Skip to main content

Brushes With Fame

Meeting celebrities is an awkward business.

The above conclusion is one I've reached over years of going to the Roger Ebert Film Festival, and having visited Hollywood, California back in the 1990s. Perhaps it's just me, but there really doesn't seem to be any real connection that we, the public, have with those who produce and star in some of our most beloved pop culture touchstones.

Take, for example, Ebertfest of 2002. One of my favorite movies from that year's festival was Kwik Stop, starring and directed by Michael Gilio, who was in attendance. The film moved me and, after Gilio's Q&A on-stage, I decided to approach him and say what a marvelous movie it was that he'd made. Of course, once I was in his presence, it was more like gibberish that came out of my mouth, followed by a perfunctory request for an autograph, which he provided.

Then there were several years where actor Scott Wilson attended the festival. Known then for his role in the 1967 classic In Cold Blood, though now better known for his role of Hershel in The Walking Dead, his talent was not lost on me, and during the after-parties toward the end of the festival, where he would be sitting with his wife, Heavenly, chatting-away with guests, I would often want to say hello. Of course, I did not.

Kris Kristofferson was but a few feet from me one year, a guest for the festival's screening of his film A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries. I just gawped at him. Director Spike Lee was in attendance last year. I was sitting outside when he arrived at the Virginia Theatre, casually strolling-up and letting his picture be taken with members of the local Lincoln's Challenge Academy. Again, I just stared in awe. The same goes for John Malkovich, who mostly stood by himself while at the opening gala.

Of course, I've managed a few minor successes when it comes to brushes with fame. Ignatiy Vishnevestky (former co-host of Ebert Presents At the Movies) was approachable one night outside the theater while a film I didn't much care for was screening. He did most of the talking, but it was casual, laid back. Actor Robert Forster (whom I jokingly refer to as "my friend Bob") was great to talk with. I love his acting style (which comes across as very natural), and we stood talking for a good ten minutes in the lobby of the Virginia Theatre. He's a very down-to-earth guy.

As for Hollywood in the 1990s.... that was when, on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, I saw Suzanne Pleshette and James Caan (separately) as they went about their shopping. Suzanne donned some dark sunglasses, cocked her head back, and strode past in true diva fashion. Mr. Caan was chatting with some (presumably) friends. To be honest, I was more excited when, later on during the same trip, we drove by Fred MacMurray's house in Brentwood.

Celebrity is a strange thing. We see the same people on television and on the silver screen, over and over throughout the course of years -- decades, even. I think that we're wired in such a way that encountering someone so many times (even if it's not in-person) breeds a certain false familiarity. When we see them in the flesh, it's tempting to say hello. For the most part, I've found it best to let the familiarity remain at a distance.

* The 17th Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival will take place in Champaign, IL from April 15 - 19, 2015. *


Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

Third Death

My father has had three funerals. The third (though perhaps not final) one, was last night.
In reality, Lewis died in 1997. Cancer. Aged 52. He had a real funeral. I was there. The next two funerals occurred only in my dreams, yet they seemed real at the time, and their impact during the waking hours was keenly felt.
You see, during the intervening nineteen years, Lewis has come back to life in my dreams, many times. It is more than simply having a dream about him. During these nighttime images, it is noted that Lewis shouldn't be there, that he died of cancer and is resting six feet under. How, then, could he be alive and, seemingly, healthy?

Thoughts on an Election

Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.
Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.