Why do we thrill at the sight of celebrities? Why do we feel a bit discomfited afterwards? Or is it just me? Last weekend I saw two star-studded Broadway performances: “The Best Man” at the Schoenfeld Theater and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” at the Imperial. Here are the well-known actors/celebrities we saw: Cybill Shepherd, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Kristin Davis, John Stamos, John Laroquette.
I sat in the first row and stared right up at them, so close I could have reached over and touched a kneecap. The play was great, the musical, so-so but what struck” me most was the cast:
One was startlingly matronly; another shorter than I thought. Another looked older than I imagined; one was stockier. Only Kristen Davis “maintained” her TV/movie image.
The bottom line is that these people were real. They weren’t media “images.” They were just talented human beings working hard at their craft. They were sweating and fluffing a line and looking their age. For me, seeing these actors in person brought them down to earth. They weren’t celluloid or marble, they were real. They didn’t have some secret knowledge or special “pass” so they wouldn’t change or get older— hence my touch of disappointment. As I proceed through my sixties, all of my icons are biting the dust. The people I admire so much aren’t bigger than life. They are just attractive and talented people. The most beautiful women; the cleverest men; the holiest religious leaders; the most accomplished artists; the most powerful politicians are just… people. Of course, I knew that. But before you see them in person, you can almost believe that famous people are not like you and me- living our daily lives, muddling through as best we can. Delighted as I was with seeing these actors up close and personal, I left the theater no longer believing they are a species apart and can be frozen in time. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I don’t need icons any more. Maybe seeing people as icons is a hollow concept that needs to disappear. On the other hand, losing an icon is still a loss.