It happened maybe 15 years ago. Howard Phillips and I were standing in line at a theater, hoping to get tickets to a play. I don’t recall where we were. Probably in Washington, D.C., which is close to where Howard’s Conservative Caucus operates.
I happened to glance behind me. There was Meryl Streep.
I think she is the best movie actress of all time. This does not make me unique. That is a common opinion. There are a couple of leading men who could give her a run for the money. Daniel Day-Lewis. Robert Duvall. That’s about it.
What impressed me was that she looked young. The woman never seems to age. I have this vision of a self-portrait of her on her wall, wrinkled like a prune.
I am semi-paranoid about my privacy. So, I don’t say anything when I find myself in close proximity to celebrities. They spend their lives being hounded. I once stood next to Elton John. We were waiting for a cab in front of a swank motel. I was at a conference. Otherwise, a Super 8 is good enough for me. What could I have said to him? I have never seen him perform. The sight of him persuades me to click the channel-flipper. So, I said nothing.
I was not tempted to say anything to Ms. Streep. So, I turned around and began chatting with Howard.
I might have said, "You never seem to age. I thought it was camera work. It isn’t. It’s depressing to the rest of us." That’s true, but I didn’t say it.
These people get wild praise and fawning fans. What does one more fan mean? But, I could have said what Jack Lemmon said made his day. A fan would approach him and say: "I never once felt cheated after spending my five bucks to see you in a movie." I had the ultimate follow-up. "I even liked Time After Time." Nobody remembers Time After Time. It was Lemmon’s one attempt at a hit record. It missed. I think it came out in 1962. There is not a trace of it on the Web. It consisted of three words: time after time, strung together in a melody I can still hum: mindless. It was silly enough as a concept to be amusing.
Then I would have walked away: no chat.
Movie stars get fans telling them they loved this or that favorite movie. What is the actor to say? "Thanks." Then what? The fan wants to talk. The celebrity doesn’t.
Celebrities really can’t judge if their work is any good, based of what fawning fans say. That’s a curse. He makes money, but popularity can disappear fast.