I am a giddy schoolgirl when it comes to celebrities. I don’t care what they’re famous for: I am the same blithering idiot whether it’s Snooki or Madeleine Albright. When I am in close proximity to them, I get a little stupid. So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to resist the urge to wake B up last night at 3AM, when during Miss C’s midnight feed, I found this on my Twitter:
I have no idea how or why he found me on Twitter (although I have a feeling it has something to do with this post), but LeVar Burton – of Roots, Star Trek: TNG, and (most importantly) Reading Rainbow fame – is now following me.
I am dumbstruck.
Before I even knew what a fan was, I was a fan of LeVar Burton. There was an episode of Reading Rainbow where he’s exploring Chinatown in NYC and he goes to a restaurant where the chef prepares Mongolian beef for him tableside. After seeing this, one of my favorite games was to play pretend Chinese restaurant in our backyard. I’d pull up monkey grass and mushrooms, mix them with water from the spigot, and serve them up in a Frisbee to my then-baby brother. Got your homemade Mongolian beef right here. I was four.
When I was teaching English in Korea, I taught from a series of American reading books and occasionally there were stories I hadn’t even thought of since I saw them on Reading Rainbow when I was super little. But whenever I taught them I would get so excited that the kids would notice and ask me why I was geeking-out over an Arthur story. I would then explain that it was on a show I watched when I was a kid, and the students would henceforth be bewildered that I was ever a child.
So yeah, LeVar Burton’s follow means a heck of a big deal to me.
I’ve had a few brushes with fame in my life. The first one that comes to mind is the time I met Billy Corgan at a book signing. I’m actually quite amazed that I haven’t yet devoted an entire post to my hardcore adoration of the Smashing Pumpkins when I was a teenager. I was an absolute, balls-to-the-walls, do-or-die superfan. And I loved Billy Corgan.
LOVED LOVED LOVED.
During college I grew out of my obsession to a certain degree, which I suppose was a good thing because I needed to start paying attention to reality a little bit and stop fantasizing about how I was going to somehow meet and marry Billy Corgan and have his awkward bald-headed children. I had been in Chicago for graduate school for about a month when I remembered that that was where he lived. I googled him and it turned out that he was doing a book signing at Borders that very evening. I was so there.
I went downtown to the Water Tower and took the escalator to the forth floor of the Borders where he would sign copies of his new book of poetry. I sat in line for hours. Even though this was when he was in-between Zwan and the “reuniting” of the Pumpkins, there was already a line three hours ahead of time before the signing. Billy Corgan fans are a devoted bunch, even with his more lackluster projects.
He finally arrived and I got my book signed. Just like that. It was pretty much one of the most anticlimactic moments of my early-adulthood. He was nice, I guess, but I don’t have any inspirational stories to tell as testament to his wondrousness as a human being or anything. He was just a guy, promoting his book, smiling at the fans, which is what almost anyone would do if they were in his position. The whole ordeal made me finally realize that celebrities are just people too. They drink water and breathe air and have crappy days just like everyone else. They just sign books and ride around in tour buses too.
I was also around famous people when I was an extra in Walk the Line. In both of the scenes I’m in, both Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix were on-set and performing. The first time each of them came out, I was a little awe-struck. There they were, pretending to be someone else.
And they were at work. It was their job to pretend to be someone else. That was what floored me. Don’t get me wrong, they were both good at pretending. Heck, Reese Witherspoon even won an Oscar for her performance. But what killed me was that for some reason, they were both born with a certain amount of talent, charm, or some other magical element, that made them rise above everyone else, get famous and then be adored and admired by people they will never even know. It’s just bizarre when you think about how the very nature of fame dictates that the famous person can’t possibly know all the people who give him or her that distinction.
When you do come into contact with famous people, it makes you remember that they’re just humans, plugging along just like the rest of us. In-between the tweeting, signing books, and making movies, they’re sleeping, eating, bathing, worrying, and living life. Every-so-often, they reach out like LeVar did to me and help you remember that they’re real and not just an image on a screen or a voice on a track. Pulling back that screen a little makes the world a bit smaller and safer.