had an expression that said, “Who the fuck are you?” But it felt good to be singled out, recognized. And isn’t that what celebrity is all about? Isn’t that why we hate them and love them all at the same time? We all want to feel that. To feel special. Singled out amid the maddening routine of existential despair. To be the one ape that has the balls or ingenuity to get off his knuckles and walk upright for a moment while all the other apes sit and gawk, admire and dream. Then a few of the other apes get jealous and start flinging their shit at you because that’s what apes do. And some ape will inevitably walk over, look you up and down and say…
“You look so much smaller than you did before you were walking upright.”