Monday, February 23, 2009

Writers and celebrities

Did you watch the Oscar last night? Did you notice how few writers received any recognition? That seems so wrong. After all, not one actor or actress parading across the stage wrote the memorable lines delivered in the performances that have brought them fame and fortune.

Instead, they repeated, or directed, the words handed to them in a script authored by someone else. If Bernhard Schlink hadn’t written the book "The Reader," there would have been no award for Kate Winslet. "Slumdog Millionaire" would not have existed without the novel "Q&A." So the next time you watch a movie or a television show, or even listen to music, give some thought -- and credit, please -- to the person who wrote the words you heard.

OK, enough of that rant. I'm a bit cranky after staying up late to see the entire Oscars show. Why do millions of us watch this annual telecast anyway? Is it because we love movies? Glitz and glamor? The gowns and jewelry? The music and excitement? Or is it because we love celebrities?

Maybe it's all of the above, but I do believe our nation has become obsessed with the famous. There are dozens of television shows and magazines dedicated to news about celebrities. You can't turn on your computer without seeing a teaser headline about a celebrity on the opening pages of AOL, MSN, etc. We discuss their lives as if they were members of our families or close friends. And we enjoy passing judgment on their latest antics, even though they may be designed to make us talk about them so we'll buy their music, tickets to their movies or their books (and sometimes all three).

I admit that I am not immune to this. In fact, I sometimes tell people that having my photo taken with celebrities is a hobby, which I proudly display on the "I Love Me" wall of our TV room. Although I don't always have a camera with me, I've certainly been fortunate to encounter more than my share of well-known folks, thanks to years in journalism, a love of theater and books, and the belief that New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary is a great source of free entertainment.

Some encounters have been unexpected, like walking past Robin Williams on Fifth Avenue or nearly knocking over Arnold Schwarzenegger when I rushed out of the CNN restroom at 8 ½ months pregnant. Or realizing that the mother admiring the same Miami Zoo exhibit fascinating my son was Jamie Lee Curtis.

Others have been planned, like driving Space Shuttle Commander Robert Crippen from the Dallas airport to a UPI conference, although I didn’t expect to get us lost for three hours. A purchased ticket got me into the same Smithsonian cocktail party as Robert Redford, though I never anticipated he’d be so thin that two of his legs equalled one of mine. The actor Stacy Keach (who played Detective Mike Hammer on TV and whose brother James Keach is married to the actress Jane Seymour) got into a little drug trouble a few years back and decided his community service should include testifying before the US House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control while I was serving as press secretary. And I was such a fan of the television show "China Beach" that I dragged a sick child to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, to see the taping of the final episode and Dana Delaney, now of "Desperate Housewives."

I met Glenn Close (photo proof above) at a small breakfast when she was campaigning in NH for the now-disgraced John Edwards. Jane Fonda and Ted Turner were still married when they made periodic visits to CNN’s Washington bureau where I worked. In those days, Larry King broadcast from that location. I can’t even remember all the celebrities who came through the doors to be interviewed by him.

How many celebrities have you encountered in your lifetime? I recently attempted to compile a list of all those whose paths I've crossed over the years. Does this qualify me as a stalker? Here it is:

Celebrities I've at least said hello to include: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Arnold Shwartzenegger, Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sissy Spacek, Glenn Close, Jessica Lange, Dana Delaney, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Stacy Keach, Carol Channing, Howie Mandel, John Stamos, Chuck Connors (of “The Rifleman”), astronaut Alan Shepherd, astronaut Robert Crippen, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the folk trio of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Well-known journalists I’ve talked to include: Diane Sawyer, Charles Gibson, Robin Roberts, George Stephanopolus, Larry King, Bernard Shaw, Wolf Blitzer, Catherine Crier and Helen Thomas.

New York Times Best-Selling Authors I’ve met include: Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, children's author Tomie de Paola, Tess Gerretsen, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Berg, Jodi Picoult, Sandra Brown, Nelson DeMille, Donald Westlake, Robert Parker, Joe Hill, Brunonia Barry, Jennifer McMahon, and David Carr.

Celebrities I’ve shared air space with: Robin Williams, Oprah, Ralph Fiennes, comedian Jackie Mason, Billy Graham, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Letterman, Edie Falco, a number of Supreme Court justices including Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor, author Dan Brown, cookbook author Nigella Lawson, Meredith Viera, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Leslie Stahl, Olympic skaters Scott Hamilton and Nancy Kerrigan, Derek Jeter, Meadowlark Lemon, Carl Yastremski, Bob Cousy, Nomar Garciapara, Willie Mayes, Carlton Fisk and Pete Rose.

Celebrities I’ve seen in stage performances include: Al Pacino, Richard Thomas, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Cesar Romero, Carol Kane, Yul Brynner, Sally Struthers, Mike O’Malley, comedians Lewis Black and Jay Leno, Alan Alda, author Mitch Albom and documentary maker Ken Burns.

Presidents I’ve met or been in the same room with include: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Some other politicians I’ve met include: Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Bill Richardson, former Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, former Defense Secretary John Tower, John Edwards, Barry Goldwater, Bob Dole, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Rudolph Giuliani, NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen, NY Congressman Charlie Rangel, former Texas Congressman Charlie Wislon, former House Speaker Jim Wright, Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani, Gary Hart, and New Hampshire Governors Craig Benson and John Lynch.

How about you?


Rosemary Harris said...

I wonder why I still HAVE to watch the Oscars wherever I year I was in the Caribbean and people clustered around a tv..this year I was in a very modest hotel in AZ eating supermarket hors d'oeurves and forcing my poor husband to watch every excruciating moment including all that red carpet, pre-show stuff.
I've actually met a lot of celebs -I was in the video business and met oldtime stars, wrestlers, porn stars and athletes. Because my husband was in the publishing business I got to meet a lot of writers.
But right now...despite the fact that I'm in LA - home of the Oscars - the biggest celeb I can claim to have met is the Chimp. Yes, THAT Chimp. He lived not far from me in CT.

Pat said...

Porn stars and chimps? I hope they make their way into your next book in the Dirty Mysteries series.....

Pat said...

Whoops I meant Dirty Business Mysteries.....