I’ve been musing about posting something on this subject for quite a while now, and I had almost worked out exactly what I wanted to say. And then John Hughes went and died.
The name itself may not ring a bell, but he wrote and directed a bunch of kickass films in the 80’s and 90’s, check out his imdb page and you’ll be going “oh riiight, him, oh that’s a shame!”. Aside from a few nerdy film lovers, I’m guessing that will be the general reaction. It was mine, and then I went and read something Graham Linehan posted on Twitter: Sincerely John Hughes, by Alison Byrne Fields
Although it’s a lovely story and a great read, I’m afraid it has rather messed up the whole post I was going to write about celebrities and how they are so much more accessible nowadays, thanks to all this Internet malarkey. In fact, if I actually ever really listened to people, I would have remembered hearing a similar story about a colleague’s experience with the great Alan Moore.
I guess my theory does still kind of hold up, I mean, back in the good old days of yore, you had to go to quite an effort to contact a celebrity. It involved paper, a pen, the cost of a stamp, a bit of thought and an address, usually a fan-club or an agent’s contact in the back of Smash Hits magazine, or something along those lines. It wasn’t exactly made easy, and you would probably never get any response, or the usual fan-mail package of a signed photo and a standard response that may or may not have once been touched by the person you were writing to. Also, I do kind of get the impression that celebrity is also a much easier thing to come by in this day and age, and therefore there are so many more of them, some of a much lesser quality. No, I did not say Big Brother.
Nowadays, it seems so easy to just send an email, or post a tweet and be in with a chance of getting an actual response from the actual person. So many “celebrities” are on-line and easy to contact, just like us normal folks. In fact, sometimes they actually do seem to be a lot like real people. Some of them even appear to be quite nice.
Like John Hughes in Alison’s story, some of the famous people I have “spoken to” online (tweeted/emailed/whatever) have been downright adorable, with a sprinkling of lovely. In fact, over the years I have encountered quite a few people who were well known in their domain, from writers to public speakers, artists and actors. Some I have been lucky enough to get to know quite well and even, in a few rare cases, tentatively call friends (in a rather timid and self-conscious way). Others I only met briefly, a brush with the stars, but they left a lasting good impression.
For example, I remember meeting Molly Holzschlag and Joshua Davis at a webdesign conference a few years ago; you may not know them unless you are a webdude, but these were the guys with their name in lights, top of the bill, stars of the show. And they were quite possibly the nicest, least egocentric, simplest people there (except for me, obviously).
In a slightly different league, one of my personal heroes of all time has to be Terry Pratchett, and the one time I met him, I was just completely blown away by how absolutely lovely he was, putting time and effort into speaking to every single one of the hundreds of people he met that day as if they actually mattered to him, he made everyone feel special even though he had been there for hours doing insanely repetitive book signing, but he had a personal word and a smile for everyone. I hope one day we will meet again and I will be able to say something other than “flbbr? haaa… *nervous giggle* “.
I don’t know why we expect people to suddenly become inaccessible and stand-offish just because they have had their face on TV, their voice on radio or their name in print. Admittedly some of them do, but they were probably already like that before they became famous, and they’re probably not as famous or as interesting as they think they are. You get that kind of idiot everywhere, there’s probably a few of them in your workplace or school, as there are a fair share of lovely people with a real talent.
I guess the conclusion of all this rambling thought is that celebrities are people. Some of them are annoying and loud, some of them are jerks, some of them are nice, and kind, and generous. Just like real people. Because they are.