Sunday, March 23, 2008

Over Ponder ...

This is in no way a play for flattery.

But lately, something's been on my mind and I'm going to attempt to think it through on virtual paper.

Despite the proliferation of magazines and web sites devoted to all things banal in the lives of celebrities – Here's a photo of Ben Affleck walking down the street with a cup of coffee! Cameron Diaz shops at a grocery store! – there still exists the "us and them" mentality. There are the people who walk the red carpet and there are the people who sit in the bleachers and watch the other people walk the red carpet.

"They're just people," some say. Yes, that's true. We all share the same DNA structure, but we live in different worlds. My friends who live in L.A. and other points sunny and west rarely report run-ins with the rich and famous. This morning in last week's Parade, I read that Mariah Carey, who's my age, tools around in a $400,000 car. My car? $27,000. Including taxes and the interest on my loan.

Yeah, we're not the same.

So, since I reconnected with Ciarán a few weeks ago and we made a plan for me to head out to New York, I've been thinking about being friends with someone "famous." Ciarán's not famous like "Russell Crowe" famous or "Brad Pitt" famous, but he has another movie opening this coming weekend ("Stop-Loss") which means he'll have three films open at the same time. ("There Will Be Blood" is still in theaters and "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" opened a couple weeks ago.)

None of this is to brag about the fact that we're friends. Quite the contrary. Being friends with him makes me wonder why we're friends. It's not as though "famous" people don't have "normal" friends. For them, every day isn't a Vanity Fair Oscar party. They do mingle with the masses. But I wonder about what I bring to the table. What qualities do I possess that makes this man who travels the world and breathes that rarefied celebrity air (air that we manufacture with our collective obsession) return my phone calls and make plans and render my wallet almost entirely worthless and meet me for breakfast even though he could have used a couple extra hours of sleep?

In his case, I'm sure the answer is that he's just one of the most down-to-earth persons I've ever met. I once saw someone refer to him as a reluctant celebrity. Indeed, I fell in love with him the first day I met him when I referred to him as a celebrity and he gently put his hand on mine and said, "I'm not a celebrity, I'm an actor."

And maybe, now that I think about it, it's good for people like him to have people like me as touchstones to the real world.

When we left the theater last week, there was a small crowd gathered, waiting for him to sign their Playbills and pictures and such, but how much of a connection can you have with someone you'll only encounter for 20 seconds, all of it one-sided? Later, as we sat in his favorite Irish pub, we talked about the play and about his movies, but we also talked about his daughter and my friends' daughters and what it is to grow up as a teenager in this era. (I joked that ours was surely the most serious conversation happening in that pub on St. Patrick's Day weekend.) At breakfast the next morning, we talked about politics. And Springsteen.

We met for the first time 11 years ago. We don't see each other often. But it's fun to be back in touch.

And fun to sit in a theater and watch his dashing self on screen and think about him hugging me goodbye last week then heading down the steps to the subway and calling over his shoulder, "Thanks for breakfast!"

We do, after all, share a fondness for Balthazar's roasted pepper, caramelized onion, and Gruyère quiche.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work with lots of quite famous people and frankly, their contact with "regular folks" is a refreshing change from the people who fawn all over them when they are trying to eat a quiet dinner. They enjoy us "regular folks" because they can be themselves around us instead of always playing a role.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

admittedly late and a bit off topic:
I visited my sister in NYC recently and since I had read your post where you mentioned Magnolia's Bakery I had to try their cupcakes. We also compared quite a few others, Magnolia's making the top two. Lots of fun - sugar high for sure. And now you mention Balthazar! We had breakfast there one day. I talked my sister into the buckwheat crepes while I had the English Breakfast(huge and yummy!). We both decided the crepes were not what they could have been and she will go back to her usual quiche on future visits.
Fun to see interesting bloggers talk about places I know or have been.

7:53 AM  

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