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    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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What You Like Is In The Limo

This begins a five part series on fame. I met with a publisher who talked about a writer we both knew at the beginning of his meteoric career. Now, twenty years later, this writer is still a big deal. The friendship had its ups and downs over the years, but the two were solid now. I asked if the quality of the friendship was still as good. No, not really, the publisher answered, he’s changed. How, I asked, though of course I new the answer as soon as I asked it. Fame.

We talked about that for a while. Some people seem to feel that fame confirms what they felt all along about themselves. For others, it brings on imposter complexes, insecurities, paranoia, etc. I wonder if it’s possible to remain unchanged by fame. What is it and why is is so desirable, cash and babes aside.

61 Responses

  1. I always thought I’d be famous. Not that I WANTED to be famous, because, frankly, I didn’t. I just FELT IT WOULD BE SO. Now, it occurs to me that probably we all think we’re going to famous.

    If, like me, you believe in many lives, we probably each will. Betsy, you’re getting there quickly. Soon you’ll be able to answer your own question.

    And, hey, why can’t fame make a positive change for someone? The little mouse in the corner, who ROARS?

  2. Cash and babes can never be left aside. That defeats the whole point. That’s why I’m a writer, after all, the only reason, perhaps, worth writing for.

  3. It’s Grisham, isn’t it?

    • you went the same place i did. my first thought was nick sparks.

      • Totally off-subject, but did anybody see the Dean Koontz interview on CBS Sunday Morning today?

        That’s how fucking old I am. My Sundays are bookended by the trumpet playing the CBS Sunday morning theme, with the ticking 60 Minutes clock at 7 pm. Ain’t life grand?

    • yes!

      how about that library.

      i love that trumpet sound and i love CBS Sunday because they’re always pulling in the authors to talk. my favorite thing today was when he was talking about not using email and said that he will type up an email and “save it on a disk” for his assistant to send.

      i wonder if i could write 100+ novels if i wasn’t online 18 hours a day.

    • Could be but Grisham always seemed pretty down-to-earth to me as these things go. He’s married to his high school sweetheart for goodness sake…

  4. I don’t think I strive to become famous. I just try to do things that are a challenge. I was chairman of my teachers’ union, and making decisions that affected over 400 teachers was a challenge. I took my high school choir to Sweden to sing in the hall where Peace Awards were given. But, I always tried to remain “me”. To me, it’s the process, not the result.

  5. I’m not famous therefore what changes is only what I imagine would be the reason.

    I would think you would probably become somewhat gaurded – all those “best friends” probably appear out of nowhere. That would get old. I think just knowing someone famous makes others feel important.

    The good things from fame:

    Money for hopefully doing something you love which in turn gets you –

    Ability to be charitable
    Not worry about finances
    Recognition of your work

    Probably worse for men – ego small penis blonde’s fake attention = affair/divorce

  6. The world is your party, then — not just on your birthday.

  7. You had me at cash and babes.

  8. I like Bill Russell’s take: Money doesn’t change you, he said, it just makes you a bigger whatever you were to begin with. If you’re a jerk, you become a bigger jerk. If you’re a nice person, you become nicer.
    I’ve certainly seen that in three friends who became famous/rich. They stayed personable, driven and egotistic, respectively.
    I also knew a deejay who blew up and was the same mean mysognistic guy from way back when.

    • @Elise: This sounds right to me, but I don’t know anyone famous, so I’m really talking out of my nose.

    • I like R Kelly’s take: Fame doesn’t change you, it changes the teenage girls you want to piss on.

      The publisher didn’t change in twenty years? The only thing that changes you more than fame is failure. I’m fucking unrecognizable.

      • i think you’d be surprised just how famous you are around here. (unfortunately this fame is void of cash and most of us babes are middle-aged housewives staying up late to type 1,000 more words).

  9. Fame, schmame. Money, I could use more of, and if “fame” is the only means to that end, fine, make me famous. But in and of itself? Meh.

    There is a Big Name Writer in my town who is much more famous than I. He is mean-spirited, egotistical and dresses like a homeless guy. If that’s fame, you can keep it.

  10. Fame is a fickle food
    Upon a shifting plate.
    Emily Dickenson

  11. Ha! I think I know the same writer. He thinks people want to be his friends because he is famous. Forgetting of course, that we were his friends before he was famous.

    • Someone said something like this about a certain shock jock — how he’s forever pushing at people who didn’t like him before he was famous and telling them how (expletives deleted) they were for ignoring him because now he’s rich and famous, etc.

      But they still don’t care, and that kills him.

  12. You’re going to change in 20 years, period. You’re going to know more people in general, have suffered more deaths of people you know and/or love, and yes, if you’re famous, you have more people who want to rub up against you and use you for your status. This may be very pleasant sometimes and not so much fun other times.

    In the case of the publisher and the writer – in the beginning of the career, the publisher has all the power, the writer is at his mercy. Now that the writer is famous, the positions are flipped. The writer can go anywhere and be published – the publisher needs him more, which can’t feel very good.

    It’s easy to say, “Oh, fame has changed him,” and possibly that’s true, but IMO, that’s a cop-out. The publisher must have changed as well over 20 years, and he probably doesn’t LIKE not having the same power over the writer as in the beginning.

  13. When the baby cries, it can mean she’s hungry and what you feed her is up to you. Of course, it might just be gas.

    • From the May 2011 issue of Vogue:

      NEW YORK — Reese Witherspoon mourns the loss of her privacy.

      The Oscar-winning actress says she sometimes sits in her car crying because she cannot go out in public as much as she’d like.

      • Over the years, I’m told, she has been spotted weeping in public about her loss of privacy in several different locations.

        Most recently, she was seen weeping in her car at : 74th and Columbus in NY; right outside of Harvey Nicks in London; at the intersection of rue Bonaparte and St. Germain in Paris; various spots along Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

      • wow – who is her publicist? publicly mourning one’s lack of privacy is brilliant! does she tweet about it, too?

      • I remember reading that Michael Jordan used to put on a dread lock wig just so he could go shopping.

  14. More than anything, I want options. Not stock options per se, but options – the ability to choose what I do next. Does fame give you that? Because if it does, I want fame. And cash and babes.

  15. Why so shy? Who’s the guy? McInerney?

  16. The weird thing is that writers, mostly, aren’t wired for fame. We’re shy, as a rule. We’re more comfortable in the fly-on-the-wall role. If fame tends to “change” the typically tempered writer, I would imagine that it’s often in response to trying on clothes that will never, ever fit right.

    I think you hit it with the “imposter complex” thing Betsy.

  17. Fame seems to be that thing that people claim to abhor once they have it. “Dammit to hell, I can’t go anywhere now that I’m famous.” (insert sad face) Like it’s a f-ing curse. Kind of like beautiful women who claim they aren’t taken seriously, or can’t get what they really want, because they’re too beautiful. Give me a break.

    I recently went to the funeral. Afterwards, I was sitting around a picnic table with childhood friends, freezing, drinking too many beers, when someone tried to be ALL THAT and one of us said, “Fuck you. Don’t give me that bullshit. I knew you when you wet your pants on the school bus.”

    We all need that friend.

  18. some nights i wonder if it’s possible to remain unchanged by anything…fame, failure, husbands, kids, the same job, another job, a life that feels like you’re constantly trying to walk the tightrope between a well-balanced life and one that could get you on Hoarders. then, other nights, i wonder if i’ve changed at all in 37 years.

    who knows with fame. i have less than 100 fans on my FB author page and still google myself.

    • We never really change. We’re the same now that we were in 1st grade, no matter how much different we think we are, or would like to be. Just sayin’…

      • i think you’re right. i meet people sometimes and all i can think is, “i know you–i know exactly who you were in high school.”

      • I know a guy who has been running a montessori pre-school for 30 years. Through the years, many of of his former pre-schoolers have stopped in to visit.

        He says: “Show me the four-year-old, and I’ll show you the man.”

        (That said, Teri, if your friend still has a problem with wetting his or her pants while riding on buses, this is an incontinence issue, and there probably are medical remedies available for it.)

  19. When I drove Jackie Onassis in the limo, I asked her, after Mike NIchols’ 60th birthday party, what it was like to be perhaps the most famous woman in the world. After a long pause, I swear this was her answer: “Duh, I don’t know…you’re still the same person.”

  20. “I asked for the moon because I didn’t think I would ever get it . . .and now that I’m holding it in my hands, I’m terrified I’ll lose it.”

    —Some person more clever and famous than I.

  21. Over the years a friend who became a famous writer seemed to intensify traits like arrogance and condescension, while losing the warmth and interest in others that had made her my friend. She acted famous long before she was, growing into it as if it gave her permission to be arrogant and condescending.

    We’ve lost touch, but when I watch her on YouTube I see a self-absorbed, insufferable caricature of the young friend I once had. Truly, I’d rather be a failed writer than someone who turned into that.

  22. Maybe it just has to do with feeling like you matter.

  23. 1. Let’s say, you want fame and you want it badly.

    2. Let’s also say that you’ve decided the best way to achieve it is by becoming a writer.

    3. How many times in the past month have you experienced the swift, forceful impact by a blunt object ? (Think of things like: a hammer, a rocks, a policeman’s truncheon, a small, but still remarkably heavy portable steam iron.) Did any of these objects put “dents” in your skull? Did the discovery of these dents prompt you to seek fame through writing?

  24. It’s all about the grass being greener on the other side. The problem is once you get there you realize it’s not at all what you expected. Instead of the bright green blades you were hoping to run barefoot on, you come to see it’s just crappy AstroTurf.

  25. Most of the comments aren’t talking about fame at all: they’re talking about money or success or respect. Those are all great. Fame is a bitch. Do you really want to be Monica Lewinsky or Cathy Black hounded by the press?

    • I can think of few things worse than having a famous face. A famous name wouldn’t be so bad; you’d get lots of swag and favors and people naming their children after you. What else is there? Constant scrutiny? Being recognized by people you would cross the street to avoid? Chased into stilted conversations about you and your genius, and the possible genius of your pursuer? It sounds awful.

      Fame is relative, anyway. A big fish sometimes doesn’t realize he’s in a pond, right? Aren’t the unfortunate effects on his character the same as they would be if he was Moby Dick?

    • Monica Lewinsky is a case of notoriety, being widely and unfavourably known. That’s not fame. By definition, fame is having a widespread, positive reputation. Nothing wrong with that.

  26. I read an interview where Updike said the worst thing about fame (or it might have been success, but with writers I think they’re one in the same) is that it impairs your self-doubt. You start to believe the positive reviews which corrupts your inner-critic and your writing suffers from it.

  27. I have two personal laws of life to share on this subject :

    1) People don’t change, they just get more like themselves. I know lots of people who over time turned into assholes without the help of fame. And others who started out complete jerks and somehow turned out to be pretty good people. Who knew ?

    2) For every asshole you encounter, there is an equal and opposite asshole, and it’s usually you.

  28. The most famous author I know is Sara Gruen. She proves what so many here have said. If you’re nice when you’re not famous, you’ll still be nice when you are.

  29. From what I have seen of the personal lives of The Famous (and, trust me, designers see ALOT) these people really walk a difficult path. They quickly learn not to trust anyone because so many sycophants are well-dressed, well-connected People; hiring maids and the gardeners is a nightmare because many leak info to the press; they schedule doctors’ appointments in other cities (or countries) under other names and their children can’t play at the parks without guards. Ugh.

    Never-the-less, I’d be willing to give it a try.

  30. Fame is like a shaved pig, ilustrated: http://www.napkindad.com/2010/05/fame-is-like-shaved-pig.html

    I take the easy road; I assume I am already famous, what fluctuates is how many other people think so as well.

  31. I guess the lyrics to Ringo Starr’s famous anti-fame anthem were right:

    “Fame! … Uhhh!
    Good Gawd, Y’all….
    What is it good for?
    Absolutely very little of any meaningful relevance! Oh sure, you get comp’d a lot of stuff,
    But most of it is crap.
    Say it again!

  32. The quasi-famous people I know have definitely become crazier, more drunk, or weird. I know a famous supermodel, and her star has kind of fallen, but overall she seems relatively unscathed.

    The worst thing I have noticed about fame – and I don’t have to know the people to see this – is that the quality of work becomes less original or interesting.

  33. Fame kept me alive until I died.

  34. A five-part series? Oy.

  35. Fame is like Gertrude Stein’s Oakland.

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