I am not one to gush at celebrities. People are people, and I respect others’ right to privacy, unlike my daughter’s friend, who all but lost bladder control when David Beckham came into her workplace. That said, I am intrigued by actors, and by knowing who appeared with whom in what. It fascinates me how often I rent two movies, sometimes from different genres and filmed years apart, and see the same character actor in both. When he or she shows up on CSI: Anywhere, a day or two later, I buy a lottery ticket.
I don’t worry about the meaning of life, but I have spent many a sleepless night wondering, “What is her name?” or, “Where have I seen him before?” Not only does the Internet Movie Database prove the interconnectedness of everything; it also keeps me off Ambien.
I am hardly the first one to suggest this celluloid-channeled-coincidence. It’s been two decades since the concept of six degrees of separation—that on the average, any two people in the world are separated by six social connections—became the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Until last weekend, however, I’d never turned to IMDB to investigate any connection to my own life.
When I checked in for a writers’ retreat, I recognized a name on the list as someone I’d searched several months ago. Despite my clear memory of having looked up her name, I could neither picture her face nor remember what had prompted the search. I consulted the IMDB app on my Android. Yes, her face seemed familiar, and I have seen several of the things listed in her filmography, but nothing hinted at why I so distinctly remembered her name.
Given my celebrities-are-just-people stance, I was mortified when my response to her sitting next to me at our retreat kickoff was an overwhelming desire to gush, “You got to work with Nora Ephron!” or, “You have such a cool job!” I said neither of these things, nor did I say, “I know who you are,” because (1) see right to privacy, above, and (2) it is rude to suggest that you know who somebody is because you have seen their resume. Plus, you know that feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time and you feel like you’ve known that person forever? Right. Stalking.
She introduced herself to our group as both an actress and a published novelist, and I realized that it was not a movie that originally prompted me to search IMDB; it was the bio on her web site, where I had landed after visiting her blog, where I had landed after visiting two or three writing sites recommended by someone on Twitter, who had undoubtedly retweeted something by Kevin Bacon.
Later, she told me that her 10-year-old forbids her to wear anything with stripes when she picks her up from school and asked if she would please “not smile so big” when she runs into friends. In other words, she has a perfectly typical relationship with her daughter. When I finally confessed the I-looked-you-up-on-IMDB thing, she asked if I thought it could have been a precognition that we would meet, which led to an interesting metaphysical discussion. And yes, she felt like she knew me, too.
We shape our lives with each choice we make. The difference between waking up famous and waking up FAMOUS can be as simple as the difference between majoring in acting instead of business administration. Choose with your heart, and once in a while, give yourself permission to be starstruck.Kudos: In 2007, Kevin Bacon created SixDegrees.org, “social networking with a social conscience,” where people can support charitable organizations. Go Kevin!