Monday, July 04, 2005



They're filming the new Prairie Home Companion movie downtown, near my daughter's music school. She and her friends went over to watch during lunch and saw a bunch of actors and actresses. I didn't recognize most of the names, except for Meryl Streep.

After my daughter finished the tale of her celebrity sighting, I told a story about the time I went out of my way to avoid seeing Elizabeth Taylor in the pampered, puffy flesh. She was visiting the University of Virginia with John Warner (husband number seven, I think) and her visit included a tour of Alderman Library, where I worked. Most of the other employees crowded around the entrance to the library, hoping to catch a glimpse of the movie star. To avoid seeing her heavily mascared face, I retreated to the library stacks, which I doubted would be part of the tour. The stacks weren't air conditioned in those days, and were so hot in the summer that people sometimes fainted in them. Taylor's mascara would surely have melted in the heat, so I knew I was safe.

I also stayed home the day Queen Elizabeth visited Charlottesville. It struck me as more than odd that the denizens of that fair city, who spoke about Thomas Jefferson (founder of the University of Virginia) as though he were still alive, were so eager to see England's dowdy queen. Jefferson himself, I suspect, wouldn't have gone across the street to see a member of the decayed "royal" family.

On the other hand, I'm not immune from celebrity mania, provided that the celebrities are of the right sort. Lisa Roy Vox tells about the time she went to the library to see a genuine star, historian Shelby Foote:
Several years later, as a sophomore at Rhodes College (also in Memphis), I was in my boyfriend's (now my husband) dorm room one evening when he received a call from a friend. There had been a Shelby Foote sighting in the Rhodes library. Ford told me the news, we looked at each other, and ran to the library. On the main floor of the library, in the midst of the stacks of the recent issues of academic journals, sat Shelby Foote, perusing an issue of a history journal. In addition to his celebrity conferred upon him by Burns' documentary, a literature or American studies course was using one of Shelby Foote's novels that semester; a picture of Foote was on the back cover so students had recognized Foote when he entered the library. The scene might have been out of spy movie, except we were all terribly amateurish. Ford and I lurked behind a bookcase, sneaking peeks at Foote, whispering furiously at each other to approach him. Other students, say between 4-6 in number, also hovered nearby in various positions—pretending to read, use a nearby computer, hiding behind a corner etc. I'm sure, in retrospect, that Foote was quite aware that we were all staring at him. Eventually he got up and walked out of the library. My husband, not one to miss an opportunity, grabbed my hand and followed Foote out, stopping him on the steps of the library by saying something to the effect of being an admirer of his.
That kind of hero worship I can understand.

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