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Celebrity Slut
By Scott Keneally

When 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 to us."

"Who? Who?"

"What are you an owl?" she teased, incubating the suspense.

"Come on, please!"

"G. Gordon Liddy," she said, handing me a copy of his autobiography, Will. "You better get yourself one of these for him to sign."

Kelly 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.

"How is he related?" I asked.

"I'm not sure, but he is."

"And why haven't we ever met him before?" I asked.

"Because he's famous, silly. He lives somewhere like Hollywood."

During 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.

"Um, could you sign this for me?"

"Sure, what's your name?" he smiled.

"Scott Keneally," I said, before dropping the one burning question I had after reading Will. "Did you really eat rats in prison?"

"Who 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.

"I 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."

As 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:

Best Wishes!
From your distant relative,
G. Gordon Liddy.

Curious 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.

The 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.

My 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.

"You'll 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."

"Put her on!" I'd shout.

Of 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.

My 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.

One 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.

I thought 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!"

I can 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."

In 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?"

"Of course," I said, having watched the latter nearly thirty times.

"Well, that's Kevin Smith's comic book store, 'Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash.' Jay works there most days."

"Jay actually works there?" I asked. "But he's a movie star."

Nonetheless, 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.

As 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.

After 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?"

I approached the car as Jay said, "I'm just finishing my breakfast. Give me twenty minutes."

"Holy shit! You're Jay!" I ejaculated, completely exposed as a Celebrity Slut. "I can't believe it's you."

Jay smiled and said, "Snootchy bootchie," just like his character did in the movies.

At 11:15, Jay finally unlocked the store. Since I was not even remotely interested in purchasing comics, I spent the next hour picking his brain:

"How did you get into acting?"

"Do you get more chicks now that you're a star?"

"Is Silent Bob coming in today?"

"Why are you working at a comic book store in New Jersey?"

Jay 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.

"Do you want to smoke weed?" I asked, flashing him my freshly packed glass pipe. "This is some heady shit."

"Sorry, 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."

I felt jilted, like our connection had been suddenly ripped out of the wall. I jotted down my number. "Call me when you get off probation," I said.

Needless 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 Mallrats?"


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