Friday, October 14, 2005

Idol Worship ...

My friend Jeff loves Bruce Springsteen. Worships, actually. I know no bigger Bruce fan. A couple years ago, shortly after I had gone to my first-ever Springsteen show, I was at Jeff's house and saw a picture - a concert still - of Bruce performing on Jeff's office door.

When I mentioned that I had just gone to see Bruce for the first time, Jeff leapt at the chance to baptize me at the Asbury Park altar. He showed me books, he played seldom-heard songs. My education was just beginning and he was a more-than-willing teacher.

Sitting in his family room, listening and leafing, I looked over at Jeff who was reading a magazine article about Bruce and said, "We have to finagle a reason for you to interview him." Jeff is a senior feature writer for the Wall Street Journal. He can write about anything he likes, really (with an editor's approval), and writing for the Journal provides plenty of clout when requesting time with a star.

Jeff, lying on the couch and leaning on his elbow, looked up at me and said, "You don't want to interview your idol."

I can see the sense in that. Most interactions with stars aren't what you want them to be. Jeff prefers to adore Bruce from a distance. He's a fan.

Contrast that anecdote with this:

Dave is a musician. And so other musicians have influenced him in very personal ways, have literally shaped who he's become over the years. The Beatles were a very early influence and remain so to this day, but Robert Plant's music showed Dave another side of himself.

Last week, Dave met Robert Plant. Plant was at the House of Blues doing a Katrina benefit concert with Pearl Jam. Dave is good friends with Eddie Vedder from way back. Backstage after the show, Eddie introuduced Robert and Dave. Dave sent the picture of the two of them over last week, but called today to tell me the tale.

I've seen everyday people meet someone famous, and the someone famous is usually kind. "Oh, hi, nice to meet you," they probably say, looking over the shoulder of the person in front of them to the next person they have to greet. It means something to you, maybe, but really, it doesn't mean anything to them. It's part of the job of being famous. Five seconds from now, you'll be telling your friends that you met Famous Person X, but they'll already have forgotten your face.

Dave, though, had the undivided attention of one of his idols, telling Robert about a show he caught when he was 16, a show Plant remembered, could cite some details from, even.

And it got me to thinking: There's no one in my life like that. There's no one whose talent has shaped my future. No musician truly affects me because I'm not a musician. And I didn't become a writer because of another writer's work. There are writers I admire, and it would be nice to meet them someday if I had the chance, but meeting them wouldn't fulfill a lifelong dream.

I'm thrilled for Dave that he had the chance to meet Robert. (I've always thought they kind of looked alike. Seeing them together in the picture, they really don't. Robert looks older than his years, and Dave looks younger.) And I wonder how many people are lucky enough to be so influenced by another person, and then one day have the chance to meet them in a meaningful way.

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