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?