Sunday, December 14, 2008

Celebrity (or If You Ain't Famous...You Suck!)

(This will embarrass him slightly, buuuuuuut... I don't care.)
First of all, I would like to welcome the Fox Mafia who has probably already found this and has passed it on to proper channels. How's it going?

It is fascinating to me how people will change their demeanor the second a celebrity appears. The most stoic person in the world can suddenly become gelatinous goo when a famous person walks in the room. When I was in college in St. Louis, I used to go to this restaurant/diner all the time in the city of Clayton (near St. Louis...think rich Edina). They had wonderful, greasy diner food. More often than not, my dining partner was a set designer friend of mine who was the most uptight person in the world. Did not like to show emotion. If you've ever seen the movie
Ratatouille, think of the character of Anton Ego, the food critic, and make him a little more of a hippie and this is Peter. So it was incredibly shocking to me that Peter would turn into a giddy little school girl when we had lunch one day and there was Mark McGwire at the next table. You couldn't miss the guy. He had Popeye-like arms, very light hair, and many waitresses falling over themselves to talk to him. This was also the offseason after he had broken Maris' record.
Maybe I'm just different, but celebrities are just people who have been elevated by the public. Thus, I did not run over and ask for the man's autograph. Peter, however, did. "Oh my GOD! You're Mark McGwire!" Peter shouts. Again, my dining partner is usually stoic. When his girlfriend dumped him in front of us at a tech rehearsal (such bad timing), he just said, "We'll talk later, I have to work." No emotion, no raising of his voice. Yet, here he was jumping up down trying to get a baseball player to sign a pad of paper.
I did my part. McGwire sighed as he looked at me and said, "I suppose you want an autograph too?"
"No, sir," I said, "I just want eat in peace. I know you know that feeling."
He laughed. "Yes, I do."
Later, as he left the diner, he stopped and said, "Thanks," and walked out.

Microfamous people aside (I leave that to
Rex), we have elevated people on TV, radio, film, and playing fields to a level beyond us solely because they do something we don't: talk to the masses.
Thus people can take celebrity one of two ways. Either:
1. It goes to their head, and they treat people as lower than them, or
2. It doesn't affect them as much. They know they have power, but it is not wielded like a sword.
Jason DeRusha. Sorry,
Jason DeRusha (that's better) is an example of a #2. While he enjoys some celebrity and is well known, you will not hear him say (or see him do this) in a harsh tone, "Do you know who I am?" That's not him, and that's what makes him likeable. (I also owe him for way back when he named my blog as one to read. What the hell was he thinking?)

The same can be said of Keith Marler. He's not one of those, "Get out of my way, kid," kind of celebrity. He enjoys talking to people. One time he was in the Arbor Lakes 16 when a woman, who was a little infatuated with him, came up to him and said, "Oh my GOD...Keith Marler...I love you." Keith just stood there and smiled. "Thank you very much," he said. Of course, I had told the woman to hug him...and he graciously let her while giving me the, "Your children will suffer," look. He doesn't seek out people and doesn't use his fame for personal game. Never once have I heard this man exclaim, "Don't you know who I am?!"

Karl Spring, however, is an example of the other kind of celebrity. Years ago, I met Karl Spring at the Minnesota State Fair. He was working at the Fox 29 (this was before the switch) booth. He couldn't have been nicer. We chatted for a few minutes about being a weatherman, and I told him I was a teacher.
"Oh!" he exclaims. "You have to bring me to your classroom."
"Um," I begin, "Maybe."
At this point, he grabs my free fan (on a stick) and starts writing numbers on it.
"No really," I say, "that's not necessary."
But he just writes out these numbers and says, "Please call. We'll set something up."
"Ok," I say, and I start to walk away.
And this is where it gets odd. Even though I have the numbers, the former weatherman comes out of the booth and runs down to me as I'm walking away.
"Stop!" he yells.
I do.
"I forgot. This is my other line," and he takes the fan and writes more on it.
I never called, because the students wouldn't have gone for it, and because he seemed desperate.

The worst "celebrity", however, has to be Dick Ebersol. Now, I used to work as a maintenancean at a tennis court. Ebersol's wife, Susan St. James, played there, and I had spoken to her a few times. Very pleasant woman. He and I had also met, but he dismissed me. One year later, I was a ball boy (yeah, yeah, get it out of your system now) at the then Volvo Open (now called Pilot Pen). There was a celebrity softball game between CBS and NBC Sports personalities. The best personality was the umpire: Randy "Macho Man" Savage, who called balls and strikes in character. "HOOOOO Yeah! That was Strike ONNNNNE!"
One of the personalities, however, was Dick Ebersol. At the end of the game, the crowd was allowed to go on the field and mingle. I went to Ebersol to talk to him and ask how his wife was (she was always very nice to me, and a really good tipper). The second I walked up, it was like I smelled of the plague and asked him to lick me.
"No, I'm not signing autographs," he said.
"I don't want one," I replied. "I wanted to ask..."
"No," he cut me off, "Fuck off, kid."
"I just wanted to ask...."
"Did you not hear me?!" he yelled, "FUCK OFF, kid!" Then he turned back to the person he was talking to and said, "I hate these things. The people are know?"
I walked away, but that was the moment I realized that some people gain a modicum of fame and power, and they treat people badly because of it.

And yet, we value celebrity so much in these modern times. We don't know what to wear unless our new "heroes" tell us. The celebrity endorsement may not mean as much as it used to, but it can sway some people.

I'm not famous. I never will be, but it's fine. I wouldn't want photographers following me. I wouldn't want people digging through my trash.
I wouldn't want to be in public with my children and have people come running up. Some of us have control, but many don't.

I'm proud to call Keith my friend, and even though I haven't known him very long, I know he's not the kind of guy who would dismiss me for my low standing.

So thanks, Keith. Thanks for reminaing a real person even though you don't have to be.



Anonymous said...

Aren't YOU trying to elevate YOUR status by publicly declaring that you're friends with Keith Marler? I'm the godfather of Keiths child and I'm not blogging about it? LOL! And yes, he does abuse his celebrity status, particularly when making DINNER reservations...
=O And when old ladies get in his way at the grocery store, he just pushes them down to the ground...

Jason DeRusha said...

As long as I continue being mentioned when you mention Keith Marler, I'll officially sanction your friendship with him.

The difference between Keith and me (besides his obvious talent) is that he is a big deal and I pretend to be a big deal. Plus, after waking up at 2:30am the other day to anchor our morning show, I don't know how he gets it together every day.