Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Brushes with Fame

I’ve been feeling a bit bored with myself, so I decided to make up a list of famous and semi-famous people that I’ve met, or at least been within 10 feet of.  This makes me feel that I’ve had an interesting life.

1. I had a religion class with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls.  I was at Emory when she and Emily played on campus, so I got to see them lots of times

2. I used to encounter Ru-Paul on a fairly frequent basis, back in the 80s when he use to play at Gay nightclubs in Atlanta.  I was at a party where he collapsed on the sofa, grabbed my friend’s hand and exclaimed: “My name means Indian soil!”

3. I was in a writing program with the infamous Dale Peck. If you don’t know who he is, check out Hatchet Jobs on Amazon. He’s a ruthless literary critic and quite a good writer. He also lived next door to me. He was very sweet, so I’m rather surprised at how vitriolic he is now.

4. I took a poetry workshop with Sharon Olds. She used the word “organic” a lot.

5. I took a course in something with Joyce Johnson, Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend.

6. I saw Woody Allen and Alan Alda filming Crimes and Misdemeanors on the Columbia University Quad.  I somehow got mixed in with the extras, who gave me the evil eye until I figured out my error.

7. I interviewed writer Jeannette Winterson for some tiny magazine, when she was in New York promoting Sexing the Cherry. This was truly awful, because I had no journalism experience and was shy as a dormouse. I was roped into the interview because I was the only person the editor knew who had read her books (this was way back).

8.  The short chubby singer from They Might Be Giants. I went to a party where he was the DJ.

9. Michael Nesmith of the Monkeys. Well, I spoke to him on the phone. I worked for a literary agent named John Brockman (his wife, actually, but his assistants didn’t last long, so I was always filling in) who was friends with him. Brockman was a great name-dropper. He had a photograph of himself with Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan, and somehow he had become friends with Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Ellen Burstyn and Claire Bloom, who sometimes phoned, but I never got those calls.

10. Richard Dawkins, the irritating evolutionary biologist, was also a client.

11. As was Naomi Wolf

12. And Michael Drosnin who wrote that horrible book on the Bible code.

13. And David Gelernter, the Yale Computer Scientist who had his hand blown off by the Unibomber.

14. And Stephen Pinker and a bunch of other scientists and such.

15. I also had a chance to read a handwritten letter (in pencil, of course, since it was written from jail) from Aldrich Ames (anybody remember him?). He hoped Brockman would represent him, since a couple of Russian spies were clients.

And that’s pretty much it. I haven’t had any brushes with fame since then. What about you?


  1. I once got within two feet of Dave Barry at a writers' conference, and walked past Johnny Gimbel, the bluegrass fiddler, at a music festival. That's about it.

  2. Oh...and I was part of a book discussion with Mark Allen Powell and actually got to converse with the man -- Powell being a Lutheran theologian of note; famous in ELCA circles.;-)

  3. my housemate's workmate exchanged addresses on a flight with the drummer from Counting Crows. A very long-distance brush with fame!

  4. Well, don't we have a wannabe Hollywood girl. Of course, being from "Los Angels" I out win you by a lot more names.

    Love ya.

  5. WOw, that's a pretty impressive list, IMHO. I met the shorter John from TMBG too, after a show. We hung out and chatted for a while, I don't remember abotu what, but I do remember that he was very nice.

  6. I saw Woody Allen when he was filming that same movie--only he was on the Union Seminary Campus just up the street from Columbia. I was in Tom Brokaw's apartment once, though he was not there at the time. I saw Michael Dukakis in the Boston airport. I went to college with Emily Saliers' older sister. Jenny introduced me to a sister of hers who was visiting campus once, but she has more than one, I think, so it may not have been Emily.

  7. Here's an odd one. I was walking through an airport a year or two ago and saw Cornel West walking the other direction. I waved to him and he smiled and waved back. I found myself a minute or two later wondering how many people would recognize him in an airport. I mean, in my circle, he is a celebrity and he is so distinctive in appearance that certainly lots of people would recognize him. But how many? How often does he have people coming up to him at airports or restaurants to say how much they love his books or to ask wasn't he in the Matrix sequels? It must happen sometimes, I think, but I really have no idea with what kind of frequency.

  8. Ah, academia is a whole other strata of celebrity. My first husband was an English Prof, and in his area of expertise the celebrity to know (suck up to, get to write your book blurb, etc.) was Stephen Greenblatt. MLA was all abuzz if someone like him was on the premises. I sometimes don't recognize friends when they change their haircut, so if you told me Cornell West was Will Smith I would probably believe you. Or if you told me Samuel Jackson was Cornell West. I have bad face recognition. I think I would still recognize my ex, though, unless he's shaved the beard . . .

  9. Okay, my favorite is that my sister and I once met Rodney Dangerfield at the Miami airport when I was about 15. She was like, "Are you Rodney Dangerfield?" and he says, "yes I am." and she says, "Um, this is my sister, and that's my mom . . ."
    That was about the end of the conversation. This cracks us up whenever we talk about it.

    Other than that, Lyle Lovett and I went to the same high school, and I used to ride the bus with his cousin Laura Lovett. And Dave Berry went to my college (actually I guess I went to his . . .)

  10. Oops, I commented in the wrong spot... Alice, please remove it from the above post... Now, back to the message...

    That was fun... and funny! I've only had two brushes with fame... one in which I was riding w/my brother and he almost ran over Sammy Davis Jr., and the other was when I used to work with a famous blogger in Phoenix!