Week 43: Why You Should Never Be Famous

You may not believe this, but I’m not famous. I know what you’re thinking: A 27-year-old who spends a rather inordinate amount of his time in pajamas, cranking out blog entries that are primarily read by his friends and family, how is this guy not famous? I know. It’s crazy.

Like all Americans, I dream of being famous with the blissful security that comes from knowing it will never actually happen. I get to picture the Daily Show interviews, and cheering up kids in hospitals, and out-the-door lines of hot women dying to service my every sexual desire.[1] And I get to do all that while safely knowing I will never have to deal with stalkers, with every mistake being covered by the national press, and with the out-the-door lines of paternity suits and positive STD tests that will inevitably follow.

But June 16th, 2013, was the Bunker Hill Day Parade. And for that one day, I was famous. If you’re from Boston, you probably know the Battle of Bunker Hill as the turning point in the American Revolution. If you’re from anywhere else you probably know it as, “Wait, which one was that again?” Historically speaking, there are several problems with celebrating the Battle of Bunker Hill, chief among them that it was a fight the American forces lost. Yet here in Boston, we’ve invented new ways to commemorate it on a seemingly annual basis. At this point, we are up to a monument, a bridge, a parade and a day off from school.[2]

So, every year, we celebrate the most successful loss in US military history with marching bands and firetrucks and Ms. Massachusetts winners parading through the streets of Boston. And this year, I marched alongside them. Three other people and I were asked to dress up as stars of the fictional universe: Spiderman, Cinderella, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. For my part, I played the role of Mickey, the planet’s most beloved giant-eared icon.[3]

Like most people, I grew up adoring Mickey. I wore the hat with the fake ears and even convinced myself that Fantasia was a good movie. So when I first got the assignment, I was actually pretty excited.

Right up until I saw the costume.

While the Mickey Mouse character is a symbol of childhood joy and innocence, the Mickey Mouse costume is a symbol of agony and trauma.

My bad back struggled with the fake head, and my cheek developed an itch that I had no way of scratching within minutes of arriving at the parade. Meanwhile, the costume combined with the 90-degree day to create a level of heat usually only experienced in small nuclear explosions. But the biggest problem was a lack of vision. I have worn mascot heads before, and apparently there is an industry-wide directive that eye holes should line up perfectly with the actors’ chins and provide zero peripheral vision. This outfit was made to spec.

But as we stepped into the parade and started marching, all that faded away. I didn’t care about the heat or the discomfort, because all around me was unadulterated adoration from the spectators. Suddenly, we were the Beatles coming to America. The newly crowned Super Bowl champs returning home from victory.

People cheered and shouted that they loved us. They stormed the parade like an invading army to take pictures with us. We doled out high fives and hugged little kids. The people on the sidewalk let out warm “Awwww”s, and the kids hugged back with all their hearts. For that moment, we were celebrities of the highest order. And I, for one, was egotistical enough to soak up the adoration as though it were aimed at me, and not the most-marketed character of the last century.

As the day wore on, the parade ran long, and we fell behind schedule. The directive came for us to pick up the pace, and suddenly, we didn’t have time to stop for pictures and hugs.

Luckily, people acted rationally and completely understood that we couldn’t pose for pictures with every single person on the side of the road because, you know, it’s a fucking parade and that’s how parades work. People went apeshit.

“MICKEY! JUST STOP FOR ONE PICTURE!!” Shouted a parent.

“Mickey! What the hell? You don’t have time for a little kid?”

“Sorry guys,” explained someone in the parade. “We gotta keep moving.”

“No! You really don’t.” Said an intoxicated resident who apparently had a better understanding of the parade schedule than us.

People hurled insults and character attacks. Parents literally ran down the street for several blocks to catch up with us, then forced children into our arms to take pictures, not even pausing to make sure we had firm grasps on their kids in our awkwardly oversized gloves.

Clearly not caught up enough, the parade accelerated even more. We had to start running. I nearly trampled several small children who I didn’t see rush into the parade. The vitriol grew louder.

With the adoration of the crowd no longer distracting me, the feelings of heat and weight came rushing back. By the time we reached the end of the parade, I felt like I had been through the Battle of Bunker Hill myself.[4] We ducked into a side parking lot, pulled off our costumes and downed about a gallon of water.

As we waited for our ride, our bodies covered in sweat and our psyches frazzled, I marveled at the dark side of people. Who gets upset when they’re not allowed to walk into a parade and take pictures with the marchers? I mean, who does that? And if you’re so worried about making things special for your kids, then why are you displaying such ugly versions of yourselves to them?

Looking back, I now realize that we went through the entire fame cycle in the span of a few hours. Starting as unknowns, then donning our costumes and becoming adored heroes before finally ending up the subjects of scorn and hatred. It’s always seemed to me that the cliched fifteen minutes of fame is actually the perfect amount. Enough to enjoy the attention and ego-boost, but not so much that you fall into the darkness.

Our ride showed up and we hopped in the car. As we drove away, I tried to remind myself to be grateful for the few hours when I was famous and adored. But all I could think of was how grateful I was that, at the end of the day, fame was a mask I got to take off.

 

_______

Odd Job: Marching in the Bunker Hill Day Parade

Pay: $100

1. Note to the girl I’m currently dating: You must have misread that last sentence.

2. The story as to why we’re so proud of the battle is that the British forces were so badly depleted that they realized a few more wins like that and they would lose the war. Which sounds to me kind of like when your five-year-old loses the soccer game and you lie and tell him that winning isn’t everything. But whatever. 

3. Narrowly edging Goofy, Dumbo and Will Smith.

4. Which side was I on in this analogy? I guess it doesn’t matter, because we fucking lost. Seriously, this doesn’t bother anyone in Boston. When I found out that we spent all this energy celebrating a military loss, I felt roughly the same way I felt when I finally watched Rocky and realized that he lost at the end too. And don’t even get me started on that one. 

In some but not all articles, names or identifying characteristics or individual lines of dialogue have been changed to protect identities or because remembering exactly how things happened is hard. Like, really hard. But in every case, an effort was made to maintain the integrity of these events that did indeed actually happen.