I’ve had two run-ins with celebrities in my life, and both times I was a fool. The first was outside the Broadway Barnes and Nobel in New York. Walking briskly with my hood on and head down, I nearly trampled a bald, turtle-looking man with glasses who was drinking a Starbucks and chatting with a forgettable young woman. That man was Stephen Tobolowsky.
I had to Google his actual name because, at the time, I only knew him as “Ned…Ned Ryerson? Bing!” from the movie Groundhog Day. So, of course, that’s what I said to him. Ned – or Stephen, I should say – shot me a cold look, didn’t smile or even nod, and then returned his attention to the woman, who appeared uncomfortable.
My second brush with fame happened years later at the Ritz movie theater in Voorhees, New Jersey. As I waited for my husband to come out of the men’s room, I noticed a familiar-looking man standing in the snack line. He was dressed in a red and black checkered hunting jacket, jeans, and a baseball cap and had a patchy, yet thick, beard covering both his face and neck. I inched closer to the snack counter, studying the man further. He ordered a box of candy, paid in cash, stuffed the change and the box in his jacket pocket, and walked past me toward the bathroom. Just as he reached for the silver door handle, my husband barged out, stopping to hold the door open for the bearded man.
“Did you see who that was?” I asked my husband. He turned to look, but the man was already through the door. “I think it was Koy Detmer. You know…Neck Beard…from the Eagles.”
“I didn’t really notice,” my husband responded, obviously maintaining the male pact not to make eye contact with anyone in or near the men’s room.
“Let’s wait and see if it’s him,” I gushed.
We stood there trying to look inconspicuous, as if we were waiting for an old friend or a bus. Finally, the restroom door opened, and, sure enough, out came Koy Detmer, the third string quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. I grabbed my husband’s arm and shout-whispered, “It’s him!” We watched him as he walked away toward his theater. “Aren’t you going to talk to him?” my husband asked, giving me a nudge. Ok, I thought. I will talk to Koy Detmer. I will not, however, call him Neck Beard.
I took off after him down the long carpeted corridor leading to theater twelve on the left – No Country for Old Men. Breathless and embarrassed, I caught up to him right as he was about to go inside. With barely a fingertip, I tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and looked down at me. “Umm…are you Koy Detmer?” I asked in my best little girl voice, which was hard to pull off as a 27-year-old smoker.
“I think you’re awesome,” I said, shaking his hand wildly.
He stared at me blankly for a moment, and then I managed to sputter, “Well, enjoy your movie” before running away back to my husband, who had declined to chase down the Eagle with me.
“So what happened?” my husband asked, trying to be supportive of my school-girlishness.
“I told him he was awesome.”
“But, he’s not awesome,” he said matter-of-factly. “He’s the third string quarterback.”
Right. Koy Detmer is not awesome. I just couldn’t think of anything better to say.
This is why I don’t ever want to meet Bruce Springsteen.
If I met Bruce Springsteen, I wouldn’t want to be star struck or have butterflies or faint. I wouldn’t want to shake or stutter. I wouldn’t want to say something stupid. I wouldn’t want to interrupt him if he was eating or shopping with his wife and kids. I wouldn’t want a hug, a picture, or even an autograph. I wouldn’t want to tell him how many shows I’ve been to, how many albums I have, or how many biographies I’ve read. I wouldn’t want to ask him about his “process” or his influences (I already know the answers to these questions anyway).
If I met Bruce Springsteen, I would want it to be a real moment, one that lasts longer than thirty seconds, where I tell him real things and ask him real questions. But, if I met Bruce Springsteen, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
If I met Bruce Springsteen, I wouldn’t be able to tell him that, in my family, we talk about him like he’s a long lost cousin or an uncle that made it big and left the rest of us behind (Did you see Bruce play at Obama’s inauguration? Did you hear that his daughter won first place in her equestrian tournament?). I wouldn’t be able to tell him that his songs were the soundtracks to our lost loves, crappy jobs, busted cars, and broken families. I wouldn’t be able to tell him that I was proposed to at one of his shows in Atlantic City while he strummed a mandolin and sang “I Want to Marry You” from The River. I wouldn’t be able to tell him how, for a split second, I almost said no because I didn’t want to end up abandoned like so many of the characters in his stories. I wouldn’t be able tell him how he made me rethink New Jersey as the symbol of a hostile, yet possible, America. I wouldn’t be able to tell him that he’s my definition of a real man – a man who reflects, who doubts, who bares his soul and then takes his woman out for a night on the town. I wouldn’t be able to tell him how mad I get at him for being so human, so ordinary, and yet so inaccessible to me.
If I met Bruce Springsteen, I would surely humiliate myself. And then that’s all I’d be to him – just another silly fan who screams or cries or tells him that he’s awesome. And, to me, he’d become Stephen Tobolowsky or Koy Detmer – just another notch on my bedpost of celebrity sightings gone wrong. Therefore, I don’t ever want to meet Bruce Springsteen. I wouldn’t want to ruin our relationship.