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Meeting Your Idols
You know the names that appear onscreen at the end of your favorite TV shows?
Those are real people.
I’m being facetious, but this isn’t something I quite grasped growing up. Seeing “Beverly Hills, 90210” end week after week with the names “Aaron Spelling” and “E. Duke Vincent” didn’t make me think of everyday people like you and me. I thought of gods.
They didn’t seem real. They were names on a screen and they were somehow responsible for my favorite television show. And they felt so far away.
My mindset started to shift, but just barely, in the spring of 2008, when I attended The CW upfront as an intern for People. On the red carpet, when it came time for me to interview Jennie Garth (Kelly, Beverly Hills, 90210), I’m pretty sure I overwhelmed her with my enthusiasm. Seeing her reaction, something in me clicked: “Oh. She’s a real human being.”
But being in the ballroom after the red carpet brought me right back to fantasyland instead of reality. It was surreal seeing the casts of “One Tree Hill” and “Gossip Girl” right there, all glam and suave. Even when I casually chatted with them, trying to keep my cool, I was screaming on the inside. They were celebrities! And they were talking to me!
Another significant shift, however, occurred in the summer / fall of 2009. I somehow found contact information for Charles Rosin (executive producer, Beverly Hills, 90210) and he was actually willing to talk to me. A name I had seen onscreen over and over again, another one of those names I idolized without grasping there was a real person behind it, was proving to be just that: A real, reachable person.
Imagine my reaction the following year when I actually met him in person. Imagine my reaction in 2013 when I dined with him and his wife Karen, who wrote more than a few memorable episodes of the show. There were moments of “Is this really happening?” and moments of “Wait — they’re just like you and me.”
I’ve now known Charles for more than 10 years and I am humbled every time we interact. What kid has a favorite show growing up and imagines one day they’ll be friendly with the person who helped create that show week after week?! But I also now recognize his humanity. I see a real person with a real off-screen life and real emotions and real interests that go beyond my all-time favorite TV show.
I met one of my idols and discovered he is neither a “figment of the mind” nor someone deserving of “blind admiration, adoration, or devotion.” That’s not a knock against him. It’s just me finally being realistic.
The advent of social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram, has brought celebrities and “real people” closer than ever. The distance that once existed between “them” and “us” has largely, but not entirely, been erased. Whereas decades ago fans put pen to paper, mailed a letter, and waited months in hopes of getting an “autographed” postcard in return, today some fans regularly chat with their favorite stars through tweets and Instagram comments.
Has that humanized celebrities? Not entirely. Photos of luxurious homes, vacations, clothes… they’re all reminders that stars are not exactly just like us. And many fans still put them on a pedestal, begging for retweets and showering them with adulation.
But for me, meeting my idols has proven they’re anything but. And I think that’s a good thing.
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