A Possible Brush With Fame Circa 2001

What is it with my need to place myself in the company of celebrities? I was looking through some old journals recently when I spotted this entry for November 17, 2001:

I think I saw Robin Williams on the Southwest corner of Broadway and Houston in NYC today! I should have said something clever like, “Nanoo nanoo!” but he was moving too fast. There was a look on his face that said, “I know I look like a famous person, but could you please let me by without too much of a fuss?” Kind of an obligatory “good to see you” that his adoring public must expect from him. Assuming, of course, it really was him.

What gets me is that it’s barely two months after 9/11, I’m walking down Broadway, and all I can think about is whether or not I just bumped into Robin Williams. Not about the tragedy that’s still fresh in everyone’s mind, not about the new, broken world we’ve suddenly found ourselves living in, but about the possibility — however unlikely — that I may have just made eye contact with the guy who played Popeye (and, okay, many other more memorable roles).

So why? What is it about me — about us, assuming I’m not the only one who’s so easily starstruck — that makes us go gaga over celebrities? Is it something about them? About us? About our makeup as human beings? Were there famous neanderthals that all the other neanderthals swooned over? That guy who killed the wooly mammoth in the cave painting everyone’s been talking about?

The crazy thing is that I don’t watch TV, and I barely go to the movies, but if Ron Livingston crashed his car in front of my house, my first instinct would be to grab a camera and get a picture of him. Then I’d probably ask for an autograph. Eventually, I hope, I’d ask if he were okay. And maybe I’d volunteer to call for an ambulance. But while we were waiting, I’d pepper him with questions about what it was like to work with Jennifer Anniston in Office Space or Nicolas Cage (not to mention Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman) in Adaptation.

And the sad thing about my possible encounter with Robin Williams? It still comes up in conversation! I bring it up whenever I can, no matter how tenuous the connection: Dead Poets Society? Sure I’ve seen it. Funny movie. You know, I met Robin Williams once. Well, not so much met him. But we shared a moment. I think. 

Even sadder, I’ve spent many hours building a plausible framework for his sudden appearance in my life, most of which hinges on the fact that he appeared in Death to Smoochy the following year — and that the movie was filmed in New York at about the same time I saw Robin Williams!

So here I am, haunted by a fuzzy memory of maybe running into Robin Williams in New York over a decade ago, and I can’t stop talking about it, can’t even stop writing about it. But, Robin, if you’re out there, this song’s for you!

“Call me!” the sad little blogger said, extending a thumb and pinky to mime a telephone receiver…


6 thoughts on “A Possible Brush With Fame Circa 2001

  1. Haha! Great post, and the perfect song to explain humanity’s fascination with stars. What confounds me is that, although Robin Williams is arguably a good actor, there are so many stars famous for merely “being famous” — the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, etc.. What compels us to obsess over these people, other than that we are told they are important? Is it just an attempt to create our own mutable aristocracy? Or a desire to worship, not unlike the drive for religious belief?

    • I think your last two questions nail it, and I especially like the phrase “mutable aristocracy.” Of course, a mute-able aristocracy would be nice sometimes, too.

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