Joel Murray, for example. The younger brother of actor Bill Murray (who knew Bill had a younger brother?), Joel said this about his sibling’s success: “I have a famous brother” — he told the L.A. Times a couple of days ago — “and I see what his life’s like. He can stay places 15 minutes and then he’s got to leave. So I’ve seen what it’s like to be famous.”
Joel said he liked being largely unknown. As much as we like Bill Murray – well, one of us likes him: once upon a time, back before he was merely kinda famous instead of super famous, he planted a smooch upon Renee’s cheek -- offering no such love to Harrell, by the way…but we’d hate to be so popular that we couldn’t stop at IHOP without a crowd gathering. We like to linger over our chocolate chip pancakes.
This comes to mind today because we’ve just returned from Las Vegas. We were in town for the Big Writers Convention – either that, or we were just hanging out at the buffets and losing money at the nickel slots – and we decided to go see the Penn & Teller show at the Rio. We’d seen their act years and years ago, we’d loved it, and we wondered if anything at changed in the almost eleven years since we last dropped by.
Yep, there were changes.
The tickets were more expensive than before but we found a deal (take ten minutes and you’ll find a deal, too), and off we went. In the showroom’s outside lobby, there was a bar and a souvenir stand, loaded with P & T-oriented goodies. The showroom, by the way, was now the Penn & Teller Theater. It was gorgeous and much bigger than their first Rio showroom. The seats were plush and the back of each chair was branded with a partial ampersand, the P & T trademark. A jazz pianist played as the crowd filled in – and a very big crowd, it was.
The show ran about 90 minutes. It was great and the magicians rocked. We loved it. After their performance, P & T hurried to the outside lobby. We thought they might, since they did the same thing a decade ago: They met their audience at the door, shook hands, signed autographs, posed for photos. At the turn of the millennium, we’d chatted with them both and thought they were delightful.
But Penn & Teller are much more famous now.
As a result, the crowd waiting to meet them was much bigger. There were souvenirs to be signed; many, many souvenirs to be signed. Hundreds of pictures to be taken, since everyone seems to have a camera-capable cell phone. Lines of people waiting to press the flesh. Everyone wanted a piece of their time.
It showed in our celebrities’ faces. They smiled for photos, signed everything offered, tried to be pleasant. But Teller said very few words. (We know he’s supposed to be the silent partner but he verbalized happily the last time we saw him.) Penn called everyone, ‘Boss.’ As in, ‘Thanks, Boss,”, “Appreciated, Boss,” “You’re welcome, Boss.” He doesn’t have the time to learn each audience member's name – no one could – and he appeared so terribly, terribly bored by the process. So, naturally, Renee decided she needed to thank him for a great show.
When she made it through the line, offering her hand and her thanks, Penn seemed lost. This woman didn’t want an autograph, didn’t need a photo, so why the heck was she there? Finally, he understood. He blinked a few times, shook her hand, then responded warmly, “That’s what it’s all about. Boss.”
Seconds later, the autograph/photo/go thing resumed. Penn's eyes went dead. Honestly, we felt sorry for him.
Too often, fame and success distances the fortunate from the world around them. Which sucks. So, the next time you check our novels sales figures, don’t think, Poor bastards, think, Way to go, Turners! You score!
Absolutely. Don't for a second think about making us successful.