I am in Washington state USA Staying in a cottage on an organic farm between Bow and Edison. For the last 3 days I have been interviewing and all the time thinking about how being a celebrity really works.
The man I am interviewing was seriously famous in Australia in the 1960s and in USA and Canada and Australia in the 1970s then his fame faded as he realised that what he was doing was harmful. In his words, he did a U-turn and changed his thinking and his practice. With this his celebrity status declined. Now he is known, loved and respected for the person he is. This is all he ever wanted. His celebrity status in reality was how his wife – who has been an active participant in the interviews – fashioned him for his audience. She was also the reason he did his U-turn when what he was doing made her gravely ill. I find this fascinating. Now he fashions her. He says that he keeps a journal of all the food she eats. Now he feeds her foods to keep her healthy.
He says, when he was at the top of his fame he felt like his persona was perched on the top rung of a ladder but he was still at the bottom. What I have realised over the three days is how normal this person is … stripped of his celebrity status he has experienced the same ups and downs, stops and starts, pain and pleasure as anyone else. Through the interviews I am aware of moments of performance – he is very good at doing impersonations of voices – and I see moments of deep reflection.
Today he and his wife (who was his producer) watched an old film clip of their television show. They laughed and it was lovely to see them so entertained by their young selves. They were at the peak of their television career but I knew as we watched that difficult times had passed and difficult times followed. For a moment, I too was on two rungs of the same ladder – knowing the past and the future but watching something in the present.
The sound recordings are now safely downloaded and saved in three places and the interviews will be reviewed and processed and used to tell a story but we all come away from the interview process emotionally tired. Even though I am back at the farm thinking about dinner there has been a shift. I now carry someone else’s story.
Today we talked about salmon and I have just realised that I bought salmon for dinner.