One thing I don’t understand is what makes famous people so darn fascinating. Why do we care how many kids Angelina Jolie has, or whether or not Lindsay Lohan is back in rehab for the upteenth time? I go for months without seeing magazines like US Weekly or People, and then I suddenly pick one up at the doctor’s office or the gym and scrutinize the pages. I wonder why I care enough to read them, and who most of the people mentioned are (usually stars of reality shows that I’ve never seen).
I really don’t know many famous people personally. There weren’t too many in rural Virginia where I grew. I did go to high school with the Stefan, the bassist for the Dave Mathews Band, and Boyd Tinsley (also from the band) came to Thanksgiving at my house (he was friends with my brother). And I was friends with Brian Eno’s daughter when I was ten (who was living with her mother at the time). But probably anyone in my hometown has a similar story.
Living in New York City, it’s impossible to avoid seeing famous people (unless you never go out). I have seen various actors around town—like Liv Tyler, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Hillary Swank. I have to say quite proudly that I don’t usually notice famous people. Occasionally a friend will dig me in the ribs to point one out to me (Lou Reed at the MOMA, for instance, or Jason Alexander at a production of Wit). My eyes are more drawn to the unusual, to the more striking people on the street. I can’t resist watching the woman who dyes her hair bright pink to match her shoes, or the person with the four inch lift in one shoe, or the man with tattoos on his face. I wonder who they are and what their story is.
One time in college, I recognized a man strolling past me with dark intense eyes and a weathered face. I had never seen him in person, but I had seen his photograph on the back of his book NIGHT. I knew instantly that he was Elie Wiesel. When I told a friend in my dorm who I had seen, she didn’t believe me. But I checked in the paper, and found out that he was speaking that weekend in town. So my first celeb sighting was a writer–an intriguing looking person with an interesting story to tell. Makes sense to me.