Toto Pulls the Curtain Aside by Deb Tiffany

Like I mentioned in one of my comments earlier this week, I’m celebrity impaired. I just don’t recognize them out of context, and I think it’s because the hurly-burly of Hollywood isn’t what makes me tick. Books do. Literature does.

Remember back in high school when you had to read The Classics, probably against your will, and there came the night when you were slaving over a paper you should have started two weeks ago, and you put down your pen, stared into space, and wondered what it would be like if you could just ask the person who wrote the book?

Flash forward many years. I’m young. I’m single. I’m living in New York, and through a weird fluke and friends, I got invited to have dinner with Arthur Miller after a movie premier.

I wish I could tell you I was full of witty banter, brilliant chit chat, Dorothy Parker-esque insights, but, alas, I am not so socially gifted. And neither, it turned out, was Mr. Miller. For one thing, he was quite elderly, and had a hard time hearing. It was late. He was tired–pretty much of everything, I think. The restaurant was noisy. The waiters were flapping around like panicked birds.

And so that’s the thing I learned right then and there about celebrity. It can survive the spotlight, but not the daylight. In the end, all of us get older. We eventually prefer the comfort of our family and old friends over fawning strangers. We may not ever get tired of the work, but there comes a time when we are weary of talking about it.

I didn’t bring up The Crucible, my favorite play of his, or Death of a Salesman, or Marilyn Monroe. Really, what would have been the point? Instead, we talked about the round table he’d had made for his dining room and his preference that people should be able to see each other while they’re eating. That made me like him immensely. I have a round table, too, passed down to me from my family, and to me, food is as social as it is a necessity of life.

I have no doubt that Mr. Miller promptly went home and forgot all about me. But I didn’t forget my evening with him. For me, it was a rare peek behind the authorative curtain, and a wonderful reminder that in order to make art, you need to have an actual life from which to draw.

So what do you think. Does peeking behind the curtain of celebrity ruin the effect for you, or only make you more curious?

6 Replies to “Toto Pulls the Curtain Aside by Deb Tiffany”

  1. Good story! How fascinating that you got to see Arthur Miller the guy, and not just the Playwright. For me, to answer your question, it depends. I watched a documentary on television that had to do with the making of “Singing in the Rain.” Maybe it was a biography of Gene Kelly, or Debbie Reynolds. I don’t know. I love that movie, and I love Gene Kelly in it. It’s bad enough that Debbie Reynolds didn’t do all her own singing (so ironic, if you know the plot). But this TV show said that Gene Kelly was horrible to 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds, so mean and harsh that she ended up sobbing under a piano.

    When I watch that movie now, I have to work hard to forget that image! Sometimes I’d rather not know.

  2. I completely agree! What good is fame? Life’s best moments come when we’re with those we love, or taking risks, or making discoveries.

    I’d be happy to be restaurant famous: when you tell them your name on the phone, you can get a table. But nobody recognizes you in person.

  3. It certainly does depend. It’s well known that certain writers are total jerks, however, if they write well, I still read their books. But it is certainly wonderful to meet a writer whose work you love, and discover that they are a delightful person, too.

  4. Katie, I love the phrase “restaurant famous.” How great would it be just to call up a packed restaurant and have them get a table for you just because you’re you? Although, knowing me, the table would end up being right in front of the bathroom or something.

  5. I thought of this brush this morning. I was at BEA in 2007 and walked past GORDON and SUSAN from Sesame Street! I almost fainted. I adored Sesame Street. I still do! My kids have autism, and they also adore Sesame Street, even though they should be reading Twilight by now. So I stopped them, thanked them, gushed over them! And then invited them to include an autism storyline on Sesame Street (ooh! ooh! I’ll consult!!!) Best celebrity brush ever for me.


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