"He wasn't wearing leather pants."
"No way, dude. Seriously?"
Why is it so hard to believe? Couldn't he have been wearing leather pants? Wouldn't he have been wearing leather pants? Shouldn't he have been wearing leather pants? Somebody has to. Besides, he dated J-Lo.
About a month ago, Bennifer (minus the "nifer") walked into Union Street, the bar/restaurant in the suburbs of Boston at which I work a few nights a week. I recognized him immediately; he looked exactly like he does in the movies, give or take a goatee. None of the bar's customers noticed him enter, and he seemed to like it that way; his Red Sox cap was riding low so as to help him avoid easy recognition. He was attempting to stay away from the crowd, so he and his friends headed downstairs, whereupon I followed them with menus and some gentle steering in the right direction.
I’ve never had much luck with star sightings, which is fine. For although I’m a big entertainment and pop culture junkie (who isn’t, these days?), I’m not one for autographs and I don’t really care to meet many of the talents I watch and admire on TV and in films. I wasn't star struck by Affleck's appearance, and since I could sense his desire for privacy, I didn't treat him any differently than I would any other customer (i.e., I was as rude as ever!) They ate their food, and then they left. Huzzah!
In the weeks since Mr. Affleck's auspicious patronage of Union Street, the place has been buzzing. Managers and staff alike have been besieged by customers and callers looking for the tiniest shred of information about Gentle Ben's trip inside our walls. US Weekly, People Magazine, the Boston Herald, something called the Star...all of them sent emissaries or made phone calls in an attempt to learn exactly what Ben ate, who he was with, what he was wearing (leather pants, I swear!), even where he sat. Several of my co-workers fielded questions about the details of his visit, but, unfortunately, I was never asked. It’s a pity, because not only did I witness the whole thing, I sat him down, I gave him his menu, I even engaged him in some small talk. You may now prostrate yourselves at my feet.
If they did ask, I might not tell them, opposed as I am to our country’s expanding cult of celebrity. Besides, his visit was actually quite unremarkable. Aside from those sexy pants, and the Grand Wizard KKK hood he kept putting on, and his off-the-menu order of an ostrich, Tabasco and Ecstasy burger, nothing out of the ordinary went down. It was pretty clear from the second he walked in that he wasn't "out on the town" and he wasn't looking for the "red carpet treatment" and he wasn't ready to "party with the real people of the world" and he wasn't "interested in letting me try on his leather pants." He wanted to be alone, or as close to alone as one can be when one is surrounded by an entourage of hookers wearing astronaut costumes and blaring "We Are the World" from shoulder-mounted boom boxes. He was simply trying to have a low-key meal. But it wasn't easy.
Even though the dining room was largely deserted, save for a table full of blind people who apparently neither smelled him with their super-noses nor heard him with their super-ears, news of Gentle Ben's presence spread pretty quickly. Once the waitresses got word, their excited, erotic tittering alerted any clientele within earshot, and soon enough the rumors were flying. Interested parties (i.e. stalkers and sluts) began looking for any excuse to sneak downstairs to catch a glimpse of the young man.
God forbid I pull an Eddie Vedder and start bitching about the pitfalls of fame, but just watching all these people react so excitedly to the news of one celebrity's proximity was enough to make me sick. Girls were gushing and calling their friends, guys were grilling me to verify the rumors; it was excruciating. One girl actually got bumped by Affleck as he made his way up the stairs and into the bathroom (#1), and she promptly started bouncing up and down, barely able to contain her amazement and elation at having been touched, however slightly and incidentally, by the Oscar-winning, bad-movie-starring, big-ass-dating "superstar."
But it wasn't the bar’s customers that most astonished and disgusted me, I mean, a lot of them were drunk. It was the magazines, newspapers and tabloids that hounded the place for weeks afterwards, sober, hoping to print all the sordid, sundry, entirely insignificant details of his night on the town. The level of attention the whole situation attracted was just absurd. Even now, when I run into people I haven’t seen for a while, they inevitably ask me about Affleck’s visit.
This American concept of celebrity worship, wherein fame serves as its own virtue, regardless of its context, has been discussed to death and I won't resurrect it here. But the cottage industry that the American Fame Machine has spawned, which exists solely to provide non-famous regulars with reassuring snapshots of stars acting Just Like Us, whether that means Wearing Sneakers and Jeans, or Eating Lunch, or Driving a Car, or Drinking Coffee, is so prevalent and depressing that I can feel my soul being crushed with every issue of US Weekly that hits the newsstands. They're just people, people! And Ben Affleck is no exception. He eats food in bars and restaurants near places he visits and lives. Amazing! He also uses the bathroom occasionally (although, admittedly, he probably uses gold toilet paper.)
I'm not gonna pretend I wouldn't like some of the perks that a movie star like Affleck's career affords him, but if that night in the bar and its aftermath are any indication, he has to eat a lot of shit along with those perks, and it doesn't look fun. So I refuse to perpetuate it. Any more.
I'll throw you one last bone. If you're still starved for info about Baffleck's wild and crazy jaunt to normal-land, I offer you the transcript of our completely mundane conversation. Enjoy, you sick bitches:
Me: Would you like to eat downstairs in the dining room? It's less crowded.
God in a Red Sox cap: Yes, so long as I can tap a vein down there. I LOVE heroin.
Me (as we walk down the stairs, tantalizingly close to each other. The air is electric): You guys come from the [Red Sox] game?
Adonis with a goatee: No, we came from a bestiality orgy.
Me: Tough game [the Red Sox got killed].
Pimple on J-Lo's huge ass: Me and Damon humped goats, but I got jealous of Matt's goat, so I took off.
Me (showing him to his table): Here you go, your waitress will be with you in a moment.
O'Bannion (after removing ball-gag): God I hate blacks and women. Hey, I can do heroin down here, right?
Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".
ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE
more about mike julianelle
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
6.23.04 @ 12:47a
Our idiotic media missed the obvious fact that you were the real star of the show. I'd pay to see your comments in a rag like Us.
That's not saying much, because I pay to see them here, but keep shining, Sparky!
6.23.04 @ 1:52a
So is his mellon head really as gigantic as people say it is?
6.23.04 @ 8:45a
Poor Ben! Even Gwynneth implied on SNL that Matt's the one with the talent although I suppose that was supposed to be a joke. Ha ha ha. Poor Ben! Leather pants? How Jim Morrison 20th century! (You were kidding, right?)
6.23.04 @ 8:55a
Matt, he actually looked the same as he does on screen. Pretty tall. I guess his head is kinda big...but he seemed like an all right guy.
Sandra, it's true! Leather pants, Pac-Man T-shirt, Red Sox cap.
6.23.04 @ 10:39a
Even Gwynneth implied on SNL that Matt's the one with the talent...
Yeah, and Ben's always hated me for that.
6.23.04 @ 11:12a
So now I've met Ben Affleck, John Travolta, local Boston comedian Steve Sweeney, and NBA Legend and Stonejob Bill Walton! Ric Ocasek walked by me in a club once, too.
6.23.04 @ 11:42a
I got to see a family taking a photograph with Dick Van Patten once.
And wandered around a video store at the same time as Kevin Kline and Phoebe Kates.
6.23.04 @ 11:51a
It's Cates, with a C. I guess you don't know her that well. Poser.
6.23.04 @ 11:57a
At the second Clinton inauguration parade, Harvey Keitel stood behind us and Dr. Ruth walked by in front.
And of course, there was the day Bill Clinton told me he liked my sweater.
6.23.04 @ 12:04p
Was Keitel naked?
6.23.04 @ 2:45p
Quoting Mike: So now I've met Ben Affleck, John Travolta, local Boston comedian Steve Sweeney, and NBA Legend and Stonejob Bill Walton! Ric Ocasek walked by me in a club once, too.
For a guy who "never had much luck with star sightings", you sure are keeping a list.
6.23.04 @ 2:48p
By "not much luck" I meant none of them were hot starlets. And of COURSE I'm keeping a list. I'm American!
6.23.04 @ 4:11p
I guess being in advertising and living in CA, I've seen way more than my share of celebs. Off the top of my head, the famous people I've actually met (not just seen):
Jerry Van Dyke
The Gin Blossoms (man, I'm scraping bottom now, aren't I?)
That's all I can think of at the moment. Ali was, by far and away, the most impressive person I've ever met.
6.23.04 @ 4:19p
Interesting tidbit about the Gin Blossoms (they suck - that's not the interesting part) is that their 2nd album I believe, after they got "big", was called "Congratulations, I'm Sorry" because either directly before or after they blew up, their lead guitarist or something killed himself. So everyone would come up to them and say, "Congratulations [on your record deal] and I'm sorry [about the suicide]."
6.23.04 @ 4:23p
Yeah, but none of you ever got your foot run over by James Garner in a golf cart, ate dinner with a serial killer, or had Dennis Farina compliment you for growing breasts.
6.23.04 @ 4:28p
Serial killers aren't famous! Well, the best ones are. Who was it?
6.23.04 @ 4:37p
John Wayne Gacy. You already know this story.
6.23.04 @ 4:38p
I do indeed. And he IS famous! Bravo!
6.23.04 @ 4:46p
Charles Dutton yelled at me when I was trying to give him direction on a voice over.
I thought he was going to crush my skull.
6.23.04 @ 4:59p
I wish you had a picture of that, instead of Ali.
6.23.04 @ 5:06p
Mike, not only do you have a long list of brushes with fame, but you are currently being name-checked on the Defamer blog ...
6.23.04 @ 5:16p
Jerry Van Dyke is an asshole. He yelled at me, too - several times. But he's not quite as frightening as Dutton.
Rebecca Romijn came to a party at my apartment back in 1996.
And I sat in the passenger seat of Jerry Rice's Porsche on our way to Burger King as he did 100 mph on city streets.
6.23.04 @ 11:23p
I'm not all that impressed with the famous people I've met. The list is more on the bizarre side. The only one who was nice, other than Suzette Charles (the Miss New Jersey who took over being Miss America after the Vanessa Williams scandal) who I guess was nice because she was Miss America and had to be, was Harry Reems. He was just a really funny and cool guy.
6.24.04 @ 9:14a
I was impressed by Harry Connick, Jr.
Mike, I liked how Defamer particularly highlighted your "exchange" with Ben. Nicely done.
I've had more than a few close brushes with celebrities. Unless I was interviewing them, I usually tried to talk about things that were normal.
-I never ask for autographs.
-I only had my picture taken a couple of times, always in a professional capacity, never personal.
-I usually ended up having more "real life" conversations.
With Connick, for example, after introductions, I started a conversation about an Italian restaurant in New Orleans called Mama Rosa's, and we didn't stop talking about a variety of things for a half-hour.
I would do the same with a local teacher who won the State Farm award.
I remember, back in the day, going into a grocery store at 3am and having some checkout person say, "Hey, aren't you?...you are?...Hey! So-n-so! This is....!" I was just a mid-town radio personalitiy, so I thought all that to be slightly unnecessary. I didn't want to be ungracious - I just wanted my ice cream. I couldn't even begin to imagine what it's like to be at Affleck's level. Price of fame, indeed.
6.24.04 @ 9:26a
Tracey, I tried to do the same thing with Afflo. When he came in it was completely obvious he wasn't in the mingling mood, so I just treated him like I would any other customer. Okay, maybe slightly better.
But just watching everyone's reactions was really bizarre. Kind of unsettling. I felt bad for the guy. Of course, when I told my brother that, he yelled at me. "Don't feel bad for him!!"
6.24.04 @ 1:32p
It is scary to see the way some people react. I was once in Miami and Busta Rhymes was standing next to some friends and I at a club. One of my friends almost had a seizure while she called everyone she knew to tell them. Of course she was never a fan of his and wouldn't even listen to his music but that didn't seem to matter.
I was horrified since he saw the whole thing.
On the other hand a friend called me from a club in New York last Saturday night and she was sitting at a table with P. Diddy and the Wayans brothers drinking champagne. Now that is cool.
6.24.04 @ 2:22p
That's the thing, it has less to do with the actual person than it does with the cache that comes with being famous. It barely matters who it is, some people just find it thrilling to be in the orbit of someone who's been on TV on in a movie. Why? Who knows? Mostly it's because we are driven by the media to devalue our own lives in favor of lives with national/global reach, even if such reach is a result of something less than flattering.
If I was at a table with the Wayans brothers, I wouldn't call a soul. I probably wouldn't even notice.
6.24.04 @ 3:46p
Getting turned down for a date by Sandra Bullock is as good as I've got.
6.24.04 @ 3:48p
I can't believe she turned YOU down!
6.24.04 @ 3:57p
todd, you can do better than Sandra Bullock. Aim high. Juliette Lewis would be a good catch, or that girl in Terminator 3. Not the one who played the Terimnatrix, the other one.
I've seen people get starstruck over people of whom I've never heard. I once rode in an elevator with DJ Jazzy Jef, and when we got out of the elevator a horde of teenyboppers were waiting in the lobby of the hotel we were in, and they went wild. I had no idea who he eve was, but learned after the stampede he was famous.
6.25.04 @ 9:41a
Todd, I think Robert's referring to Clair Danes.
6.25.04 @ 9:54a
He sure is!
I also met Fiona Apple once. Tiny. And hot!
6.25.04 @ 12:58p
The woman who plays Stifler’s mom kicked me out of her New Year’s Eve party a few years ago for eating her leftover pizza. The freaking party was catered and she got pissed about some cold pizza! Diva.