I'm going to admit something about myself that's not very flattering: I'm impressed by fame. I know. Shallow, isn't it? But that's not the worst of it: famous people turn me into a total neurotic.
Once, when I was in high school, I was shopping at Water Tower place with several friends. We were inside of one of those shops that carries weird crap (Sharper Image?) and John Cusack walks in. My friend Julie, who is one of those friends that I both loved and hated simultaneously, ran up to him and said, "Are you John Cusack?" He made a big production of looking surprised, checking his various body parts, and replying, "Last time I checked."
Me? I loved him from that day forward. As far as I'm concerned, he can do no wrong, even if he makes a movie as bad as "Must Love Dogs."
Of course, this might just be where I first developed my fear.
I've have other encounters with famous people. I once told a very bad joke to Danny Bonaduce. It was bad enough, in fact, that when my brother called his radio show months later, Danny put him on the air after he said that his sister told the monkey joke. The only problem with this story is: I only told the joke because I didn't know that he was standing behind me.
Then, there was the time I ran into Lili Taylor on the street in midtown Manhattan. I made something of a cake of myself, because I love her. I love everything she's ever done. Her film "Dogfight" with River Phoenix is in my top five movies of all time. And then, there's the fact that she was in that one movie with John Cusack.
Tim Curry passed me on the street more than once when I was living in Brooklyn. I got drunk at a bar with Jim Harbaugh. John Stossel was in line in front of me at LaGuardia airport. Oh! Steve Buscemi lived in my neighborhood. So did Paul Auster. I could go on and on, because when you've lived in New York, you run into just about anybody. And still, I never quite acquired the veneer that a New Yorker should have, the one that said, oh, famous guy? So what. I'm a New Yorker, I see famous people all the time. Sorry. I don't care what you think, seeing Steve Buscemi on the street is fucking cool.
What I'm unable to do is get over the neuroses that emerge the minute there's even a little bit of name recognition. I've even been known to make bad dating decisions when a little bit of fame is involved. There was the movie producer -- nobody you've ever heard of unless you know movies -- he was bicoastal, and every time he'd come to town to work on his latest film, he and I would get together. He would do this insane man-about-town thing, taking me to expensive restaurants and staying in fancy hotels just off Central Park. And he'd tell me that I was beautiful and I'd want to believe him. I never believed that I matched what he brought to the table, and in the end, that made anything truly developing between us impossible.
He wasn't even all that famous.
Fame is something I've considered over the years. What's that Andy Warhol said about everybody getting five minutes? Some of us get five hours, some five seconds. Shakespeare's about the only guy I know of who got five hundred years. Me, I've sought fame in my own small ways. I write. If you type my name into google, the first six pages that come up are actually me. I've acted. For a brief period of about two years, if you turned on the AMC movie channel, you couldn't miss the commercials I did for them. Once (you're never going to believe this, but it's true), somebody recognized me on the street as that Ginger Rogers girl.
For someone who's lived as I've lived and done the things that I've done, you'd think I'd be more nonchalant about this.
So now we come to my upstairs neighbor, the rock star. No, really. My upstairs neighbor is a rock star. When I first moved in, somebody told me that he was famous, but I'd never heard of him. As long as I'd never heard of him, I could coexist without doing anything stupid. This was fine for quite some time until one day when he put the name of his band up on his mailbox.
I have heard of him, and I even had one or two of his songs on my iPod. Crap. Do you know what I did when I figured it out? I took his songs off my playlists just in case he heard me playing them. Yes, I know. Crazy.
But this living-near-someone-famous thing is good for me. I can't be a freak all the time. I can't jump every time I hear someone's steps in the hallway. And when I run into him when I'm taking out the trash, I need to just say, Hey. Which is what I do. I'm very good at being cool. I even invite him to my parties.
So anyway, just after I joined MySpace, I started searching for everyone I ever knew. I sent emails to people I haven't spoken to in a decade. It was great fun, and I've been having a helluva good time reconnecting. And then one night, when I'm trying to think of someone else to look up, I think to myself: my neighbor. I should see what he's got to say for himself. So I do. I look him up, and because when I'm looking him up I convince myself that doing so is somewhat creepy, I send him an email. I'm not creepy. I'm neurotic, but not creepy. And hey, I'm funny. He gets the email, and he answers. Dear Cecilia, he responds, I hope my walking isn't keeping you up at night.
This is one of two things: it's either really funny or really nice. He's either thinks I clearly have too much time on my hands (I do -- I'm an insomniac) and is calling me on it with only the slightest irony, or he actually worries that his late-night walking is keeping me awake (it's not -- it's my own brain that's doing it).
Which makes him human.
Which I knew.
But hey: I told you I'm a neurotic freak.
Perhaps I should just blame John Cusack.