People In The Biz

Another in my occasional stories of interacting with people of fame. As with most people who don’t work in ‘the biz’ or live in any of the major ‘industry cities’ (NYC and LA in the US, Vancouver and Toronto up north) I am unlikely to casually run in to famous entertainers on the street. I did live in Toronto prior to moving here; before it became as big a player as it is now. And on occasion I would hang around tv shows or movies being filmed ‘on location’ but I had no interest in being an extra. As a photographer and incurably inquisitive (since somewhat curtailed by the surgeon offering to give me a local so I could watch my hernia operation) I did enjoy watching all the other stuff; lighting, props, etc.

Being detail-oriented to the point of anal-retentiveness I’ve always felt I would be excellent in Continuity. That’s the department responsible for making sure props and wardrobe are consistent if a scene has to be re-shot, or bits get filmed out of order. After high school (before returning to Toronto) I spent a year in south-western Ontario and joined Theatre Kent. I did cast photography and was on the Board of Governors. As I note in 100 Details About Me I was only on-stage during a black out (a quick scene change).. and the Director still gave me notes. I am so not an actor. I also bumped in to the host of the overnight radio show on CFCO radio at a local park and was invited to visit the studio; I had no interest in being ‘on air talent’ but was fascinated by the control room. I was able to visit the studio a few times. Side note; the station was located on River Road– the same one mentioned by Sylvia Tyson in one of her songs: Here I go once again, with my suitcase in my hand. I’m running away down River Road.

For a short period of time I worked in the gift shop of the Four Seasons Yorkville. I’ve written of my memory of Kirk Douglas; other notables included a rude and obnoxious star of Starsky and Hutch (the tv series) as well as the more gentlemanly George Kennedy. I was quite content then just to be able to see them without an entourage or press; as ‘real people’ as it were.

I did research ‘the biz’ and decided it was not a good career choice; one of the few early life decisions I’ve come to question. Not that I’m distraught over ‘what could have been’… just something to contemplate. But I do think that has informed my interactions with people of fame. When I was younger I didn’t send out fan letters or pin up pictures from Tiger Beat. Of course being gay in the 70s, some of it may have been discretion. Actually I did send one fan letter; Red Skelton (or an assistant) sent an autographed 8X10 of him sitting in a big ol’ throne of a chair with a ginormous ring; I always assumed it was a genuine ruby (my birth stone).

As with most of us, there are entertainers that I would love to really get to know. Of course getting to be best buds with someone already famous is unlikely; those positions tend to be people who knew them before the rest of the world. So far none of the people I went to school with have become break-out stars. Not that I’ve stayed in touch; high school was hell. I used to think that ‘entertainment reporters’ were lucky; getting to meet such folk. Now that I’ve had some real-world work experience I suspect most of them don’t feel all that close to celebs; despite how they behave in public. “Love ya” may well be sincere, but since that’s often said to the barista who’s name they don’t recall it sort of loses “that whole special thang” as Cybill Sheridan once said. Sort of like the way that traveling the world could be great; or it could be hell if you’re always stuck in a hotel room devoid of personality, unable to visit places of interest without paparazzi, entourage and police escort. At some point it loses the glamour.

Still not one to write fan letters, this newfangled technology has made it much easier to interact with show folk. I’ve exchanged both public and private messages on Twitter with Paula Poundstone and have exchanged correspondence with David Sedaris. That mail doesn’t count as ‘fan letters’ as they contained information and stories following up on our brief exchange at his book signing.

As further evidence of how the Internet has changed fan-celeb interaction I offer up the R&P Facebook page; this century’s version of a Fan Club. Both that page and the Official Romanovsky & Phillips shop at CafePress are managed by yours truly. The CP store offers apparel, cards and great gift items featuring a selection of lyrics from R&P songs, as well as a re-issue of their 1980s official Tour shirt and their logotype of that period.

The impetus for this post was actually an exchange of tweets earlier today with Paul Williams; song-writer, singer, occasional actor, and long-time hero of mine. We have exchanged tweets in the past; he is on my Interactive Celebs Twitter list. And I’ve previously suggested he and Kristen Johnston should check out each others Twitter feeds.

I recall attending one of his concerts at the then-new Ontario Place open air theatre. In between songs and reminiscences he made references to various young ladies that attracted his eye. At one point he stopped to say something to the effect of ‘I talk about loving ladies; that’s personal preference not moral judgment’. This would have been in the early 1980s. As a self-assured young gay man I did not need his approval, but his comment was appreciated- for his casual acceptance if nothing else. I reminded Paul of that, and he replied “ Ah yes. Strong feelings then and now. Liberty & Justice for all. Ditto the right to marry. Time to leave the dark ages behind.

So while I won’t be pursuing a position as a Personal Assistant* to someone famous, nor join the ranks of paparazzi, I certainly enjoy my occasional brushes with fame.

Edit 11/17/2013:
So after I wrote this and went to bed, Kristen Johnston posted a link on Facebook to this article about ‘how to approach people of fame’ written by a former student of hers.

Edit 03/30/2014:
Yesterday Kristen added a post to her new blog that further discusses her views on fan adoration, artistic appreciation and kissing of the butt.

 

* Although not pursuing such a position, my resume can be made available.

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