I was at a blog site reading a posting about brushes with famous writers, and I started thinking about them. About brushes with fame.
When I was in grad school at Purdue, people would sit around for hours and talk about their brushes with fame. How they met James Cagney or Al Pacino or Martin Luther King. How they had slept with Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan. How they were hitch-hiking and got a ride from Jim Morrison. That kind of stuff.
I haven't had many of those brushes with fame. I once ran into Tom Ewell (he was in The Seven Year Itch with Marilyn Monroe) in a subway station in chicago. This was shortly before he died. He was in Chicago to do a play, and he was in the subway, staring at the wall above the third rail. He looked tired, worn, unhappy, gloomy, like an ice-cream bar that was melted and refrozen. I didn't say anything to him.
(Suddenly, I'm thinking that maybe not many people remember Tom Ewell. That's what fame is like. What's Sinatra say? You're riding high in April and then you're shot down in May. Anyway, to jog your memory, that's a picture of Tom Ewell at the top of this blog. He's the one next to Marilyn Monroe.)
Whenever I think about brushes with fame, I think about what Isaac Bashevis Singer said about his favorite writer Dostoevsky: "I wouldn't cross the street to talk to him."
I feel that way some times about meeting writers. There's a kind of ecstacy that I feel in reading, and when I meet the writer of what gave me that surge I don't feel that ecstasy. I'm not sure why that is, but I just don't feel it.
Maybe it's like when we get high with someone, and then later after the high starts wearing off we're standing around and wondering about what it was we were laughing at, and all we notice is that we're both wearing gray wrinkled suits.
PS: I just remembered that my daughter Lillian had an amazing brush with fame. Rosa Parks came to her class when she was at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, and Lillian had lunch with her! That means I've had lunch with somebody who had lunch with Rosa Parks!
PPS: After I showed a draft of this to Lillian, she asked me, "How can you write a blog about brushes with fame and not mention your most famous brush with fame?" I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "Don't you remember the time you almost ran over the nobel-prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow?!?!?!"
PPPS: Well, I guess I have had a brush with fame, maybe even two.
If you've had one and are willing to talk about it, I'm willing to listen. It'll be like a brush with fame!