When I was 13, I worked in a doughnut shop. I wasn’t famous. One day a man walked in, placed his order and looked at me closely. “Are you Italian?” he asked. He looked middle-aged and wore a nice suit and was bold and confident, like he was used to getting his way.
“I’m half,” said I.
“How would you like to be in a movie I’m making about my life in New York City? I’m Italian, too, and I’m looking for an Italian kid to play me. Do you have any brothers?”
“Yeah, I’ve got three.”
His face lit up. “Three? That’s perfect. We may be able to use them, too.” He handed me his card—it had an Italian name on it.
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“Give me your address, and I’ll come by tomorrow afternoon at two o’clock to talk with your parents about putting you in my movie.” When I prattled to my folks about it, they were skeptical. My mom said later that my Italian Dad wondered if he was a pervert and wanted me for a child sex ring.
I was thrilled—I was going to be famous. I told all my friends and could barely sleep that night. The next day it seemed like forever for the big, fateful meeting to come. I rode my bike up and down the street to pass the time and to get a jump on the guy’s arrival. Meeting time came and no big-shot movie guy. 15, 30 minutes … an hour—he never showed up. No call to apologize, nothing.
I was crushed—I wasn’t going to be famous. My friends laughed it off and wanted to ride bikes. We called the guy names and thought he was a big jerk for getting a kid’s hopes up and then letting him down. I felt hurt about it for a couple of days—I wanted to be famous—I thought I was about to become the next Ralph Macchio.
I’d visualized being rich and famous and not having to work in a doughnut shop for two dollars an hour. Not that I had to work in the doughnut shop, but you know how a kid thinks. Everything’s in the here and now. I wanted to be somebody and my chance to make it big materialized in the form of a nice-suit-wearing, big-talking dude who didn’t show up or call to apologize. He whipped up a boy’s dreams and then let them grow cold and stale like a day-old doughnut.
I’m not sure why being famous was such a draw for me then. Now, I’d rather be anonymously successful, so I can enjoy the freedom that comes with making good money without the headaches of the paparazzi and adoring fans and the pressure and fears that come with celebrity.
Mo’ famous, mo’ problems
Fame has the power to buy you the whole world, but often comes with fetters that rob you of freedom. And no amount of money or power or celebrity can buy happiness. The world is bursting with people who want to be famous. All they need do is heed the words of Elvis: “Who cares for fame and fortune? They’re only passin’ things.”
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