By Scott Keneally
I was eleven, my older sister Kelly said that someone famous was
going to be at Thanksgiving dinner: "You've probably never
heard of him but he's in the encyclopedia. And, he is related
are you an owl?" she teased, incubating the suspense.
Gordon Liddy," she said, handing me a copy of his autobiography,
Will. "You better get yourself one of these for him
summarized the Watergate scandal and Liddy's infamous role in the
break in. She said he was honorable for not ratting out Nixon, but
his silence cost him several years in a federal penitentiary. Even
more thrilling than being related to a notorious criminal, Kelly
said that the "G-Man" (as he was sometimes known) was
now an actor starring as a villain in two of my favorite television
shows, Miami Vice and Airwolf.
is he related?" I asked.
not sure, but he is."
why haven't we ever met him before?" I asked.
he's famous, silly. He lives somewhere like Hollywood."
the week before Thanksgiving, I meticulously poured over the pages
of his autobiography, watched the movie All the President's Men,
and brushed up on Watergate at the library. When Turkey Day finally
arrived, I spotted the G-Man snacking on my grandmother's Swedish
meatballs in her dining room. I nervously advanced on him with a
pen in one hand and Will in the other. He didn't need a stethoscope
to hear my heart clamoring against my ribcage.
could you sign this for me?"
what's your name?" he smiled.
Keneally," I said, before dropping the one burning question
I had after reading Will. "Did you really eat rats in
told you that?" he laughed.
"You did in your autobiography." The G-Man seemed taken
aback, thoroughly impressed that I had actually read his book.
sure did," he responded, "but, they didn't taste nearly
as good as this turkey your Aunt Midge has cooked. There was no
gravy in prison."
we laughed I bubbled like gum, reveling in my legwork. Feeling comfortable,
I fetched another four books and presented them to him. But I asked
him not to personalize those. They were perfect Christmas gifts
for my teachers. I opened my copy and read the inscription:
From your distant relative,
G. Gordon Liddy.
as to the exact nature of our relationship, I pulled Mom aside in
the kitchen. Apparently, my Uncle Jack (who was actually my mother's
uncle) married the G-Man's sister, Aunt Midge. So, Liddy was my
mother's uncle's brother-in-law, in essence making him my great
uncle-in-law. There were no blood relations whatsoever. Not even
a drop. Still, I was proud to have someone famous in my family tree,
even if his branch was a bit shaky.
truth is, I am a Celebrity Slut. Whenever I am in the presence of
a star, my chest tightens like a boa around my heart as I think
of some witty lead into a conversation with them. My next impulse
is to tell everyone I know.
siblings share my fervor for celebrities. Kelly and I call one another
whenever we have a brush with fame or even just a dream about being
backstage at a Moby concert.
never believe this," she'd say in a whisper, hand cupped over
her cell phone, "Jewel is eating at the table right
next to me. She's less than two feet away."
her on!" I'd shout.
course, Kelly had enough tact not to reach over to Jewel with her
phone, but I know that if roles were reversed, she'd expect me to
hand my phone over to Johnny Depp.
older brother has been exuberantly recounting shared moments with
celebrities (with varying degrees of truth) for some time now. Chris
is a Celebrity Slut of a slightly different breed -- one with a
more active imagination. His encounters always occur when nobody
is around to verify them, like the time Andre the Giant picked him
up by the neck after Chris heckled him before a WWF match. His stories
are often framed, "While you were at the bathroom." That's
when all the action happens.
night while we were at a bar in Santa Monica, I walked back from
the john to see Chris' face lit up like a slot machine, "You
missed it! I was just hanging out with Arnie." He was referring
to his new buddy, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The fact is, Arnold did
briefly walk into the bar that night; secretly I asked the bouncer
if he saw him. And maybe Arnold even stood next to Chris for a second
or two while I was in the bathroom. And if so, I'm sure Chris would
have summoned all his wit and peeled off a one-liner. But whether
or not Chris and Arnie shared a few puffs off the same cigar or
that Arnie said, "I'll be back," in his Terminator
voice is dubious at best.
of Andre the Giant that night, picturing Chris walking back to our
seats at the WWF match wringing his neck with his own hands to sell
the story of his confrontation ("Look at these red marks!")
At the bar I was half expecting Chris to yank up his sleeve and
show me the friends-forever ritual cigar burn he and Arnie had branded
each other with: "He has one too, in the same exact spot!"
understand the urge to glorify the moment, to beef it up a bit.
Announcing "Arnie stood next to me" doesn't arouse the
crowd nearly as much as declaring, "Arnie passed his cigar
to me and winked."
my celebrity-sighting quest, I struck gold one summer during college
when I went on a date with a girl from Red Bank, New Jersey. After
dinner in her hometown, Lindsay pointed to a store across the street,
"Hey, did you ever see Clerks or Mallrats?"
course," I said, having watched the latter nearly thirty times.
that's Kevin Smith's comic book store, 'Jay and Silent Bob's Secret
Stash.' Jay works there most days."
actually works there?" I asked. "But he's a movie
I wasn't complaining. I couldn't wait for the store to open the
next morning. Jay was close enough to my age that I imagined friendship
was possible. If everything went according to plan, I'd be showing
him off to all my college friends in Boston. And if I were really
lucky, Kevin would be there and cast me on the spot for one of his
upcoming movies. Sure, I'd accept a modest role, but maybe he'd
take a chance and give me a meatier role.
my dreams traveled down the pipe, it became clear to me that my
obsession with celebrities was really an obsession with myself.
Ever since I was a little kid, I had the sneaking suspicion that
the whole world was, or at least should be, fascinated by my every
action or comment, and here was my chance to prove it. I
was going to be a star. My face would grace the cover of
glossy magazines. I'd give brief, coy interviews to Access Hollywood
that would add new layers of complexity to the mystery that
was me. Most importantly, perhaps I could even parlay this acting
gig into dating someone like Britney Spears or Angelina Jolie, since
I knew stars were an incestuous constellation.
tossing and turning through the night I arrived at the store at
9:59, one minute before it was supposed to open. I sat down by the
front door and waited. Thirty minutes later, a voice called out
from the back seat of a red Cherokee across the street, "Hey
kid. Are you waiting for the store to open?"
the car as Jay said, "I'm just finishing my breakfast. Give
me twenty minutes."
shit! You're Jay!" I ejaculated, completely exposed as a Celebrity
Slut. "I can't believe it's you."
smiled and said, "Snootchy bootchie," just like his character
did in the movies.
11:15, Jay finally unlocked the store. Since I was not even remotely
interested in purchasing comics, I spent the next hour picking his
did you get into acting?"
you get more chicks now that you're a star?"
Silent Bob coming in today?"
are you working at a comic book store in New Jersey?"
fielded all of my questions and seemed happy to talk to me. I was
pleasantly surprised that he was the same person I saw onscreen.
And of course, I came prepared.
you want to smoke weed?" I asked, flashing him my freshly packed
glass pipe. "This is some heady shit."
I'm on probation," he said. It sounded like a lie, much like
the instinctive response of most of the girls I had ever asked on
dates: "Thanks, but I have a boyfriend."
jilted, like our connection had been suddenly ripped out of the
wall. I jotted down my number. "Call me when you get off probation,"
to say, Jay never called. But my iridescent afterglow lasted for
months as I ferreted out any opportunity to share my story, even
with complete strangers: "Did you say your name is Jay? That's
so funny because I have another friend named Jay. Did you ever see
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