Friday, March 27, 2009

Fame - Is It Any Wonder

Two weeks ago, my first biweekly column for the local newspaper ran in print and on the Web. It had the immediate impact on the public that I expected. I think the term, used in most media circles, is "meh." 

Several of you read it out of a sense of loyalty, curiosity or, most likely, the same bizarre impulse that makes one continually use their tongue to probe a painful canker sore. I appreciate your obvious lunacy and how well technology has taught people to click with Pavlovian reliability on any link sent to them via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter (because I did all three -- I'm that desperate for attention). Now, can I interest you in some herbal Viagra?

Meanwhile, the reaction of the rest of the world whom I didn't cajole or bribe, well, mmm … let me give you two examples of how fame (or even infamy) did not reach these parts. 

First, there's the Mother of All Uncoolness. In the roughly 10 years I worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper, I'm not sure she ever once commented on anything I wrote with the exception of an interview I had with actor Kirk Douglas (whom, you should know, was 4-foot-7 and frail in real life but still gave off an air that he'd kick your ass if your questioning got out of line). To date, she still won't let me have back the autographed photo his publicist sent of the two of us. 

So, in an experiment, nobody told the Mother of All Uncoolness about my column appearing. Two days passed. I called her. 

"Hi, Mom -- so, did you read the newspaper Friday?" 

"Yes, I read it every day." 

"Even the editorial pages?" 

"Oh, yes. I always scan the pictures to see if I know anybody." 

"So you're saying you didn't recognize your own son!" 

"What!?" (I realized that The Mother of All Uncoolness, being quite hard of hearing, might have thought I said "obituary pages.") 

"My photo was on the EDITORIAL page. Right below the cartoon. I have a column now." 

"You were on there? Well, you should come over and visit more often."

She called back later to say she fished the newspaper out of the recycling bin and found my column. That was it. Two weeks later and she still hasn't told me if she liked it or not. And, yes, I have stopped by and seen her since. Twice.

The real test, though, was going to be my neighbor -- a retired lawyer whose wife told me that he not only reads the paper cover to cover, word for word, but even reads the week's worth of back issues he has waiting for him whenever they return from vacation. The three times in the past year I either had something I've written or written about me appear in print, he has always made mention of it the next time we've seen each other around the neighborhood.

A few days after the column ran, I was walking the dog home after escorting the Things to school when my neighbor drives up the street and pulls his immaculately clean and shiny black sedan over next to me. Yeeees! 

"Hey!" he yells across the front seat through the rolled-down passenger window. "What year did you graduate?" 

An odd way to start a conversation about how brilliant my piece was. Well, the column was about mandated standardized testing in schools, so maybe he's going to give me his thoughtful analysis of academic expectations of children during his era, mine and today. 

"You were salutatorian of your high school class, right?" 

"Uh, yeah," I said. "How did you know that?"

"There's a plaque up in the front hall of the school listing all the valedictorians and salutatorians. I was reading it before the basketball game the other night and saw your name," he said. "You know, you're a lot smarter than you look."

Well, apparently not.


  1. That's too funny! Oh if only we could get the applause the ego needs when writing, I would have settled for just a "I see you have a column." My first newspaper column was about a family getting burned out of their house and I set up two churches in town for people to drop off clothing etc. - was trying to get them help right? Well Helen Keller was setting type that day and cut off the last paragraph of my column, the one with the info on the drop-off locations. I got LOTS of calls - not the kind you want. (This was the first - but not last - time Helen did me dirty.

  2. A Plaque?? You should really go see your dentist!

    Happy Friday AH&U!

  3. You know what you need? One of those bus billboards. Sort of like Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and The City." Maybe you should check in with the newspaper's general manager to see if there's money in the budget for that.

    Of course, you'll have to wear a tiny tshirt and ballerina tutu, but the written words is worth it.

    (my husband never read a word of what I wrote when I was a reporter/editor, and I even brought home free newspapers every week!)

  4. Ouch, Kevin! Man, that smarts.

    If it makes you feel any better, my parents have only read my writing once or twice, even after I've done a big feature.

    If they read more, they have never told me...

    Maybe they're worried it'll embarrass me? Yeah... that must be it. ;)

    Keep up the writing, though. You know you have talent. So keep it up!

    - Julia

  5. I guess since your mom really doesn't read your stuff afterall , then you CAN do that review of the latest sex toys and crack pipes.

  6. Sorry if I laughed...there is NOTHING more serious than not getting your DUE attention and Fame from your relatives and close friends...

    But your PLAQUE! hahahaha!

    Poor, Poor, UNCOOL :)

    That's why I stick with stuff like dancing or performing on stage...that way, people are stuck in an uncomfortable chair and they HAVE to notice's PERFECT!!! :)

    I say that with the most naive innocence possible. LOL...sorry, I'm laughing at how that paragraph above sounds...I would erase it, but I think you may appreciate the humor of it!

    Anyway...start making your own t-shirts advertising your column...they may notice then?

  7. You mean I HAVE TO READ THE NEWSPAPER to read your column????
    I prefer the blog! Oh yes, Stamford Advocate is on line, I guess I could do that also.
    Sorry on line stuff is just so much easier for me, just hit Ctrl + until the print is big enough.

  8. Your mother and mine must be related. I get the same respect. Come to think about it, my wife does the same thing...

  9. First of all, I'm highly suspect of any crackpot - I mean citizen - who reads the paper front to back and in between.

    Second, when I played canasta with your mom last week, she was very complimentary of your piece. In fact, she says you get your journalism gene from her side of the family. (She also made some disparaging remarks about the "other" side of the family, but I won't type those out here.)



  10. They are obviously oblivious of your genius. Either that or you need a billboard like FADKOG suggested. That would be so awesome.

  11. How's it go? A biweekly columnist is not without honor, but in his own country and among his own kin. Yeah, I think that's it.

  12. I wonder if Shakespeare's mother ever saw any of his plays.

  13. LMAO....Lawyers tend to be like that - random and inane, trust me on this, I speak from experience. I liked your column, for the record.

  14. That should be your new tagline: "A lot smarter than he looks."


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