Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Deep in Thought. Obsessed. It's All Good.

In continuing with my recent mini-obsession with Neil Peart from Rush, I grabbed another one of his books from the library, “Travelling Music.” He wrote this one about driving from California to Big Bend National Park in Texas. He listened to a variety of CDs, from Sinatra to Limp Bizkit and talked about how music was, obviously, such a huge part of his entire life.

I am about 100 some-odd pages in, and am thoroughly enjoying this book—even more than I did “Ghost Rider,” which was his story about riding all over North America on his motorcycle after losing both his daughter and wife. This one’s more autobiographical, and I find myself chuckling at his anecdotes as I read. He really is a fascinating individual, but his books are like Chinese food. After I eat Chinese food, I find myself pawing through an open fridge an hour or two later. That’s how I feel about Neil Peart’s book. I devour one, and then a short time later I am pawing through the Internet trying to find something else he’d written that I can nibble on.

The book’s got me thinkin’ about the life of fortune and fame. Overall I’ve had a relatively low opinion of celebrities that complained about paparazzi and prying fans. My thought always was, “If you don’t like it, go buy a ranch in Montana and get the hell out of the limelight.” I imagine that people in that line of work have a love/hate relationship with fans and photographers. The photographers keep you in the news and maintain your worth. But at the same time, when you can’t go down to the corner to buy a newspaper without being photographed and wardrobe critiqued, then I am sure it’s a royal pain in the ass. I imagine there’s a great deal of fear that goes with that kind of lifestyle. A crazed fan shot John Lennon, after all. My big fear in life is running into a former boss or boyfriend with whom the relationship may have ended badly. I can’t imagine living with the fear of some rabid fan coming up to me and demanding my attention while I am out and about doing my thing.

Back when I was a huge Rush fan, when I was in high school, I couldn’t Google stalk Neil Peart. Now I can, and I stumbled upon his myspace page. I read the comments that people had left, “You’re my idol, man!” and the like. I sat there with my mouth hanging open as I read them and wondered what he thought of them as he read them. Here were thousands of people who wrote things like that to a man who, really, is a stranger to all those people. They don’t know him personally. They only know him through his music and his writing. In “Travelling Music” he mentioned fans coming to his front door of his home to ask for an autograph, and another story of a man who left beer for him outside his motel room, then called on the phone him to invite him to hang out. I could sense the unease those interactions caused him as I read. I wonder if he looks at his myspace page and wonders which one of commenters will be the next one to try to walk up to his front door? Which one will be the one that he has to avoid when he’s having a drink in a bar? John Lennon didn’t have myspace. He knew he had fans, but he couldn’t read their little online tributes to him as Neil Peart can. Is the phenomenon of the Internet helping famous people to be more wary of strangers? Would John Lennon still be alive today if...

I can see that it would be lovely to have touched so many people with your work. But how is it that fans cross these very definite lines? Every so often you hear about some crazed fan trying to sneak into a house of a celebrity. (Even David Letterman had one of those.) And ya gotta wonder what brings people to that point. What makes them think it’s OK to try to get into the home of a famous person? And what are they going to do when they get in there? Are they just going to plop down and join their object of obsession at the dinner table and say “Hi, and how was your day? Please pass the peas,” and be handed the peas like it’s just a normal day? There’s a big reason why these people are scaling a wall and not walking in the front door. They don’t belong there!

I listen to Neil Peart’s lyrics and I read his books, and they move me. They might make me think of something I hadn’t thought of before. Or they might make me sing along as I drum my fingers on the steering wheel in the car. Do I think I have a connection with him? Hell no. But his work sometimes inspires me, sometimes makes me feel happy and other times makes me feel sad. If I saw him in public would I stop in my tracks and say quietly and urgently to whomever I am with, “Holy crap! That’s Neil Peart!” Hell yes. Would I walk over and say hello to him, like he’s supposed to know me? Hell no.

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Anonymous Taoist Biker said...

I had the same sort of thought. Say I was pulled over on my motorcycle at a ice cream stand or something and a familiar-looking guy on a BMW pulled up...I wondered what I'd say. I think something like "Hello, Mr. Peart, hope you enjoy this lovely day" as I pulled my helmet and gloves back on and rode off.

But I'd only do that if he was already within speaking distance. Having read "Ghost Rider," I think closing the gap to talk to him would almost feel like an assault.

May 5, 2009 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

See, I don't think I'd even get that far. I think I'd probably be tongue tied. LOL.

I saw a not-really-all-that-famous actor in the Museum of Natural History in NYC last winter. He walked in as my sister and I were walking across the front to another room. I gawked for a second and then whispered to my sister "OMG, that's the guy who played Mark on 'Mad About You.'" She was like "Yup" and moved on. My sister is cool. I am not. LOL.

May 5, 2009 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous T said...

I think you are really cool ;)

May 6, 2009 at 11:54 AM  
Anonymous crisitunity said...

I used to feel the same way about celebs that you expressed - if you don't like it, don't do it. But the more I thought about it, the more I started feeling sorry for people who just want to do this for a living and don't want anything to do with whoring themselves out to the slavering public. Take Viggo Mortensen. Acting is his job, but for a personal life he'd rather be at home in the midwest (wherever that ranch of his is). He doesn't crave fame, but he's frigging Aragorn, he's going to have insane people trampling into his life for as long as he lives. Daniel Day-Lewis is the same way; he went to Italy and cobbled shoes for a couple of years, for God's sake. But he's such a brilliant actor that he's wasting time unless he's on a 9-foot screen.

Megastars like Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie, though, they love it. They crave that limelight. They wouldn't be megastars if they didn't. That doesn't make the fandom and paparazzi parts of the experience any less horrible for them, but I think it means they should whine less about it.

Wow, that got long. Sorry.

May 6, 2009 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I kind of giggle at one of Randy's stories. He was working at a major outdoor retailer (that shall remain nameless) and some guy walked up to him and asked where the long underwear was. He told him, and then noticed other employees looking at him, mouths gaping. It dawned on him who it was when Liv walked up. Yup, he told Steven Tyler where the long underwear was, without even recognizing him.


May 8, 2009 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger The Creeper said...

I'm pretty sure some degree of mental illness is what drives those people to stalk.

Did I ever tell you about the time I had all of REO Speedwagon on the other side of the counter from me asking what pasties (pace-tees) were. Without missing a beat (ha!) I launched into my... "Well, those are the things that strippers wear, but pasties (pass-tees) are meat, potatoes, onions and spices all baked together in a crust making a simple, but tasty, hand held meal."

I never even asked for their autographs. I figured they get enough of that stuff and really, it was a heck of a lot more interesting to have just a normal conversation with them. They were all very nice and, I think, enjoying being able to walk the streets of our little burg without being accosted and needing body guards.

May 9, 2009 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Carol, you are wicked cool. Truly an inspiration. I think I would have just stood there with my mouth hanging open. LOL.

May 9, 2009 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger The Creeper said...

Well, you are talking to the same girl who gave our local deputy a hard time about making sure he left his weapons in his car when he showed up to a volunteer function for senior citizens. I mean really, did he think he'd need his snub-nose .38 around the blue hairs?

I should note, that little incident caused my old boss to flip out ("Do you know who that is?" Uh yeah, calm down.) and the deputy laughed. I went to school with his daughter.

May 10, 2009 at 7:54 PM  

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