Andy Warhol was mostly right. Everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes — as long as you know who they are. We are awash in celebrity — who can actually keep track of them all? Many are merely famous for being famous or famous for being infamous. Too many bring nothing to the game. And yet people are fascinated by the concept of fame. We dote on it; many of us yearn for it.
But as Tom Hanks once said: you don’t have to be rich and famous to be happy; you just have to be rich.
We’ve all had our brushes with the famous. And, of course, we all have our own definition of what it means to be famous.
There is political fame and there are more than a few people who don’t mind having their weddings delayed so the POTUS can play a round of golf or so the bride can be kissed by a potential Prime Minister. Hell, there are even people who swoon at the thought of a firm handshake from Steven Harper. De gustibus non est disputandum.
I’ve had a few run-ins with the politically famous — brief chats with Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. And I once shared a hot tub with Joe Ghiz — then premier of PEI. And I’ve met Senators and MPs by the score and not a few Premiers too.
Then there are the literary celebrities that attract a certain number of my friends. I met and talked to Isaac Asimov; I had the honour of being refused admittance into the presence of Robert Heinlein. On the Canadian scene I’ve shared a table with Margaret Atwood and rode in a van with Guy Vanderhaeghe. I’ve served on boards with Sharon Pollock. And of course I’ve lost awards to Robert J. Sawyer and Guy Gavriel Kay.
But of course the crème de la crème are movie stars. I’ve written about John Wayne and John Candy in fiction (the connection is Durango, Mexico) but I’ve only met a few.
Years ago, Richard Chamberlain and Rod Steiger were making a movie in Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit). One night they were at dinner at the only nice restaurant in town. I was there too with a bunch of rowdy women. Late into the evening after much wine had been consumed. Mr. Chamberlain walked by our table on the way to the loo. One of the women reached out and grabbed his ass. A hush fell over the restaurant.
Chamberlain turned and, with a broad grin, nodded and said: Thank you. She nearly fainted. And so did I.
But that’s ten minutes.