In another lifetime, I was another wife. I married my first husband when I was 23. We were destined for an 8 year-long unhappy marriage without kids. Eventually we divorced so that I could marry my now husband and have my children. The ex was a sad angry clown with a dream of being a stand up comic. He was a very funny somebody. One open mic night led to another and another and then more gigs, eventually he was headlining, writing radio commercials, recording a Christmas parody song I co-wrote, and hosting various fund-raising events.
We were in our 20’s, living gig to gig, and I often found myself in the back of dark clubs with the local Baltimore/DC comedian posse of up and coming comics. Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, and Dave Chappelle were a few gentlemen who moved their careers from right to left coast and “made it” while the ex stayed behind, stuck. Glad for those guys. Sad for him. I met Ellen DeGeneres during this period.
The first time was in Baltimore around 1993 or 94 at a charity benefit for children. (I can’t remember the second time I met her. It may have been a show at the Slapstix Comedy Club in Baltimore.) The Ex was MC-ing and she was headlining, pre-Ellen sit-com time. I remember how lovely and sweet and very talented I thought she was. Her telephone conversation with God was the brilliant. She had a gruff long dark-haired girlfriend accompanying her who then went looking for cigarettes, and on returning, needed a light. I kindly provided her with some matches. They didn’t seem all that happy together. Or, I didn’t think this gal was worthy of Ellen and wondered why they were together. I was living that same disenchantment in my heart. Projection.
Having been on that “scene” and in and around the TV business, I can tell you celebrity hype is just that. You can’t always judge a book by the fame of its cover. Perfectly nice funny people may be completely miserable, living in their cars, shooting and snorting, and generally unhappy. You could ask them if they are unhappy and they may or may not tell you just like anyone else. The exception is always Ellen because she’s the exception that proves every rule. I certainly do hope that she is very happy in the life she’s living because I know she would wish me to be. Even if she’ll never remember me.
Never compare your insides to anothers outsides, my wise therapist said. Fame and money mean bupkis. It’s how a person treats you that matters. Just like in high school, there will always be the underclassmen and the wannabes who’ll remember the person a ladder wrung above them. And the upperclassmen will be too busy looking above them still to see us below. The trick is to recognize that the place you are in now is good. What’s up ahead of you might not hold the promise of peace, power, money, or retribution that you think it does. All you’ve got is the now to do the very best kindest most authentic work possible. And know that your stuff is just as good as their stuff. Be polite and respectful to everyone as you would hope they would be too you. Authenticity speaks volumes.
Ms. Ellen, you’re the real deal and people know it. Thanks for being an inspiration and an exception.
photo credit:Picture of Ellen by Thomas Hawk via photopin cc
photo credit:Picture of Patton Oswalt the2scoops via photopin cc
Like! And totally agree. self assurance and acceptance is a hard one to learn, sometimes it must be learnt over and over. Authenticity is king, and fake can be spotted a mile off.
At the blog conference recently, I talked to a gal who has got a bajillion followers. We spoke of being real and vulnerable in what you do. And that people can smell in-authenticity a mile away. Or a kilometer. You are always better off being truthful and being you. And I find it easier every day.
Thanks for your enthusiastic support Andrea.
I’ve been reading similar stories about Tony Gwynn this week. People don’t forget how you made them feel!
You’re going to find this extremely amusing… I grew up in a comedy club. My father owned one for a number of my formative years. I’m sure we could share some GREAT stories 🙂
You are a funny one. First off, I was a baseball widow in that former marriage so I had to figure out who Tony Gwynn was. I’m sorry for the loss. Love that your Dad owned a comedy club. Very different perspective when you’re a child. For a number of years, I grew up under a stage memorizing every line to the play my mother was in. And you know, I’ve probably seen only a handful of her daytime talk shows and don’t watch the Oscars anymore. I just know who I met.
Cool, you got to meet Ellen. I’ve always thought she was the real deal, too. Did your ex ever achieve the fame he so desired? I bet it is overrated. Oh yeah!
As far as I know, he stopped performing.
And moved to New York to be a bakery manager.
And was engaged and dumped by a crazy lady.
Because I only friended him because I thought he was engaged. She shot me a crazy note.
Sad. Happiness is the best revenge. And all it’s cracked up to be.
I always think it’s a real disappointment if you admire a celebrity for whatever reason, and then you find out that they’re very unpleasant in real, but then I guess generally people who are very unpleasant aren’t happy, so maybe we should feel more sympathy to them. I can see how it could be hard to stay grounded though if you are adored by millions, but staying grounded and keeping a bit of humility is so important. I’ve managed to stay humble despite being a big time celebrity in my own mind 🙂
Vanessa, I feel the residual famousness left behind every time you come to comment. Thank you. If you could just leave your personal testimonial as to my brilliance and talent on my Facebook page and tell all your in your head fans to love me too, I feel certain it will lift my imagined fame up a notch.
And yes, unhappy people are unhappy no matter how much money and fame they have.
Thanks so much for visiting.
This was great! Didn’t know this about you. I spent the majority of the ’90s in dark, smoky live music venues in Chicago, so I can relate a little! Have always loved Ellen. My fav sketch she does is when she talks about walking down the street, seeing someone you THINK you know and calling out to them … “Nancy! (I think that’s Nancy!) HEY NANCY! Yeah, it’s me! ELLEN! Oh … that’s not Nancy …” That sketch also talks about tripping in the street … and then faking like you meant to trip. So vulnerable, so true. We have all been there. People called her the female Jerry Seinfeld – both hilarious, but I felt she was always so much more authentic than he.
People usually define “success” as having a lot of money or fame. But this type of “success” only means you can throw money at your problems, cover them up for a little while. We all have basically similar problems. Having money is great, but if you are empty inside and don’t know what really makes you happy, it doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of difference how much money or fame you have. I read somewhere online last week that “getting more of what you already have enough of (food, shelter, clothing) doesn’t make you happier. Being fulfilled is about getting more in the areas you are lacking.” Rich people problems. 😉
Amanda, You definitely picked up what I was putting down and took it a step further. First world problems. I forgot to thaw the meat out for dinner. I don’t feel like cooking dinner. They looked at me funny. Love the “getting more of what you already have enough of doesn’t make you happier” concept. I’ve been meaning to write a piece on conscious consumerism.
Thanks so very much for stopping by. And glad to hear you went swimming. Sorry to hear it ended on an anxious note.