Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll
Rob Tannenbaum told me that famous people make shit friends back in 1992, just after he’d closed a cover story for Details on Bridget Fonda. In the article, it was clear that Rob and Bridget had gotten on like a fir on fire, and I knew she and Rob had had lengthy late-night conversations long after he’d put the story to bed. I thought it was cool. Rob told me it wasn’t. He liked Bridget and thought that Bridget liked him, but after writing dozens of intimate celebrity profiles, he knew better than to think Bridget was a friend. He’d been schooled.
I didn’t get it. It took me a good long time to figure out that fame and friendship are, in general, mutually exclusive.
It’s probably because I grew up with a poor role model. My father’s best friend was the writer, Robert B. Parker, and their relationship was the exception to the rule. (Mr. Parker didn’t need bodyguards — he wasn’t that kind of famous — but he was a bonafide celebrity in Boston and in Mystery Bookshops around the world.)
My father and Bob went to dinner most every Friday night for 35 years. As far as I know, Bob never bailed without warning; he never cancelled because he was a touch devastated or because Puffy was having a party. Bob didn’t glaze over when the conversation wasn’t about him, and if something was up, my father heard about it from Bob, not Bob’s people.
People. Famous people have people. It’s part of the deal.
There was a British guy I dated a long time ago — he was a well-known guitarist in a well-known band. When we ran into each other late last year, I asked him a pressing question. The last time I’d seen him was in England, when I was there on business, and I couldn’t figure out how I’d hooked up with him. I wouldn’t have had his number. I knew how to find him when he was on the road — what hotels he was at and what his pseudonym was — but he wasn’t at a hotel. He was home. I didn’t know how I would have gotten in touch. Did he? He didn’t. “Pre-email days, you may have phoned the office,” he suggested. “Or written to it. Sent a devious message through a manager’s assistant.” This seemed to be a rational answer. I was in London, I wanted to see Billy, and, as such, I must have contacted his people.
I’m a champion name dropper. I’ve been talking about writing a book, and – quel surprise! – it’s my famous friends that people want to read about. So that’s what I’ll write, although my stories have much more to do with me than they do with anyone else. I spent a score of drunken nights over a score of drunken years with Billy. We were together in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles before I showed up in London, yet it seemed entirely acceptable to track him down through an assistant. That’s just how it was done. That doesn’t say a lot about him, but it says something about fame, and plenty about me.