I’m thinking about Sheldon’s letter to me regarding celebrity or fame and being recognized which he wrote in response to my last post. I think I have finally come to terms with fame. And that sentence is hilarious because I have so little of it at the moment and it seems to disappear like running water – no, maybe like dripping water – each year. And the truth is, I was so uncomfortable for so long with anyone recognizing me. I was constantly mortified by it. I didn’t like the basic idea that someone knew me and I didn’t know him or her. And it wasn’t like I even did want to know them, it was just – it felt like an invasion of privacy, while at the same time unavoidably unfair.
Now I look back at it all so differently. I feel compassion for myself. I didn’t have the right psychological make up and the ambition and savvy to appreciate or use the fame I had when I had it. To me, the greatest value was humility. To be “proud” was sinful. My heroes were Catholic saints who did good works in secret. (Which had it’s own backfiring repercussions, but that’s another topic.) So to be publicly acknowledged all the time was just the worst. Plus, I never felt very good about how I looked. I always thought I was going to be judged by my inadequateness as a woman. And I think I was probably partially or even more than partially right. I have listened to all kinds of people now talk about female celebrities with such crudeness, with such a harsh critical tone, it startles me still - each time I overhear it, and I overhear it constantly. I don’t think I’m being paranoid to imagine that I was often on the receiving end of that kind of criticism.
Anyway, when I became famous I wasn’t a lithe, beautiful ingénue, so I felt I was failing in public all the time. (Which I now think is pretty silly, but this was then…) The last thing I wanted was for someone to recognize me. Or pay more attention to me. Even though I created a character that made me look as hideous as possible, as Pat, it still didn’t help me from feeling shame and embarrassment anytime someone recognized me.
In any case, I always marveled at the other actors at SNL and how they (really, the men) were so excited by their own fame. Again, I don’t judge this critically. Now I get it. The fame increased their status, their status gave them power, particularly over women. Fame is the greatest thing that could happen to a guy – especially a guy who was probably not getting the attention he thought he deserved or wanted deeply as a teenager. After the shows at SNL, beautiful models would swarm around the male comedians, while us gals just took the limo to the party and drank mostly with each other. (And we had a great time, by the way…) In any case, fame was so cruel then, it seemed. Even my little bit of it.
Later I met a few people who were really comfortable with fame. At this point, I just thought I wasn’t cut out for it. Some people were, some weren’t. I wasn’t. But then I got to hang out regularly with some people who were seriously famous. I mean, they couldn’t walk down the street without everyone noticing them or being constantly approached. To me, this would be the ultimate nightmare. But these two people who I am thinking of in particular handled it (at least when I was with them) with amazing grace and class. They took it in stride. They shook hands, took time to talk for a minute. They didn’t seem desperate, they just seemed to be dealing with an inevitable part of their life. And I really admired how they had grown into their situation with all its ups and downs. Because, what I finally realized is, it is nice to be recognized – especially if it’s for work that you’re proud of. And fame often brings power too, and that’s undeniably nice. And I learned the difference between people who admired you because you were famous and those who admired you because of something in particular, some specific piece of work. And then it wasn't so bad. In fact, it was pretty great! And then, just about the time that I didn’t shudder at the mere thought of being a famous person, it all began to dwindle away. Oh! Well, I guess that's how it goes.
But Sheldon, you were talking about people who were over-awed by fame. But it seems that we are hard-wired to recognize status. It’s such a deep part of our social and personal psychology. So to me, it’s perfectly understandable why people would – at first flinch – listen more closely to what a celebrity is saying even if it’s in a field in which they are not experts. Also, when it comes to politics, I don’t know if I trust a celebrity less than a politician who has some authority perhaps but also has a clear agenda. There are plenty of celebrities who risk their status by speaking out. I mean, someone like Janeane Garafalo could have continued a lucrative show-business career acting and writing, but she decided to do radio for 1/10 the money. I’m actually surprised at how few celebrities there are out there speaking out against this war.
Well, I just got home from doing the Uncabaret, this stand up like show at the M Bar here in Hollywood. Michael Patrick King, who is a dear old friend was there and he was absolutely hysterical. Also Taylor Negron was on and he was so damn funny. Beth is always great to see and I miss her and Greg so much. It was a really, really fun night. It makes me want to do more performing. I have a vague idea of trying to come up with a true stand-up show. I have never done that before but now I kind of get how I might be able to do that. If I gave myself a year and slowly built the material together. I think it would be fun to try to write solely for the laughs and forget about building the big story, like I’ve concentrated on in my last monologues. In a way, it’s sort of like going backwards. Most of the people I worked with at SNL were stand ups before they got on the show. I don’t know… something in me is telling me to try it.
I felt very proud of myself that after Beth did all this New Age material on stage, I didn’t comment on it. I don’t want to get into some thing where all I do is rag on people’s supernatural crazy-ass beliefs. Even though, it’s all so absurd.
Speaking of material. Here is my cute kid story. Mulan said, “When you do your quilting, you use material right?” And I said, “Yeah – fabric. Yeah, that’s material.” And she said, “Well, do you know there’s a song about that? I heard it on the radio with Frances (our nanny). It’s called Material Girl!”