The Immutable Laws of Starfuckery


Brushes with Greatness

In Brushes with Greatness, Naomi Fry writes about her relatively marginal encounters with celebrities.

Painting by Lucien Rudaux, ca. 1920–30.

Painting by Lucien Rudaux, ca. 1920–30.

In Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s oral history of punk, Please Kill Me, the ’70s LA groupie Sable Starr recounts the excitement she felt the first time she slept with David Bowie:

Upstairs at the Rainbow they have just like one table. Me and David were sitting there, with a couple of other people. And to have all your friends look up and see you—that was cool. That was really cool … Back in the hotel we were sitting around. I had to go to the bathroom, and David came in and he had a cigarette in his hand and a glass of wine. And he started kissing me—and I couldn’t believe it was happening to me, because there had been Roxy Music and J. Geils, but David Bowie was the first heavy. So we went to the bedroom and fucked for hours, and he was great … I became very famous and popular after that because it was established that I was cool. I had been accepted by a real rock star. 

I’ve always loved this description because its sexiness sits very comfortably alongside its bluntness toward power grubbing. It’s really the perfect teenage fantasy: you’re having what appears to be very enjoyable sex with an extremely attractive person while simultaneously rising in the eyes of your peers thanks to the immutable laws of starfuckery. An inextricable part of sleeping with famous people is the encounter’s visibility to others, and the higher the celebrity’s rank on the fame totem pole, the better. It’s only science. 

When I was in high school in Israel in the midnineties, Blur came to play a show in my hometown. There was a girl at another school who I knew only by sight, who went to interview the band for some kind of youth paper thing. (Everyone was extremely young, though if we’re honest, Blur probably slightly less so than the high school girl.) The story went that when she got to Damon Albarn’s hotel room, he told her she was beautiful and asked if he could kiss her, and they made out! The news spread like wildfire. We were all scandalized, not to mention incredibly jealous. We all wanted to make out with Damon! We all wanted to be known for making out with Damon! Teenage dream.

Living in Israel in the pre-Internet nineties had that special provincial texture where frantic efforts to keep up with the world combine with a hopelessness of ever keeping up with the world. This defined the local attitude vis-à-vis international celebrities. It meant that any vaguely famous person who came to Israel was resignedly upgraded to A-list, whether he truly was or not. It was a miracle they were even visiting us, whoever they were, was the thought. When alternative crooner Nick Cave came to do a show, there was a story circulating of a girl who hooked up with him and then took him to her family’s Seder (it was around Passover time). This was actually, if memory serves, written about in the paper. (Everybody was jealous.) There was another girl who had had a wild night with the drummer of an Irish group called Therapy? (The question mark, remarkably, was part of that band’s name.) She got a two-page spread in one of the local Tel Aviv papers where she showed off a used condom she saved from the encounter. I remember clearly that she told the reporter the drummer had said to her, during sex, that she was “crazy like a fish.” (He’d explained to her that it was “an Irish expression.”)

I have—unfortunately? Fortunately?—never had sex with a celebrity, A-list or otherwise, but I do recall thinking about the possibility a lot (and isn’t that the structure of teen fandom, essentially? Wanting to sleep with the person you’re watching on screen, whose song you’re listening to on the radio, even if or actually because you might still be a virgin and not know a whole lot about what sex entails?) Years after the Blur incident, I remember telling a woman I knew about it, about how much all us seventeen-year-olds wished we could have been in that hotel room instead of the other girl. “Damon wouldn’t have picked you, though,” she said. This was most likely true, but it still stung. “Maybe Graham Coxon would have?” she added, trying to soften the blow by naming Blur’s more “sensitive” guitar player. Was she saying this because Graham and I both wore glasses? In my fantasies, though, my eyesight had always been perfect.

Naomi Fry is a writer and the copy chief at T: The New York Times Style Magazine.