I love what I do. It’s fun!!! I’ve been doing it for a number of years now and it only gets better. Whether it’s acting for television, writing a collection of short stories, producing a documentary, consulting with a client or making a speech before hundreds of foundation board directors. It’s all a blast to me. Fun!! Most of the things I do today in the early stages of my career I did them for free. That’s how much I enjoy them.
So why was I taken aback last week when, during a Q and A session after a speech, I was asked, “What does it feel like to be a celebrity?” I hesitated. Had to think. I was kinda embarrassed. You see, I’ve never thought of myself as a celebrity. To be a celebrity, I always thought you have to have an entourage. I’ve never had an entourage.
But for my next trip I decided to try out the celebrity thing. I flew to Los Angeles rented a car and drove to the Palos Verdes Peninsula for a speech the next day.
I was given a suite in a resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with walking trails into the surrounding mountains. Gorgeous! Even though I didn’t have an entourage, I allowed myself to feel very celebrity like. As I walked along the walking trail, people spoke to me, and gave me big smiles. I checked in with the client who had purchased my services and they made me feel like the second coming of Brad Pitt. They were all over me, “Do you need…?” Someone came up and asked me for an autograph and I hadn’t even spoken yet. I thought, “Okay, maybe I am a celebrity.”
Later that day, enthused with my newfound celebrity, I blew the audience away with a forty-five minute keynote address for nearly 450 people. They were generous enough to give me a standing ovation. Afterward, there were questions and answers; people lining up for photos that I knew would go straight to somebody’s Facebook page. There were autograph and business card requests. Man, I was feeling like somebody! After an hour of celebrity-hood I retired to my suite, called my wife, and wondered why if I was a celebrity, she kept telling me about issues at the house I would need to solve when I got home. Things like, the motion detector floodlights not working and getting the cars serviced. I reminded her that celebrities have “people” to handle those kinds of things. She laughed. Reminded me that she did have “people.” Me. Where in the hell was my entourage when I needed one?
My celebrity-hood ended at that point.
Without an entourage, I awoke at 4:00 the next morning, packed up the rental car, and headed to the LA airport for a 6 am flight. Who schedules a 6 am flight for a celebrity? I sure as hell didn’t do it. In the airport, no one recognized me or gave a hoot that I had rocked the Association of Governing Boards’ annual conference at the Terranea resort the day before. I was just another passenger. Still, my first class seat reinforced my celebrity-hood until the lady in front of me who obviously didn’t know I was a celebrity, laid her seat back in my lap damn near pinning me into the seat behind me. “Damn, woman don’t you know who I am?” I wanted to say. “Man,” I thought. “If I had one of ‘my people’ here with me, I’d tell them to handle this small fry sitting in front of me.”
Landing in Houston, my celebrity star not only faded, it lost all luster.
Because of an ice and snowstorm, across the country, my connecting flight was cancelled. I was directed to a nearby hotel. After being constantly assured for an hour and a half that the hotel shuttle was on its way, while standing in twenty-degree weather, I took a taxi. “Damn, Don’t they know I am a celebrity?” I thought.
Believe me, nothing from that point on was befitting a celebrity. Fifty-four ninety-five was the room cost. Need I say more? It was musty and uncomfortable. The funky heater would have made me laugh if it wasn’t twenty degrees outside. I sank onto the floor when I sat on the couch. My electronic key would never work more than once. If I needed to get back into the room, I would have to go to the front desk where there was never anyone present, and ring the bell. “What’s wrong?” would be the response. “Nothing,” I would answer, “other than I need to get in my room.” If ever I needed an entourage, being stranded in Houston would have been a great time to have one.
Last year, I did nearly 125 days on the road. It’s part of the gig. None of those days turned out to be as hectic as the twenty-four hours in Houston. I reminded myself of the gangster Hyman Roth’s admonishment to Godfather Michael Corleone in the movie, The Godfather. Roth tells Michael, “This is the life we have chosen.”
Upon landing at home, finally, “my people” (my wife), were at the airport to greet me. As usual she had her smile on. She gave me a big hug and said, “Sorry you got delayed in Houston. Your agent called and they want you to shoot next week in Charleston.”
I smiled back and asked, “Can you go with me?”