From the pages of Buffalo Speedway ¥ Numero Seis (P.O. Box 112, Chicago 60657; $2 per issue)

Impress Your Friends! Play “Brush With Fame”!

By Amy Carlton

It all starts like this: Someone says, “Guess who I saw buying condoms and half-price Easter candy at the Jewel yesterday?!” Dramatic pause. “Oprah.” And then the madness begins. Someone else chimes in: “Yeah! I once saw Oprah picking a wedgie in front of the Frango display at Field’s!” or “My mom once sat next to Jerry Springer on a flight to Borneo.” I won’t go into the deep psychological disturbances that cause us to believe that knowing a famous person, or even knowing someone who knows a famous person, will somehow bring reflected glory into our own nontelevised lives. I also won’t go into Milan Kundera’s theory about how the only reason we listen to each other’s conversations is so we can interrupt and say, “That’s just like me, I…” and how what we call intimacy is actually a greater number of interruption points. I mean, who cares about psychology when you can show people your Emo Philips autograph?

And unlike the Kevin Bacon game, which requires an encyclopedic knowledge of really bad films that only an antisocial, cable TV-obsessed nerdball would possess, you don’t actually have to know anything to play Brush With Fame. The only rule is that the connection between you and the famous person can’t be so tenuous and distant as to be pointless. None of this “my mother’s ex-girlfriend’s heroin dealer’s second cousin was in the army with the guy who was in the army with Elvis.” You can do better than that. Plus, it’s better to have knowledge of celebrities in their natural element–if you saw Tom Cruise at an opening of a Tom Cruise movie, that’s not so impressive. If you saw Tom Cruise trying on parachute pants at Merry Go Round in 1983, that’s impressive.

On the plus side, you can use other people’s brushes with fame as easily as you use your own. Now that you’ve read this article, in fact, you can use my brushes with fame to enliven conversations at your next dinner party. You can even preface them by saying, “My friend Amy…” I don’t mind. I can always use more friends.

My biggest personal brush with fame occurred four years ago when I worked at a Barnes & Noble in the Detroit area. I waited on Aretha Franklin. She bought foreign newspapers, magazines, and a book on the history of Detroit that I helped her find even though she didn’t know the title. She had to pay in cash because she was on our bad check list. Isiah Thomas used to come into the store a lot, too. As far as I know, his credit was decent. Nuno Bettencourt of the god-awful hair band Extreme once shopped at the Boston Barnes & Noble when I worked there, as did Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. My friend Jason’s babysitter was Madonna. My cousin Rocky stole Bob Seger’s car. A friend of my mom’s used to babysit Stevie Wonder. My friend Maria (who worked with Shawn Kemp’s girlfriend at a Dairy Queen in Indiana) and I met Emo Philips and Judy Tenuta at a theater in London. We were all sitting in the cheap seats watching Pirandello’s Henry IV.

In 1978, my mother saw O.J. Simpson in an airport in Vegas. He was neither leaping over luggage nor drenched in the blood of his ex-wife and her companion. My mom claims she was close enough to touch him, but chose not to. My friend Shirley saw Keanu Reeves at the Viper Room in LA and chased him into an alley. My friend Brett was hit on at the Limelight (NYC) by Fab Morvan, half of disgraced dreadlock duo Milli Vanilli. My friend Erick got to interview Geoffrey Fieger, who is not only Jack Kevorkian’s lawyer, he is also the brother of Doug Fieger, lead singer of the Knack. My friend Bryan is the cousin of Curtis Armstrong, the beloved Booger from the Revenge of the Nerds movies. Last fall I was in New York and I crossed 59th Street next to chirpy midget Bernadette Peters.

There are plenty more where those came from.

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Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): zine cover.