Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I've never really understood the cult of celebrity; the need to collect autographs, have your picture taken with somebody you don't actually know or acquire a piece of ephemera once possessed, touched or casually noticed by somebody famous.

When I was acting, I'd often be accosted after a show to sign somebody's program or pose for a picture with my arm around their mom or girlfriend. Some fans went further, asking for small momentoes like the pen I was using to sign my name. After a while I took to buying them in bulk to make sure I had one left over for writing in my journal on the bus ride home.

The sharing went the other way too. I did a long run playing a German SS officer in one show and by the final curtain had amassed a small collection of Nazi paraphernalia delivered with appreciative notes by some seriously misguided theatre patrons.

And there were always the cards with phone numbers, polaroids or quite professionally produced "glamor" shots -- all from women (and the occassional guy) seeking an intimate moment with somebody who didn't bear the slightest resemblance to the stage character that had somehow pushed the right buttons for them.

I had a director friend at the time who shot interviews with famous Hollywood personalities (past and present) for a Canadian educational channel. He used to take a still camera to his shoots and would approach the interview subject afterward. Inevitably, they prepared to have their picture taken with him. Instead, he'd hand over the camera and ask them to take a picture of him.

They all loved that and he ended up with a collection of portraits he'd hand around at parties. "This is the picture Jimmy Stewart took of me. This one's by Hitchcock. That's by Mae West."

On one level, it was way better than the wooden shots you see at an Italian restaurant or car dealership that could just as easily be the fan with his arm around a cardboard cutout -- on another level -- I still didn't get it.


Last week, a member of my crew turned up one morning with a web search result outing a romantic entanglement involving yours truly and somebody quite famous. Neither one of us was at all famous at the time of our entanglement but that didn't matter to the crew member -- or, as the morning progressed, a growing number of the crew.

By lunch I was inundated by requests for details, anecdotes, some little gem they could take home with them -- to do what with I can't imagine. Not being the kind to kiss and tell, I just allowed that she's a very nice lady, we're still friends and that was that.

But that wasn't good enough and by day's end my tight-lipped approach to the subject was being taken as a personal insult. In this era of endless celebrity detail, how could I possibly keep any of this from them.

I have a handful of friends who've remarked that one of the reasons they like hanging with me is that I don't treat them any differently than they were treated before their fame arrived. I think that's because I've been semi-famous at times myself and the plain fact is you're not any different from who you were the day before except that a few more people seem to know who you are.

And I got a great lesson in celebrity when I was working in Australia. I went from a society here that was obsessed with celebrity to one there that was absolutely identical -- except the names of the celebrities were different -- and I'd never heard of any of them.

Their stars had local TV shows, played Rugby and Cricket, or had made a fortune harvesting Cane Toads. I didn't know the faces, didn't recognize the names, didn't get the puns or plays on words in the headlines, didn't understand the jokes.

It was like changing high schools in mid-term and having to re-learn which ones were the cool kids, the jocks and the drama queens.

A few months after my arrival, the Golden Globes were on television and I tuned them in to escape yet another night of "Home and Away" or Rugby. But because of the nature of the film distribution system and the presenters on Awards shows, I wasn't aware of half the movies and had no clue to the identities of the various tuxedoed newbies and starlets the crowd seemed enamored by.

It was like attending a Rotary roast in a town you'd never visited before.

By the time I got back to the Northern hemisphere, most of the celebrities I was familiar with had run their course, replaced by a new set with names and faces I also didn't know. It made me wonder even more why any of us even bother trying to keep up.

As our shoot day drew to a close and most of the crew had stopped talking to me, I was setting up a shot with the DOP, the two of us taking turns peeking through a camera perched on top of a truck.

"So, were you really with ----?" he asked. I nodded. "What was it like?"

It was a complicated shot and I needed to keep him as an ally.

"What did you and your wife do last night?" I asked.

He shrugged. "She told me how she liked things loaded in the dishwasher and then we went shopping for shoes."

"It was like that." I said.

And it was.


Yank Azman said...

Hey Jim: The show you did as an SS officer wasn't Johnny Canuck, was it? I think I have photos of you in uniform. For sale to the highest bidder.

Anonymous said...

Can you at least tell us if it's true that Will Dixon is a gentle and considerate lover.

wcdixon said...

"spit take"

OMG we've been outed!

Just fess up who it really was, dude. I got several visits today from people who'd googled 'Jim Henshaw's Relationships' and the like. Otherwise I might have to go TMZ on your ass and do a 'tell all' post...and we both don't want that.

Jason Chesworth said...

Ha!! Great post!

Last year, I was cast in the lead of a show that the producers were convinced would make myself and my co-"star" the next big things. It was my first experience close-up with several 'real' celebrities (all were now working on the "other" side of the camera now).

Turned out to be a commercial that didn't sell anything and I got recast in the first week of shooting.

So much for being the next "big thing"!

CAROLINE said...

LMAO! Very good, Jutra. Though I thought you were both too gentlemanly to kiss and tell ;-)