Oscar night seems as good a night as any to tell you that I have a complicated relationship with famous people. When I was growing up, there were two famous people who went to my synagogue but they didn’t impress me as a tween. One is a sportscaster you have heard of if you lived in this area in the 70′s and 80′s and one is an actress who had a recurring role on Law & Order, although that isn’t really her claim to fame (although it is if you’re me). It didn’t really mean anything to me.
The first famous person I met who impressed me was Margot Kidder. She bought something at my store and that was the first appearance of my MO when I see a famous person to this day. I raise my eyebrow as if to say, “I know who you are!” and they smile back slyly as if to say, “yes, I am that person!” No words are exchanged other than the business ones. “That’ll be $12,95, Lois Lane.” It’s true that I’m shy of famous people but it’s really more that I have this feeling that they’d like to walk this earth unhounded by people like me. That is, strangers. Even when I was ten or eleven, I was pretty sure Sting didn’t have the same relationship to me as I did to him.
But this is not to say that seeing a famous person isn’t endlessly exciting. If I had to analyze it (and, well, I do, I have a blog!) I’d say that there is something almost awesome about seeing someone who seems fictional, who is always seen in a totally constructed way, living life as a real person right in front of you. David Bowie getting into a cab. Chris Noth crossing the street. Jerry Seinfeld on jury duty. Even when I went to work with famous people and got used to seeing them and having them be real human beings, there was still some excitement.
Lately, though, famous people and regular joes get to talk to each other a lot more through things like Twitter. I’ve actually written back and forth with a few tennis players, musicians, and newspeople and that’s been fun. Because I wonder, if I were famous, would I spend my day talking to my fans? But some people do and that’s very cool. But it never occurred to me that Facebook could rise to this level. You see, I have this friend. My friend is a publicist with whom I used to work (twice! we both got laid off and then ended up at the same place) and aside from her work, she just is a ridiculously great person who moves in circles with lots of cool music people. So while my feed usually contains things like “Liz Jones is now friends with Joe Blow,” items about her are more of this stripe: “Mary Music-Publicist is now friends with Your Childhood Idol” or “Mary Music-Publicist is now friends with That Guy in Your Poster and 5 Others” where the five others also appeared in concerts you attended and videos on 120 Minutes. I know I’ve discussed my favorite DJ’s of my youth and what they still mean to me and they’re her friends too. Sometimes when one of them posts on her wall, I have to bite my own hand to not post below, just for the sake of being in that conversation. Because that wouldn’t really be fair to her, would it?
Now, some of the famous people profiles on Facebook are just kept up by their management and will accept friend requests from anyone. But I wouldn’t friend them anyway. It feels somehow demeaning to friend Martin Gore. Sure, he was a great friend to me for someone whom I’ve never met, but not really in the normal sense we understand the word. Or even the Facebook sense. But there is a famous person with whom I once worked, the idol of my early twenties, and he’s on Facebook. I found him accidentally while looking for someone with whom I worked at my first label. I didn’t need to friend this workmate, I just wanted to know what happened to her. But then I saw she was friends with this artist and so were a couple of other people with whom I worked. Now, his profile is also maintained partially by management and says so. He probably accepts anyone who friends him, or his management does. But I think my former co-workers’ friendship with him is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Friendship Approval. So I went for it, friended him, and added a note reminding him of who I was (it did not say “remember that time in ’94 where I made you stay an hour to sign autographs at Jones Beach? Good times!”).
But even if we don’t end up Facebook friends, I’ll still relish being the friend of a friend of so many people I admire from afar. And not even Mary Music-Publicist will know how surreal it feels for the fan that lives eternally inside me to see them in my feed.
Yeah, some of you won’t know who those people are, but for those who do.
Love and Rockets – Mirror People