Monday, August 07, 2006

A Brush With Fame

A few months ago, I had the chance to go see one of my favorite, if not favorite, bands, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, live at Roseland Ballroom. The band is marked by its raw, unpolished production, and despite recently selling out, manages to maintain its innovative, edgy, indie sound. The lead singer, Karen O, is well-known for her unique screeching singing style, bizarre dress and onstage antics. She is also my hero, my idol, my role model. If I could have anyone’s job, I would have hers, jumping madly around a stage in garish outfits and ripped fishnets whilst screaming at the top of my lungs and chugging beer. Sadly, she beat me to it, and does, possibly, a much better job at it than I would, so the closest I could get was to watch her from the heat and humidity of the sweaty throng packing the Roseland floor.

After the fantastic, albeit much too short in my opinion, show, I resigned myself to dragging my smelly self home and getting to bed so I would be well-rested for another day at my wonderfully hellish job. My plans took a slight detour when the friend I had come to the show with informed me that he had managed to procure two backstage passes from his friend who works at a music company of sorts. I became lightheaded, I started to sweat, my lungs swallowed air in loud heaving gulps, foam started to collect at the corners of my mouth—this was it, I was finally going to be face-to-face with Karen-fucking-O. Would she be nice? What would I ask her? What would we talk about? Would she even want to talk to me?

I wish I could tell all of you the kind of fan encounter story that ends up on a single-page article in NME or SPIN. I wish I could say that I ended up in a dressing room backstage where the Heineken and Cristal flowed, Karen and I ended up having a few drinks together, retiring to a Lower East Side dive bar, getting completely plastered, hitting on creepy-looking men with too much facial hair, running a pedestrian over in a rented convertible, waking up in the penthouse of a four-star hotel facefirst in a mountain of cocaine, empty wine bottles scattered about, and calling in sick to work.

Unfortuntely, I can't. Alas, “backstage” turned out to be a quartered off side area where a bunch of people hung out and ordered drinks from the bar. When the band came out, no one batted an eyelash, and Karen O made a beeline for four small Korean women, one of whom turned out to be her mother. Despite standing five feet away from her in all her six-foot, glitter eye make-up, crazy haircut glory, I opted not to charge in between the conversation she was engrossed in with her family, and I slunk away, defeated and disappointed. As I was trudging out of the club, shaking my head, I realized something. Even when I had gotten the backstage passes, amidst my cloud of euphoria, I had felt a twinge of dread. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but I had known right away that no matter the circumstances, even if I had met her when she wasn’t busy talking to “real” people, I wouldn’t have approached her. I would have stared, hoped she would talk to me, and went home. I didn’t truly understand what would have bothered me so much about charging her, gushing about how great she is, how much I want to be like her, until I read this.

I won’t even try to explain the entirety of this phenomenon here because Dan does it so well, but he finally put his finger on something I had known for a long time. I have always as long as I can remember, told people that I don’t get star-struck. While my roommate flipped the fuck out when we saw Kevin Spacey in London, and my friends lined up for an autograph when we saw Freddie Prince Jr. in Central Park (this was at the height of his fame), I opted to hang back. Why? Because celebrities are people just like you and me, and if you approach them as a fan, an admirer, a subordinate, you lower yourself to them. You declare your status as below theirs thereby eliminating any possibility of them ever relating to you on a friendly/human level. Not saying Karen O and I will ever be friends, but you get the point.



Blogger dantobindantobin said...

Last night I was walking my dog near Ben Affleck's movie shoot here in Boston, and I was trying to figure out how I could communicate with him as anything other than a fan. The only scenario I came up with required pretty specific people to be in the cast, which seemed unlikely.

This tells you two things: a) I didn't end up wandering over near the set, and b) I have way too much time to let my mind wander while walking the dog.

9:49 AM  

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