After sitting on the phone with University of Cal S.F. Medical Center and Blue Cross all day yesterday, fretting over my kid's impending catscan results (they were concerned about her kidneys and internal bleeding - please don't let me EVER hear those two things in the same sentence again), coming to work at Tribal today was practically a lark. Still, that doesn't take away the wincing pain that comes from the knowledge that I am missing Julia Roberts on Oprah.
I know I know. I sound like I have as much depth as a coat of paint. But when you have so much terror in such a short span of time, you really fiend for the champagne bubbles of life. Nothing much but a bit of air, but when they pop your nose is tickled. Yeah, like that. Plus, JR shops at the same Gelsons I do, and any supahstah who does her own marketing (tricked out in grungy jeans, sweater and no makeup no less) is a bit of alright in my book. She hadn't really registered on my radar for all those years of her spectacular rise to the tippytop pinnacle of fame, but once I saw her at 8:30 one morning, pushing her cart and looking about as descript as a wadded up Kleenex, I became completely smitten.
But man, that fame thing. As the glittering prize that so many reach for, and so few grasp, it's a weird phenomenom that takes on its own personality. Even if it's only two people hanging out together, if one of you is famous, the room is eerily crowded. I have friends who've seen their names in lights and others who've enjoyed not much better than a good mudspattering. To borrow a line from Will S., a dude who enjoyed a fair amount of exposure to both in his lifetime, "O serpent heart hid with a flowering face." Yeah, that pretty much sums up celebrity. The sadness I feel about losing a 20 year friendship to the steady drip-drip-drip of her sometimes biggish stardom is eclipsed by the sadness I feel about the low-rent quality of my sadness. I wish I felt worse than I do; but even the fiercest love and comraderie can degrade if you leave it in a vacuum long enough. I'm just as much to blame in the end. I got tired of the riffs. And the crowded rooms.
L and I were girlfriends, struggling actresses in NYC; living on 7th and 6th Streets, respectively, and when we discovered that our buildings ass-ended each other, we were thrilled to be able to do things like hurling rolls of toilet paper from one rooftop to the other when the need arose. We laughed about how that would be a story we'd tell on Letterman. We swore our BFF-ship East Coast Style - and when I jumped on the great migration west, I cemented the deal by having her as my maid of honor at my wedding - she won out over my own sister, a move I would later regret.
Cut to eight years later, and I was pregnant with Cory, effectively giving myself the boot from a business I had grown to dislike intensely. On my career move, L issued a big No Comment. I figured I would work in the theater from time to time after the arrival of my baby, but as far as being a Type A actress like L, it was pretty much over. When I became a single mom a couple of years after that, I considered myself damn (p)lucky to wind up a copywriter in advertising. At least I could make a good living and do something I had a knack for. I was proud of my portfolio, my pulling myself up by my rather shabby bootstraps. But L still wasn't too forthcoming with the feedback or the love for that matter. She wound up married to the industry's au courant big dawg (fond of intoning "I'm King Of The World" when receiving awards...) and months later, she sat atop a large and tasty divorce settlement. Our times together became fewer and farther between as our points of reference grew gaps that rivaled arctic crevasses.
Meanwhile, my friendship with D, who had become something of a TV phenom, continued to be strong, even though we saw each other seldomly. Our midnight phone chat-a-thons were legion and when the chips were down, we scooted our schedules around to be present and accounted for in each other's lives. Four days after my first husband left his wife and his four year old daughter, we were in D's wedding which took place on a plantation somewhere in Louisianna or Mississippi (I didn't know what state I was in then, or for months after, for that matter). Although the wedding was a rather lavish and theatrical production (befitting a true southern belle), and she and her actor-husband were concurrently filming a movie in New Orleans, D was sensitive to the fact that her matron-cum-maid of honor was in the barrel, and there was handholding a-plenty. For a million reasons and counting, D and I have always appreciated our differences but understood that at depth, we are kindred. In that regard, we are a Hollywood success story that you won't read about in In Touch or US or People. Also: D has more than once been on the business end of a industry tar 'n feather campaign, and because of her celebrity, hurtful, ugly words about, at, over and under her have been splashed on the front pages of tabloids and available for millions of bored shoppers to peruse as they stand in line at the checkout. I don't know how she managed to keep her sanity. That's another Hollywood success story, and again, not one you're liable to read about anytime soon.
The real success stories of Hollowood aren't what you see on Oprah, I can tell ya that much. I think the reason why I'm enamored of JR is because she married - and it would seem happily - a cameraman. She keeps her private life to herself. She's not an inch thick, she wears real people clothes when she does her own grocery shopping, and she drives a Prius with fabric, not leather, seats (yes, we pushed our carts out to the parking lot at the same time, and yes, I looked). You get the idea from a profile like that, that she's probably got a few really good friendships that she doesn't take for granted, and that she is probably well-loved - not for being a supahstah, but for being Julia.
Once upon a time, I thought that fame would enable me to spit in the eye of every asshole who snubbed me in highschool. But with what I now know about it and what it does to a person, I feel the Universe spared me bigtime. Because with an ego like mine, who knows. It takes an iron constitution not to slurp up the porridge being ladled onto our plates by the mythology machine. I would be out with L and people would want to touch her, take a picture with her, interact with her. Yummy porridge. And she ate it up. And hey, I probably would have done the same, maybe worse, had I been in her shoes. Unlike our girl Julia, I haven't always had exactly the staunchest self-knowledge. In her position, I'd probably wear a tiara to Gelsons.
Thankfully, it's not a wardrobe dilemma I have to deal with. I'm just a little person with a little life of quiet desperation. And happiness. And hilarity. And worry. And sadness. And love. And all the sweetness and ugliness and anonymity that make a life. A real life.