I hate name dropping. Like I was saying to my good friend Morgan Freeman the other day, people who do this are basically insecure individuals who are just trying to impress others.
OK, I don’t really know Morgan Freeman. But I did see “The Shawshank Redemption” twice, and I think that Mr. Freeman would be a pretty cool guy to hang out with.
An issue I have with celebrities is that I tend to get a bit star-struck when I am around them. For example, one time many years ago I had a chance to meet Tom Cruise. This was back in the days when he was known more for dancing in his underwear and hotdogging in fighter jets than jumping up and down on sofas and spewing Scientology propaganda.
A good friend of mine named Ray met and married one of Tom’s sisters. One day I was over at Ray’s house and he asked if I would mind if Tom stopped over to join us. I wanted to hide my extreme excitement, so I chose my response carefully.
“Tah … tah … tah … kah … kah …kah,” I stuttered intelligently, masking my nearly incapacitating enthusiasm.
I had to get my game face on. This mega-celebrity was going to be arriving shortly, and I needed to be composed. I recalled the words of wisdom my high school football coach used to tell the team right before we were about to be pummeled by much larger, intimidating opponents.
“Just remember, they put their jockstraps on one leg at a time,” Coach Whitton would say. I’m not exactly sure why knowing the dressing habits of the opposition was supposed to alleviate our fears, but in the case with Tom Cruise this observation seemed to bring me some comfort. When Tom arrived, I had calmed down considerably.
“Mark, this is Tom. Tom, this is Mark,” Ray said by way of introduction.
“Blaaaaa … gump … fort,” I mumbled. Tom looked at me like I was auditioning for the part of the Rain Man.
I took a deep breath and tried again.
“Jockstrap,” I said and proceeded to giggle like a schoolgirl.
I would like to say the rest of the visit went well. But it didn’t. If gibberish was money, I was a self-made millionaire on that particular day.
The Tom Cruise debacle is now an ancient chapter in my personal history. I have since realized that celebrities are just well-known people who have chosen a different path in their lives. In fact, today I am more intrigued by celebrities than star-struck, and I would welcome the opportunity to meet a famous person and have an intellectual, stimulating conversation with him or her.
I saw a chance to interact with a few celebrities recently when Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream fame came to Nutty Steph’s in Middlesex for a Bacon Thursday event. I decided to go and meet these men who revolutionized the world of frozen dairy products.
When I arrived, Ben and Jerry were at the door greeting patrons. I didn’t want to seem too anxious, so I said, “Hi,” walked past the pair and entered the store to get a beer. After a period of time mingling with other guests, I saw an opportunity to approach one of the businessmen.
The conversation went something like this:
“Hi there, Ben.”
“Hi, Jerry. I’m Mark.”
And that was it. Here I was, elbow to elbow with half of the duo responsible for changing the acceptable single-serving portion of ice cream from one modest scoop to a pint with more calories than a cruise ship buffet, and I had nothing to say to the man. I looked at the ceiling. I looked at the floor. It was awkward at best.
I had to think of something — anything — to keep the conversation alive. I knew there were so many causes dear to Ben and Jerry’s hearts: their sustainable corporate concept; their mission to operate a profitable company, increasing the value for their stakeholders and expanding opportunities for career growth for their employees; their hope for positive social change.
“I really like Chubby Monkey,” I said.
Fearing that our conversation was close to turning into an Abbott and Costello routine, he turned away and started talking to a plant on a nearby table.
And that was it. My chance to redeem myself with celebrity contact, and I pretty much made a fool of myself. To be fair, though, the entire blame for the fiasco shouldn’t fall on me. After all, he didn’t add much to the conversation.
I’ll bet there will be a lot more to talk about if I ever meet Morgan Freeman.
Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.
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