Being a superstar is not easy.
Every time you go out in public loudmouths bother you and stalkers stalk you.
Ask Nancy Kerrigan, who is 5-foot-4, 115 pounds and got whacked with a crowbar.
Ask Monica Seles, who is 5-foot-9, 130 pounds and got stabbed.
Then ask Scottie Pippen, who is 6-foot-7, 210 pounds and once got jostled in a crowded bar by a person who instantly said: "Excuse me, sir, I am very, very sorry and it will never, ever happen again."
Yet Scottie Pippen lives in terror.
So much terror that Pippen, star forward for the Chicago Bulls, owns a blue-steel Colt Government Pock- etlite .380 automatic that he carries with him in his car.
Pippen didn't make the NBA All-Defensive team for nothing.
Pippen says he fears stalkers even though he has never actually been attacked by one. And Pippen points out that the Bulls play their games in a tough part of Chicago, which is true, though the players leave Chicago Stadium by way of a fenced-in and guarded gate.
But a few weeks ago, after a game, Pippen went to one of the safest neighborhoods in Chicago, the Gold Coast, to an upscale bar.
In order not to attract the attention of stalkers, Pippen drove his $50,000 Range Rover with license plates reading DA PIP. He parked illegally in front of the joint and went inside leaving his .380 automatic, police say, in plain view on the front seat.
Wait. Stop. What is wrong with this picture?
For starters, if I wanted to avoid stalkers, I think I would drive a Chevy Nova with a license plate that contained some random combination of letters and numbers.
(I have never understood why people want vanity plates in the first place. What if you cut somebody off in traffic and he goes nuts and wants to track you down? Do you really want a license plate he can remember? Or what if you just want to rob a 7-Eleven? Why make it easy for the witnesses? A vanity plate expert from California found someone with plates that read: DGENER8. If it's not already taken in your state, you'd better hurry.)
Then there is the matter of parking. If you park illegally right in front of a bar, your average stalker will say: "Hey, I'll bet DA PIP is inside that bar!"
Sure, parking in the lot across the street would have cost Pippen $8 or so. But such behavior might slow down the stalkers a little.
In any case, a police tow truck came along and stopped by Pippen's car. Pippen came outside the bar and, according to police, asked for "a break."
It is not unheard of to ask a Chicago cop for a break. Especially if such requests are accompanied by U.S. currency.
But few cops are likely to give you a break in the middle of a crowded sidewalk when you have a pistol showing through the window of your car.
It's a cop kind of thing.
So Pippen got arrested. His gun was registered, but it also had a magazine with seven bullets in it and it is a crime to keep a loaded gun in a car in Illinois.
(Yes, I know, on "The Untouchables" they did it all the time. But these days the authorities encourage people to exit their cars before firing.)
Pippen was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. His trial date is Feb. 23. He could get a maximum of one year in jail, which is so unlikely he is not worried, and up to a $1,000 fine, which Pippen, who makes $3.4 million per year, is also not terribly worried about.
What does trouble him, however, is the criticism he has been getting.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley admonished Pippen, saying that he had set a bad example for children by going around with a gun.
Pippen was unhappy at this and responded that it was easy for the mayor to talk since he goes around with bodyguards.
Which is true, but I wondered how much attention Mayor Daley likes to attract when he drives around on his own.
So I called the Illinois Secretary of State's office and asked what kind of car Daley drove and what plates he had. And spokesman Richard Torre told me that Daley owns a 1973 Chevy with plates that read BU 9066, a non-vanity plate that doesn't spell anything.
Which means that the mayor of Chicago is a very modest person.
4 Or else he's planning on sticking up a 7-Eleven.