People ask me sometimes how many famous people I’ve seen since moving to LA – and by “people ask me sometimes” I mean “not a single person has asked me that, but pretending that they have makes it way easier for me to start this update.” And since you ask, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you; not because I’ve seen so many famous people that I’ve lost count, but because I really can’t tell if a lot of the people I’m seeing are famous or not.
I tend to assume that exquisitely attractive, glamorously dressed people are famous – what other lifestyle would allow you to spend that much money on clothes as impractical as loafers or a fedora or some kind of weird knit wraparound shawl thing that you wear over a bikini? Plus, dressing like that draws attention, and attention is like cocaine for celebrities (along with actual cocaine, which doesn’t care how you’re dressed.)
What I so often forget is that LA is full of attractive attention whores from virtually everywhere in the world, and whether they’re famous or not they’re going to dress like they are, presumably in hopes of people like me thinking they’re famous. Because of this and my uncanny ability to forget the details of what a person looks like, I can see someone who’s good looking and outlandishly dressed and not be sure whether they’re actually a celebrity or if they refinanced their house to buy those ripped up jeans.
Moreover, the definition of what a celebrity is has widened in the past few years and I really haven’t kept up. Reality television has led to an explosion of people who are now famous in spite of their lack any skill or talent beyond embarrassing themselves – something I’ve been doing my whole life for no money and virtually no recognition. People who look to me like ordinary clownish douches could, in fact, be professional douches – your Real Housewives Of…, your …Shore, your …elor/ette; people who are paid big money to act like children and let cameras film the ensuing chaos. Since I generally avoid reality TV, though, I’m as likely to recognize these people for their work as they are to recognize me for my blog.
This kind of sets up what happened to me last night.
I was having a drink with a girl at a bar in Hollywood, and since it was oppressively crowded inside, we opted to sit outside at a table in a small area separated from the sidewalk by a low gate. The upside to this is that it’s quiet enough out there that you can actually hear what people are saying; the downside is that every passing freak can hear what you’re saying too and, in many cases, will offer his opinion. For instance, this happened:
Girl: My friends are talking about doing a road trip up to Seattle, but it sounds like a lot of driving.
Me: Yeah, Seattle’s overrated anyway. Just go to Portland instead.
Passing Crackhead On The Sidewalk: Aw man, Seattle’s pretty legit – I ain’t been there in years, but I liked it a lot! They got that Space Needle, y’know?
He stood there and grinned at me with all three of his teeth, looking at me like I was the weird one for not offering a response.
”Thank you, crackhead! I appreciate your participation in this open forum discussion. We’ve all learned a lot tonight – both about Seattle, and about ourselves. No, sorry, I don’t have any crack.”
Shortly after the crackhead left, an enormously fat man and a few of his friends arrived and sat on a bench a few feet away from us, drinking some gin and tonics and generally being quiet and civilized. But after a few minutes, a bunch of drunk, raucous, pudgy girls waddled up the sidewalk, stopped right beside us, and started squealing and pointing at the fat guy.
“OHMIGOD!” One of them shrieked, about a foot from my ear, her finger pointing straight past me like I wasn’t even there. “I know you! You were on Jackass!”
We both turned and looked at the fat man, who was smiling modestly and raising his glass in silent acknowledgment.
The girls screamed and giggled some more.
“You’re, like so funny! You’re the one who always throws up!”
And immediately, all I could think about was this tremendously obese man vomiting, no matter how hard I tried not to.
“Yeah!” Another one of them chirped. “Or there was the time you drank that sweat from your butthole on the exercise bike!”
“Or when Steve-O was wearing that fart mask hooked up to your butt, and you shit in it and Steve-O totally puked!”
I was really starting to miss that crackhead and his opinions on various Pacific Northwestern cities.
And then, as the girls posed with the fat man for pictures and told more vivid stories about the things he’d puked and shit on, the waiter brought us our food.
It’s one thing to eat food after hearing a nasty story about a person shitting or throwing up. It’s another thing to sit there eating while hearing those stories with the subject of them a couple of feet away from you like some kind of visual aid. And he’s surrounded by groupies telling these stories like they’re goddamn Norse legends or something, and from these you learn that he’s apparently the Steve Nash of shitting and puking and drinking his own bodily fluids, and you’re looking at the girl across from you and thinking, I told her this was a cool bar. It was my idea to come here. Because of me, we are now having this experience.
No, of course it couldn’t be John Malkovich at the other table. ”Oh my God! You were so thought provoking in ‘The Libertine’ – both the film adaptation and the 1996 stage production at the Steppenwolf in Chicago!” No, I pick the preferred bar of a professional defecator.
What do you do, in those situations? How do you make conversation while that’s going on? Do you acknowledge the obese, shitting elephant in the room, or do you try to make small talk and pretend it’s not happening?
”So, do you want dessert?”
“Nothing with chocolate in it.”
Once the fat guy and his groupies had left, we did wind up discussing what had happened, and she mentioned that she felt sorry for that guy. I, however, was inclined to disagree.
The man shit on somebody else’s face and got paid more than I’ve made in five years to do it. And, you know, that’s the beauty of capitalism, and God bless him for making a buck, but I think there’s a certain poetic justice to him being loudly recognized on the street for that sort of behavior, if for no other reason to show the public that you can’t just go around shitting on other peoples’ faces and get away scot free. People remember that sort of thing. It follows you.
So I guess, to answer your question, I’ve seen one celebrity so far. And if there was a way to un see him – to un know that one can be so gifted in the field of solid waste that people will recognize him on the street – you bet I’d do it.
Truman Capps has now passed these lovely mental images on to you. Thanks for reading!