Celebrities And Fame: A Videographer’s Perspective
I’ve been backstage with members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I’ve shaken hands with Academy Award winners.
I’ve watched some guy other than Eric Cartman sing “Come Sail Away” from behind amp stacks on stage right while seeing thousands of people sing the words along with him.
I know people who’ve won some shiny awards the Entertainment industry gives out.
I know musicians who’ve played, recorded and toured with people everybody’s heard of.
I’ve videotaped people everyone’s heard of. Even that guy who’s enjoying a resurgence of popularity with his impersonation of Donald Trump periodically on Saturday Night Live.
But fame, from what I’ve seen, I can tell you it’s just like Freddie Mercury sang of in Queen’s “We Are The Champions”
But it’s been no bed of roses,
No pleasure cruise
So hence my observations on being around celebrities and how being in the limelight can actually be more like a lemon. Here’s some feedback on how to counteract the knee jerk fan attack and be a class act when you have a close encounter of the Celeb kind.
Hive Mind Over Manners
Treat Them Like People
Think about it. How do you want them to remember you (if they would)?
Ask Yourself, “How are YOU treating them?”
Like a real person? Respectfully like meeting anyone else you would for the first time or like a freshman girl at a frat party?
Treat Them As If You’ll See Them Again
From my experience, it DOES happen. I’ve been backstage with the same public figures years apart. In this case, you’ll be glad you didn’t behave like a dog trying to hump their leg for an autograph or selfie pic.
Backstage Etiquette 101
I’ve seen how most people act when they meet someone famous. The industry standard reaction for a picture and/or autograph. The total recall flashback memories. And you know what?
Hearing a fan talk about a version of a song from a a gig in Atlantic City 15 years ago along with the accompanying stage banter to the audience dialogue verbatim always sounds like a cross between Stephen King and Rain Man (the Oscar winning Dustin Hoffman movie) to me.
I’ve seen and overheard these “Fan Flashbacks”, and “Biggest fan foaming at the mouths.” At times I’ve wondered if I would have to transform from Videographer to Bodyguard–At–Large Power Ranger style because certain conversations turn and veer into Weirdville to my ears.
It’s like, do you remember every effing day of YOUR day job? Every single thing? Every early morning slightly comatose water cooler conversation?
Well, neither do they and you can’t expect them to. A couple hundred gigs a year, a couple thousand gigs later and it tends to become one gigantic blur to most performers. Long days on movie and TV sets with actors are the same way too.
“Unless Jesus appears atop a Marshall amp stack or Bigfoot crashes Camp Bisco, it’s doubtful performers will remember individual gigs.”
So don’t expect a musician to remember your favorite photographic moment from one little gig you saw them at.
To gauge how unrealistic and weird this expectation can be, try this simple test with a co–worker:
Ask “Hey, remember that staff meeting two years ago in May where you said “That’s a great idea Joe?'”
At the very least you’ll get an eyebrow raise and possibly a private visit to the HR Department asking you “If everything’s okay.”
These same conversations that fans think are acceptable with celebrities and famous people, sound like Steve Carrell’s off kilter character Brick Tamland in the Anchorman movies.
Being Stuck In Fan Mode
The problem with being stuck in “Fan Mode” when meeting celebrities is there’s no real conversation or connecting on an authentic level. It’s mass production cookie cutter human interaction. Even more so for the manufactured image shaping and enhancement Social Media generation who want to post the coveted “Hangin’ with a Celebrity” pic for like brownie points and response roulette on Facebook.
Same Old Song And Dance
In a sense, as a videographer, photographer or backstage/production crew, when you’ve met one famous person you’ve met them all. Don’t get me wrong, being around art is always exciting but the more celebrities you meet, the more it desensitizes you to the OMG! factor. It becomes “Yah, yah, it’s so and so and they really exist outside of TVs, silver screens and tabloids.”
Real Is What Real Does
When it becomes somewhat normal to be around celebrities and public figures, you can have genuine interactions with them like you have with your friends or next door neighbor. And that’s more important to me than a picture with someone who won’t remember my name 5 minutes from now.
The other thing is, celebrities actually appreciate it over being mobbed by swarms of air sucking vampires with needy attention tentacles.
The reason Forrest Gump met so many amazing people in his life is he had no projected needs, ulterior motives or preconceived expectations towards them. Be like Forrest.
Remember, you may see some of these people again. How do you want them to remember you? Would you want THEM to trust you around their kids and family?
So I don’t go for the selfie’s with celebs or autographs. But I’ve had real moments of conversation, handshakes, and camaraderie on the road. If you are a port in a storm to someone, life will return the favor when you need it.
Billboard Turned Cardboard
Years ago, I had a private tour of MTV Studios at One Astor Plaza (1515 Broadway/Times Square) in New York City. The shoot that day was cancelled but it was funny seeing the set left up from the day before. It was life–size cutouts of members of a boy band. And the MTV tour guide telling us of the contrast between having a few hundred screaming fans in that room and a few thousand outside the day before for the Backstreet Boys.
Think about how Fame looks from their perspective…
Do you want random people you don’t know to start talking shop to you?
It’s not even all that pleasant when they do know you and you’re not hugely famous. I used to get this when I headed up a non–profit years ago.
I’d be walking down the street outside my office before or after work and on weekends and it was like, “Where’s my Elephant Man hologram so people will just leave me alone!”
You wonder that you even have to tell people I AM OFF THE FREAKING CLOCK. But they don’t seem to get the hint even in street clothes, shades and a few days past a decent George Michael 5 o’ clock shadow.
When you’re a Celebrity and famous, you are NEVER off the clock in the minds of fans.
Not Every Celebrity/Famous Person/Public Figure Is A Social Butterfly And Blatant Extrovert
Often they’re overwhelmed with all the attention their talents have brought upon them. Often they’re really shy and introverted. But fame requires you to be an extrovert towards fans and various media outlets.
Often the side of them that got them famous is just a part of them, an act or adapted self. Michael Jackson is a classic example of this. Howard Stern said this about himself—about the “other” nature of his DJ Persona in his book Private Parts. He is not that person off the clock and doesn’t want to be “that Howard” 24/7. Being “on” all the time and being expected to be is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.
Everyone needs down time. Everyone needs privacy. Even your heroes.
Fame Is An Obligation
I’ve had famous people tell me about signing autographs in public restrooms. The standards of politeness with strangers go out the window and fans expect people to be “on” and accessible all the time.
In my travels, I’ve actually been mistaken by fans of certain artists who come up to me all nervous. They ask, “Excuse me, are you______?”
It’s strange and I’d quizzically say I wasn’t the person in question. They apologize and walk away. But if I WAS famous, they wouldn’t apologize for intruding on my time and personal space. Instead, they would call me rude, a jerk or an A–hole if I didn’t talk to them, give them an autograph or take a picture with them.
Double standard. BIGTIME.
One time in Orlando I got let in early to a Comic Con because I was mistaken for one of the actors on a panel (I have the same first name as he does and resemble him a bit). But the perks of privilege seem to be outweighed by the prisons of popularity.
Behind The Green Room Door
Several times before gigs going over the game plan and setlist for the evening performance, I’ve heard band tales of gigs past and road stories. The funny thing is, band road and gig stories are the same whether the musicians are famous or not.
The content is the same. You can close your eyes like a game show and try to guess whether the Jon or Joe being mentioned is Bon Jovi, Walsh or Jantkowski. If the Neil in the story is Diamond, Schon or Neidermeyer. If the Bruce mentioned is Dickinson, Springsteen or Billingsley.
For celebrities, life is not always like a box of chocolates. They do know what they’re gonna get, and it’s the same ‘ol song and dance most didn’t ask for and they’re tired of having to do. It’s a mindless Macarena they’re manipulated into going through the motions of by the Media Maestro behind the curtain.
Occasionally I’ve needed a spotter videotaping gigs because I’ve have my back to a pumped up somewhat inebriated audience. But I’m glad I don’t need a bodyguard to go buy blueberries and I can live peacefully in Springfield right across from The Simpsons. And all my D’ohs! aren’t plastered across tabloids in supermarket checkout lines.
© Composer Yoga