Thursday, October 29, 2009

shock to the system

I've really fallen behind on everything over the last few weeks. There is no explanation. It just sort of happened. My Halloween project is pretty much kaput. I got wrapped up in other things and didn't make time to write.

Plus... sure, I'm going to try for another 50, 000 word pile of crap in November and I still have another nine books to read before the end of this whole hundred books thing. I've been busy.

I wrote a piece on Smith and Pyle that ran this week after I met them at an autograph signing last week. As funny as it sounds, it was my first experience witnessing one of those. Usually, when it comes to that part of entertainment, the actual worship, I skip it. As a viewer and a listener, I like the show. As a writer who sometimes writes about music and entertainment, I prefer the green room, the dressing room, the empty hallway where everybody is just being regular folks.

I like glamor. It's pretty, but it's less fun than what's under it.

The whole thing was eye-opening. I spoke to a lady who brought her daughter down from Pittsburgh to meet Shawnee Smith, one of the stars of the "Saw" movies. The girl, 16, had her stomach tattooed with the lyrics to a song Smith and Pyle recorded on their debut album. I met another woman. She and her boyfriend are big fans, but really came for the signature to document the experience as something special they did together, a kind of adventure.

She was a 39 year-old grandmother and looked ten or fifteen years older than Smith, who is 37. She looked older than me.

It's pretty easy to imagine that whatever the 39 year-old had been through to age her so much was probably more harrowing in its reality than whatever the fantasy on the screen.

There was a father who brought his three teenage sons to see the movie and to get autographs. They were stopped on the way in by the ticket clerk, but went through after he said he was coming in, too. They got a group picture with Smith, making this a family event, and as an extra piece of weird, one of the boys asked Smith to autograph a copy of "SAW" the video game.

She winced. Her smile was forced. Parts of what she was doing there definitely got under her skin. It was a job. It was clearly a job to her only and one she might have been acting part of her way through just to complete.

Oddly enough, I ended up with an autograph. I didn't ask. I don't collect these things and have never approached anyone for one. I'm more trusting of my own memory, which if it fails, won't be able to recall who signed the paper or photograph anyway. They gave it to me. I was there. I was writing about them. It was a gesture of goodwill and a thanks for coming out.

I understand some of what getting an autograph is about, what memorabilia is about. Some of the time, it's about marking a moment in your own history, noting a specific day or hour. Maybe it's to remember when got your first kiss or that first date or maybe it where you were right after or just before you told the old bag to go fuck herself. It can also be for art. Art moves us and maybe you want to remember what that felt like. A trinket can help, whether it's the program from a rock concert, the tickets stub from a gallery or an autograph from an actress in a movie.

It was, however, a little disturbing to think any of these things could be attached to a movie like this.

I guess I can hope that most of the people were there because Shawnee Smith is sort of famous. It was just about seeing a star, even if she's a small star. Smith is a pretty fair actress. I liked her in "The Stand." Seeing famous people, getting close to them for a minute, looking at them, can be hopeful. It shows you they're human, they're people and if they can become beloved by someone and vaguely wealthy, maybe it's not impossible for you.

In the end, I left feeling sad: sad for the teenager with the tattoo, sad for the dad who bonded with his kids over simulated acts of depravity, sad for so many of the people who came through wanting to see what fame looked like close up. I was sad for me because while I'm not the kind of guy who seeks out trinkets, I'm not so different than them.

If anything, I'm a little worse.

So, I took the autograph home then went looking for my family. I hugged them, then I sat behind my computer, wishing, hoping, I'd write something somebody would care about as much as a movie where a woman has a trap strapped to their face set to go off if she didn't kill somebody.

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