So now that I’ve had the little self-pity fest, let me prove that I am like that dog in Up who goes “squirrel!” mid-conversation, and let me tell you a secret. Actually, it’s kind of a two-part secret, so here’s secret, part a)
I have a circle of imaginary friends that are famous people. Ok, maybe you knew that. But I get really excited about famous people who are really cool and good at being people, too. Like Stephen Fry, even if he does come to New York at inconvenient times. Because he is smart and funny and nice too, and because he tries so hard. Or like Whil Wheaton, who seems really hell-bent on being a decent human being with a heart and lots of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the most loveable trait in anyone. Or even Zachary Quinto, for the way he sings the Fraggle Rock song and how he got the part of Spock.
Secret, part b)
I am scared of famous people. No matter how much any given person is my imaginary friend, I will probably have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the booksigning stand. Really. I’m sorry. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, I do, honestly I do, but what would I say? Partly I hate to bother people, so I would be very unlikely to approach anyone famous just being out and about, in fact I have been known to ignore the hell out of famous people, but the truth is that even when the famous person is clearly there for display purposes, I don’t do very well.
Case in point: it is a few years ago, and I’ve just seen a positively spectacular performance of The Master and Margarita. With Sam West. I am standing outside with a couple of friends, and we walk past Samivel, engaged in polite conversation with a little old lady. One of my friends, with a keen understanding of my fascination with Sam West, says “shall I dispose of the old bag so you can ask Sam West to elope with you?” (Ross, if you’re listening, and you’re almost certainly not, that was awesome). I could have. Instead I shush said friend, and make everyone walk on. What would I say to Sam West, after all?
I know, I should follow Stephen Fry’s advice: don’t worry about being original, and keep it to the point. For example “Hi. It’s great to meet you in person. You are a wonderful actor and I just wanted to thank you for an inspiring performance.”
“Sam, elope with me. Please.”
Of course next time, I still won’t say anything, even in spite of Stephen Fry. You see, I know because there actually is a next time: years later I walk into the theatre right behind Sam West. I try to point him out to the Spouse (who blithely misses the whole moment) but do not say anything, nor even make so much as eye contact with the Slurpee-drinking celebrity. Sigh.
Celebrity conversation will never be mine. Well, not unless said Spouse, blissfully free of such inhibitions, accidentally or purposely accosts the Famous Person and strikes up a perfectly interesting conversation as I desperately struggle to run away. No wonder my favourite heroes are all dead.