Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Random Thoughts on Fame

Have you ever wished you were grossly famous, a la Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, or even Paris Hilton? While on the surface, being that famous, that rich, and that good at sustaining your public approval and money-earning capabilities seems like a dream come true, it's definitively occurred to me in my thirties that I'm happy as a proverbial clam being relatively anonymous, thank you very much. Here's why I would not want to be instantly recognizable:

(Yes, I know, I'm 35--over the hill by Hollywood standards, I'm neither stunningly talented at acting nor ridiculously beautiful, and Aaron Spelling is not my rich and generous uncle. But just go with me here....)

First of all, I regularly have Greta Garbo moments, where I not only "vant" to be alone, I HAVE to be alone. I love to go take a walk, browse in a bookstore, or sit in a cafe with a good book or my iPod (or a notebook and pen when I want to look deep and misunderstood) and blend in with the scenery. You can't blend when you have a posse of paparazzi and handlers dogging your every step.

That was the one thing I found slightly uncomfortable about living in Korea--as a non-Korean, I was an obvious minority and was about as inconspicuous as a hippopotamus in a birdbath. Children approached me wanting to practice their English (Which was awfully cute, actually. I tried to stick to the script: "Hello." Hello. "How are you?" I am fine. How are you? "I am fine, also. Thank you." Thank you. Have a nice day.) But every once in awhile, I'd toss in a "So, what do you think President Roh's chances are of brokering peace between North and South Korea when the US won't agree to the bilateral discussions that Pyongyang is demanding?" That was always fun.). Older women wanted to touch and play with the cute little Miguk baby (Maggie) attached to my chest in a front carrier. Eyes followed me everywhere--I'm not sure if it was just because seeing an American wasn't all THAT common outside of Seoul's Itaewon district, or because, being from the US, I was expected to spontaneously start shouting demands and insults, emoting loudly, or belting out that blasted Lee Greenwood song about how proud I am to be an American at any moment. (Perhaps everyone should have the opportunity to live as an obvious minority somewhere, just to see what it's like to stand out even when you don't want to.)

Second, while I don't mind occasionally being the center of attention (I have a theater minor, after all--not that I was that great of an actress, but I had fun), I would really hate having to be just that ALL of the time. When you're the center of attention all of the time, you have to be "on," all of the time. Strangely enough, whenever someone expects me to be amusing, some perverse impulse inside of me kicks in, and I become stiff and boring. Take, for example, improvisational acting. If I'm in a small studio space with a couple of friends, I can improv like nobody's business--not great, but a servicable flow that's entertaining and occasionally amusing. But put me in a class with a critical artist presiding, or an audition space filled with strangers, and I turn into an uninteresting lump. Kind of like Michigan J. Frog in the old Looney Toons cartoons--he'd talk, sing, and dance for his owner, but the minute someone else came along, all he'd do is ribbit.

I once tried to get over it by auditioning for a community theater improv group--I knew I wouldn't make it, but I wanted to see if I could at least overcome some of my panic and turn out a halfway decent performance. People went on stage and off, and every time the director called out an idea, I immediately knew just how I would have pulled it off. Then, it was my turn--I walked out on stage, feeling fairly confident, and then the director called out a scenario. Blank. Complete, utter, terrifying blank. Not only did I choke and ribbit, I made such a complete idiot of myself that by the time I was finished, all twenty-some people in the room could only stare at me in a horrified, uncomfortable silence, obviously hoping I'd slink out of the room and never inflict my hideous lack of talent on their schoolroom-turned-theater-studio again. Which is exactly what I did. A few weeks later, I was in the local grocery store when I nearly bumped into the poor guy who'd nearly had his audition spoiled because he was my skit partner during the Spaz Attack That Wouldn't Die. (Fortunately, he volunteered to do another skit as I was trying to become one with the chalkboard behind me and showed what he was really capable of.) I immediately dropped the bag of puffed wheat I was holding, abandoned my nearly full cart, and charged out of the store like a mad buffalo to avoid seeing the "Oh, it's YOU" look on his face when we passed each other. To this day, I feel guilty about leaving all of those groceries for the already overworked stock people to replace. So if you ever found an abandoned shopping cart in the cereal aisle of the Falls Church, VA, Safeway and had to put its contents back for the thoughtless person who left it behind, I apologize profusely. It will never happen again.

And finally, I wouldn't want to be famous because I can't take a decent-looking photo to save my life, and famous people get surprise candid shots taken of them all the time. Therefore, instead of Derek Zoolander's trademark "Blue Steel" pose for the camera, any tabloid photo of yours truly would feature one of my three trademark on-camera looks: Upset Stomach; Arrrgh, You're Stealing My Soul!; or Help, My Chins Are Eating My Face!

Five more reasons I would not want to be a famous Hollywood It-Girl:

1) Paparazzi inevitably show up when one's hair has expanded to three times its normal size due to summertime humidity.

2) I'm not good that the "I'll just have a glass of water and a toothpick for lunch" diet.

3) Not sure I could get over the self-doubt and humiliation of losing a role to Jessica Alba, aka Nearly Naked Girl.

4) The Big Conundrum: If you wear the same outfit twice, the tabloids document it and make fun of you. But wearing a new outfit once and tossing it makes you an ecological disaster. Career? Planet? Career? Planet?

5) Other It-Girls always trying to pick fights with you. (Could I really just ignore it if Lindsay Lohan got all up in my face because I blinked at her ex-boyfriend? Who knows?)

For yet another reason why it's good not to be ridiculously famous, check out this article from the Sydney Morning Herald, "I Was Russell Crowe's Stooge." It's an interesting glimpse into what happens when fame causes your ego to get so big, it eats the rest of your personality, leaving behind only a mass of insecurities and peevishness. I don't believe that would ever happen to me, but then again, I assume being surrounded by sycophants and handlers all day--in addition to the nice fans offering constant praise--could do weird things to you.

P.S. That said, I just want the Universe to know that I could totally deal with being a ridiculously famous writer--you get fame and fortune without sacrificing your anonymity; you don't have to have an entourage to protect yourself from photographers, autograph-seekers, or Lindsay Lohan; and you're only as good as your last book, which means you need to keep striving to improve. Plus, your covers get foil on them. Pretty, sparkly foil.


Jen said...

I've thought about this. I don't really want to be Nora Roberts. I just want to have my own little "I've got a book out and nobody knows it's me." secret. Of course, I don't have my mother throwing copies at people either. LOL. Well, I don't even have any copies yet.
Never mind.
I'm like you. I like to be alone. I often marvel at how others can be surrounded by people ALL THE TIME and not go crazy. That was the one thing about having kids that surprised me. Having them THERE 24/7 was draining. I handled it beautifully.
I wear wigs now.

Jen said...

Hey Tracy, did you find Romance Divas? Glad you found my blog.

Tracy Montoya said...

Jen, I don't know how single mothers do it. At least we can hand the kids off to our DHs every once in awhile and disappear for a few moments.

You'll have copies soon for your mother to throw--we'll think positive.

And yes, I found Romance Divas. Quite! But I went the long way and clicked on your name to your profile to a link on your website instead. Because I like things to be complicated....

Mariann said...

I've gone back and forth on this question, and ultimately, I'd prefer not to be famous. Established and finacially set, yes, but not famous. I cringe when my name is called at meetings in acknowledgement for some work I've done... I can't imagine how difficult it would be to live under a constant spotlight!

Tracy Montoya said...

Yeah, I'm not good with compliments either, Mariann, so getting them constantly would be painful. But to never have to worry about money again? I could definitely deal....

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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