A dazzling look at celebrityhood

May 05, 2006|By JOEL STEIN

We think we understand what it's like to be a celebrity now that we all know someone famous: "I dated that American Idol reject in high school!" "That guy walked up to me on the street and wouldn't stop talking about how much he loves his fiance, Katie Holmes!" But to see what it's really like, I decided to travel to the white-hot center of fame.

Unfortunately, the closest I could get was last Friday's Daytime Emmys.

I convinced rock star and General Hospital actor Rick Springfield to let me walk down the red carpet with him in front of Los Angeles' Kodak Theater, where he was opening the award show with a medley.

As we rode in a limo from the Renaissance Hotel to cover nearly an entire half block to the theater, Mr. Springfield recognized some of his fans. "You always recognize the hard-cores," he said. When I asked him how he remembered their faces from his concerts, he mumbled something about seeing them from the stage. I think his wife, Barbie, was buying this.

We were dropped off in front of the red carpet, where we pointlessly tried to push onto the Tokyo-subwayesque entrance along with hundreds of great-looking people I didn't recognize, just like when I tried to get into parties in high school. "This is kind of dorky," admitted Mr. Springfield.

Eventually, with the help of a 270-pound bouncer blocking for us, we got on the carpet. Taking a look at the line to our left that led to interviews with SOAPnet host Lisa Rinna, Mr. Springfield's publicist immediately broke right, yanked us along and barked an audible: "We're going right to Mark Steines! We're going right to Mark Steines!"

We sneaked in line to be interviewed by Entertainment Tonight's Mr. Steines, whose questions were indeed worth breaking back into the crowd for. He opened with: "Are you nervous at all?" When Mr. Springfield said that he was, the wily Mr. Steines hit him with, "Come on, what are you nervous about?" It was the kind of rope-a-dope Tim Russert employs.

Seeing the media from the other side, I was not only embarrassed for my profession but angered that I don't have a Pulitzer. In 20 minutes of interviews, I heard each of them improbably ask Mr. Springfield how he felt about Maury Povich's sexual harassment lawsuit and Rosie O'Donnell joining The View. (Mr. Springfield: "I don't know what to say about that." Mr. Steines: "Good for her." Mr. Springfield: "Good for her.")

Once we got off the red carpet, we headed up the stairs into the Kodak at warp speed. We stopped briefly so that Mr. Springfield could introduce his wife to Jason Thompson, who plays his son on General Hospital. It was like bringing your spouse to the office, only with people screaming your name the whole time.

When we finally got to Mr. Springfield's dressing room, I was inexplicably tired from the red carpet experience. "It's like shopping," explained Barbie Springfield. "It's exhausting."

Worse yet, the one thing Mr. Springfield requested - a glass of red wine to calm his Steines-induced nerves - wasn't there. When he tried to get one, he was told there was no alcohol in the building. When we finally headed out to the stage a few minutes before show time, the people who won seats in the Fan Zone seemed less interested in Mr. Springfield than getting a free The Bold and the Beautiful folding fan.

Because as much as Mr. Springfield realized this was all just playing at celebrity, the soap fans knew it, too. Even these people - the screamingest, cryingest, free-time-in-the-middle-of-the-day-wielding fans in the world - understood that saying they were here was better than the experience of being here. Especially if they could get on camera.

Running full speed behind Mr. Springfield after he finished his song inside the Kodak, I realized that as fun and exciting as all this was, Mr. Springfield was right. It's all a little dorky. And I bet he's a much happier person for knowing that. I know I am.

Joel Stein is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

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