In Brushes with Greatness, Naomi Fry writes about relatively marginal encounters with celebrities.
Recently, an article I had read in an Israeli women’s magazine when I was maybe eleven popped into my mind. The piece was about fans: people who spent a lot of their time following their celebrity idols around, splitting the difference between adoration and what would now be probably called stalking. I recalled a detail about two sisters who were obsessed with, if memory serves, Kris Kristofferson. Somehow, they had ended up at one of his houses, where a housekeeper let them in and was kind—or unprofessional—enough to give them some mementos of their idol’s: a pair of old cutoff shorts he wore out of the shower and some cigarette butts that he’d smoked. Cigarette butts that he’d smoked! This struck me both then and now as kind of extreme. Imagine being so earnestly fixated on a stranger that touching something that carried only the faintest imprint of his or her body—even something fairly gross like an old cigarette—would be a thing you’d seek out!
Decades have passed, and today very few celebrities still inspire that kind of all-out adulation, engendered by real distance between the famous and nonfamous. The kind of stars I’m thinking about—Beyoncé, maybe Rihanna—have a spectacular untouchability that gives rise to the traditional model of fandom: the type that wants to touch, that desires the laying on of the hands, or at the very least a whiff of the raiment. (Think, for instance, of Drake—a big star in his own right but also, too, a known superfan of Rihanna’s—who, in a song originally meant for her to sing, wrote the lines, “Let my perfume soak into your sweater.”) Read More