Waiting for Gaga: In the Haunting Presence of Celebrity
Lady Gaga disrupts another Monday at the office
News sweeps the office fast. Lady Gaga is in the building across the street. The Mother Monster, Meat Lady, has an obscure appointment next door. It is almost time for lunch. We gather near the elevators.
“Is this lunch?” we ask. “Or is this a stake out?” We search each other’s eyes.
What stance to take when faced with celebrity is something everybody must one day grapple with. When you’re not famous, fame necessarily eludes your understanding. It is an inescapably alien state of being to those who have not experienced it. To say, “I am not someone who is star struck,” will always be false. To say, “famous people are just like you and I,” is also not true. You may not be impressed with fame, but fame will impress itself onto you.
Waiting for the elevator (we almost hear creaking, the machine moves so slow), we look through the adjacent glass window onto our balcony. Apparently the whole floor has heard the news about Gaga. Men and women in fashionable clothing stand leaning on the railing, looking down the nine stories, toward the street entrance of the building the pop star is in. There is something timeless about the image. People awed in anticipation of something bigger than themselves.
The elevator comes. We enter. “Soon, we’ll be on the street,” we say. “Be prepared for crowds.” But no one really knows what to expect.
A person is famous if they are recognized by many, many people. But fame itself does not exist within any individual. It exists between people. It is a cloud that hovers over us. There is a barrier between the famous person and the layperson. Further, when two laypeople are in the presence of fame, their relationship changes too. A man and a woman become a man and woman relating to something strange, and in certain ways are then rendered the same.
We are outside. There is a small crowd outside the building across the street. We are startled by how small it appears to be. “This is it?” we say. “For the Gaga? Surely there should be more people for the Gaga.” There is almost a need to stop those who walk by unknowing and tell them the news.
We tentatively cross the street and join the meager crowd. People look at one another but are confronted with the same face that we are all wearing. Which is the face of someone furtively searching the face of another to discover the face they should have.
“Why is she here?”
“Important meeting in the building.”
The urge to become famous makes sense when you’re a child. When you’re young, adults are alien. The child looks at an adult with the same fascination as a layperson looking at a star. A child chooses fame as their goal because they think it’ll fill the void between them and everything not them.
“There is nothing to see here,” an authority from the building says, waving his hands. “She’s gone out the service entrance.”
Of course we don’t fall for his trick. We wait. The sun beats down on our bare heads. Our stomachs crave food. We realize sinister meaning in anything that deviates from the crowd.
The large man pacing in a suit, on his cell phone, at the end of the block, is certainly Gaga’s covert security. The black SUV out front the building must be her carriage. The haggard, bearded man in the baseball cap, lurking in the shade of a food truck, is the manic fan assassin. “Don’t get too close,” these figures seem to tell us, “or there will be violence.”
We grow restless. “Lunch?”
“Five more minutes.”
“Lunch in five minutes.”
“Yes, set watches.”
We tease and gossip in the interim, but secretly all fear the moment five minutes is up. It’s not that we care. Or don’t care. We’d prefer the certainty of either condition. Instead, we’re lost in the between, static and impotent, helpless before the Fame Monster.
Part of growing up is moving past the myth of fame. One day you say, “There is nothing past this. There is nothing more.” You begin living in your own body, rather than in anticipation of a body you will one day grow into and possess. Getting too close to fame disrupts this peace.
Five, ten, fifteen minutes pass. She never comes. We have to force ourselves to move. As we walk away, we’re compelled to look back, see if she’s coming now, or now. But we already know our window of opportunity has closed.
We go to a restaurant for lunch. The food is sobering and the spell fades almost completely later in the day. We’re comforted by the notion that because she never came, this is something we can forget.
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