Archive for Thursday, August 5, 2004

Writer’s Block

Famous encounters inspire the gawker in all of us

August 5, 2004

The recent election hoopla, from Tuesday's primary to the recent Democratic National Convention, had me thinking about my most recent brush with fame.
While on vacation last month in Boston, I was on the homeward lap of the Freedom Trail when my mother and I noticed a crowd of television cameras and police cars at the Old South Meeting House.
I assumed it was an accident of some sort and was ready to move on. Fortunately, my mom's inquisitive nature drove her to get a better look at what was going on. At this point, it was apparent someone was giving an interview, and after the man turned around it was obvious it was Ted Kennedy. He was giving an interview with Kate Couric, whom I failed to recognize. A woman standing nearby -- a fellow tourist, I assume -- had to clue me in.
I was sure Kennedy sightings were no big deal for Bostonians. So with that "Oh, Mother!" embarrassment reminiscent of my teenage years, I stood with arms folded on the curb while my mother and other tourists tried to get a snapshot of Ted. I was saving my film for all the artsy-fartsy pictures I planned to frame and mount on my walls while trying to remain cool in a mob of star-struck tourists.
I was humbled, however, when my mom pointed out that even Bostonians gathered around the windows in surrounding office buildings to gaze at what had become a spectacle.
Despite my outwardly cosmopolitan nonchalance, I actually was pretty impressed to see such a well-known person (sort-of) up close, and I was even more pleased with the fact that it was a politician. It wouldn't sound as urbane to brag about having seen Justin Timberlake.
It seems like most people I know have their own brush-with-fame stories, whether it's my father while in the Army having served security for Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War era, or Theresa Abel here in our office having seen Clint Eastwood dining at his California restaurant.
One of my favorites, however, is a vacation photograph of my friend Alicia as a toddler posing with Henry Winkler, aka "the Fonz," after having run into the "Happy Days" actor in a national park.
Whether it's taking pictures or seeking autographs from well-known people, there seems to be something in human nature that drives us to produce some sort of proof of our encounter.
Better yet is when the interaction has some kind of personal meaning. That's why my boyfriend, Greg, swears up and down that Dave Mustaine looked him in the eye and gave him a nod during a Megadeth concert.
I admit it is kind of thrilling to see someone famous in person, whether at a concert or speech. But upon seeing that person on television or in a magazine afterward, to me they don't seem any more real than they did before.
I don't feel any more familiarity with Ozzy Osbourne after having seen a Black Sabbath performance than I do with Al Franken after having heard him speak while in college, which proves that such remote encounters are often surreal experiences.
I don't have any regrets about not having proof of my peripheral encounter with Ted Kennedy. After all, my mom's photos just look like the back of a white-haired man in a gray suit.
As to whether anyone believes me, I'm not too worried. If I wanted to impress people, I'd probably come up with someone more hip than Ted Kennedy.
Like "The Fonz."

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