Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Gossip and Celebrities

Blogs Across America

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Pat Benatar at “Hands Across America”

Since the last election, our country seems to be split, our citizens at odds with one another. Blue States vs. Red States. Blacks vs. Whites. Liberals vs. Conservatives.

Have we forgotten that we are one country: The United States of America, from sea to shining sea? Was it only twenty years ago that we all stood hand-in-hand, brother and brother, across this great land for a honorable cause?

“On the afternoon of Sunday, May 25, 1986, more than five million people joined hands to form a line that stretched 4,152 miles – from New York City’s Battery Park to a pier in Long Beach, California. This nationwide event, called Hands Across America, was intended to raise money to fight hunger and homelessness.”

Brooke Shields stood as anchor at the George Washington Bridge in New York. Ronald Reagan held hands at the White House. Bill Clinton was in Arkansas. Millions were raised. An awful song was written. For fifteen minutes, we were all one people.

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But there is a dirty little secret about this event, something that has been festering for twenty years:

The “unbroken chain” never really worked.

“There were many breaks in the chain. In order to allow the maximum number of people to participate, the path linked major cities and meandered back and forth within the cities.”

In some places, like in the Arizona desert, there were long stretches of emptiness.

For many of us, this failure has haunted us for two decades. Some say this was a new generation’s Vietnam — a societal disappointment that has prevented many of us from becoming self-actualized individuals.

But can we fix the mistakes of the past? Can our country become whole again? Can WE become whole again?

I say YES. In the last twenty years, modern technology has brought us high speed internet and blogging. We can finish the job left undone.

The following is the original route used in Hands Across America for connecting the two coasts:

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To reproduce and finally complete this historic event twenty years later, we will need AT LEAST one blogger in the following states to be a part of an unbroken blogger chain across America:

WE DID IT!

New York (Yes!)

New Jersey (Yes!)

Pennsylvania (Yes!)

Maryland (Yes!)

Washington D.C. (Yes!)

Ohio (Yes!)

Indiana (Yes!)

Illinois (Yes!)

Missouri (Yes!)

Tennessee (Yes!)

Arkansas (Yes!)

Texas (Yes!)

New Mexico (Yes!)

Arizona (Yes!)

California (Yes!)

Can we do it? I think we can!

The theme song:

Blogs Across America.

Blogs across this land I love.

Divided we fall.

United we stand.

Blogs across America.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: What is a Neilochka?

Neilochka Stalker

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Last week, the Gawker website launched a new Gawker Stalker feature that can immediately post celebrity sightings on the internet, complete with a map.   According to the Daily News:

"We’ll be using the Google Maps program," the snarky Web site’s editor, Jessica Coen, told [Lloyd Grove of the Daily News], "and people can look at them as soon as they come in — as close to a live sighting as possible."

This stalker feature was big news in the New York internet world.  Gothamist weighed in:

It’s a pretty simple concept: each day they’ll have an intern manning an email address, and as "Gawker Stalker" missives come in, the intern will plot them on a map. This way, you can stalk your favorite celebrities in real time. Why you would want to stalk Lindsay Lohan is beyond us– but that’s an entirely different story.

Some, like New York journalist Felix Salmon, thought that Nick Denton, the publisher of popular websites such as Gawker and Wonkette, had produced something quite scary.

Part of what makes cities work is the anonymity conferred by large crowds. One of the reasons why people move to New York from Smalltown is that in Smalltown, everybody knew where they were and what they were doing at all times. Here, you can walk down the streets wearing nothing but an inflatable crocodile, and no one will care. Gawker Stalker Maps is an exercise in taking those comfortingly anonymous crowds and turning them into a million-eyed intelligent beast, collating and organising information on hundreds of individuals unlucky enough to be recognisable in public.

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Frankly, I’ve never understood why so many people have Gawker on their blogroll.  They’re never going to link to you.   All you’re doing is helping this money-making entity increase their ad sales.  It’s like you’re wearing a Nike cap or Coke t-shirt, giving a company free publicity without getting anything in return.

Maybe I’m being hard on Gawker, but I am angry at their lack of concern for privacy.   I’m especially bitter over their latest internet entity, Neilochka Stalker.   I really don’t appreciate my friends and acquaintances (that includes you, Sophia!) sending in tips to their special email address telling the world where I am 24/7. Just look at this morning’s postings on the Neilochka Stalker site:

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one.png  March 19, 2006 @ 9am  Neil spotted in bed, annoyed at being woken up by the stupid birds outside, just when the dream about the two hot female bloggers washing his back in the shower was getting good.   Neil scratches his balls and heads for bathroom. 

two.png March 19, 2006 @ 9:20am  Neil spotted peeing in bathroom, than taking shower.  He mumbles something to himself about the "dream" shower being "a hundred fucking times better" than the real shower.  The next door neighbor turns on her shower.  Neil is scalded with hot water.

three.png March 19, 2006 @ 9:40am  Neil is spotted wearing his new light blue boxer briefs.  He spends a few minutes posing in the mirror in various muscle man positions.  Neil sees female neighbor in adjacent apartment window.  Neil smiles at her.   Her boyfriend suddenly appears at window.  Boyfriend puts up middle finger at Neil and they both laugh at Neil.  Neil closes shades.

four.png March 19, 2006 @ 10am  Neil spotted in kitchen, grabbing orange juice and bagel from the refrigerator.  He is seen opening his front door and picking up his Los Angeles Times from the hallway.  He looks down the hall, pissed, when he discovers that someone already stole the "magazine section" and the classifieds.

five.png March 19, 2006 @ 10:40am  Neil is spotted sitting on couch, reading article in "Calendar section" about successful screenwriter/director complaining about the hardships of his tremendous success.  Neil dozes off again.   He dreams that he is back in the shower with two hot female bloggers.  

six.png March 19, 2006 @ 10:50am  Neil is spotted on the couch getting woken up by ringing of the telephone.  It is Sophia.  She reminds him of some chore he is supposed to do for her parents.  Neil says he will do it "right away."

seven.png March 19, 2006 @ 11:15am  Neil is spotted sitting at the computer rather than doing "chore for Sophia’s parents."  He is writing an amusing comment on the site of one of the hot female bloggers, hoping he will impress her with his wit.

eight.png March 19, 2006 @ 12:01pm  Neil is spotted sleeping at his desk.  The phone rings.  Neil doesn’t answer it.

nine.png March 19, 2006 @ 1:00pm   Neil is spotted watching "Escape from Planet of the Apes" on DVD while eating Cheerios from the box.  This is the 124th time he’s seen this movie.  Neil finds himself becoming strangely aroused by Zira, the kind-hearted chimpanzee female scientist.

ten.png March 19, 2006 @ 1:50pm  Neil is spotted lying on the floor, still watching the movie.  His cell phone rings over and over again.  Neil answers it.  It is Sophia, angry.  Neil says he is on his way to her parents.  His excuse:  he was delayed because they were running "The LA Marathon" right in front of his apartment and he couldn’t leave just yet.   Sophia apologizes for getting upset.  After he hangs up, Neil laughs.  He mumbles something about loving the LA Marathon!  He returns to watching the movie.

Real Celebrity Encounters

 

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My weekend of celebrity photos reminded me of an email conversation I recently had with a woman who just graduated college.  She lives in a small Midwestern town and wants to move to either New York or Los Angeles. 

"What is it like?" she wants to know.

She doesn’t have a job, friends, or family in either of these places.  Of course, I told her that big city life is great and has many cultural advantages, but I was concerned about her reasons for wanting to move.  She seemed to mostly buy into the media image of the glamour of these cities.   Let’s stop the urban legends right now.  Most young New Yorkers do not live in the apartments you see in "Friends."  Real New York women do not live "Sex in the City" lives.  Few Angelenos shop in Beverly Hills ala "Pretty Women."  Ask any New Yorker living in a tiny apartment on 123rd Street for $2500 a month or any Angeleno driving in a rush hour traffic (or trying to buy a house) and they’d tell you the truth:  life here isn’t all that glamorous.

College girl was most excited with the prospect of meeting celebrities.  All she seemed to care about was which celebrities I have met.  She loves reading blogs from the big cities, where bloggers write about all the celebrities encounters.   She especially loves this popular LA blog, which frequently talks about celebrity encounters.  I like this blog, too, but I also know that the glamour of Hollywood life is as real as the women in Playboy.

By living in these big cities, I’ve encountered many different celebrities.  Some at work, some at the car wash.  Sophia, in particular, has worked with many famous actors as an actress and a Russian dialect coach for TV and films.  She recently was the coach for Nicolas Cage in his next movie, where he plays a Russian-born arms dealer.  

Celebrities are not any more exciting than anyone else, just a whole lot more pampered.

It’s true that the first time you accidentally bump into Michael Douglas in the shopping mall, you call all your friends.  But gradually, you are taught that what distinguishes you — a hip urbanite — from the Midwestern tourist, is that you must always act cool and make believe that you hardly notice the person’s celebrity status.  Only tourists and desperate people ask for an actual autograph.   I completely ignored David Schwimmer when we both reached for the same box of Cheerios in Ralph’s.   He would think I was a total dweeb if I went "Oh my God, it’s Ross from ‘Friends,’ the show with the giant New York apartments!  Please sign my Cheerios box!"

I think other bloggers sometimes mention all these celebrity encounters to make others "envious," as if there was something wrong living in Kansas City.  The truth is that most big city dwellers would be much happier living in a nice big house in a small town in Wisconsin.  Instead, we put up with all sorts of shit just to feel like we are somehow more important because Pamela Anderson visits the same dry cleaners we do.   Every dry cleaners in Los Angeles has a hundred glossy photos on the wall.  Is this the new casting central?

Creating envy is the sole purpose of New York and Los Angeles magazines, two rags which create a total bullshit image of these cities.  I read both of them.  Don’t take any media about big city life seriously. 

I’ve only had four celebrity encounters that are even worth mentioning.

1)  I once got drunk with Tim Allen, where he said things I cannot mention in polite company.

2)  I once had a very funny conversation with multi-billionaire best-selling author Sidney Sheldon (I know, not exactly ‘celebrity’) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and then lent him the three bucks for parking because he didn’t carry money around with him.

3)  I was alone, late at night, in the gym, with Bruce Springsteen.  If you live in Los Angeles, you probably know the small cheapo ‘Beverly Hills Health and Fitness’ on Beverly Drive.  The place was empty, except for me and … someone who looked like Bruce Springsteen. 

"Could it be?  Why would he be at this crappy gym?  Should I say something to him?  Should I say that I own every one of this albums?"  

This was finally someone who I would ask to sign my Cheerios box. 

Suddenly, the Boss started to walk over in my direction.  He was in great shape.  He pointed to some dumbbells sitting next to me.

Bruce:   "You using those?"

Me:  "Uh, no."

I handed them to him.  Our hands brushed against each other.  BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S HAND!

That was it.

4)  The last encounter was interesting only because it got me in trouble with my entire family.

Sophia and I were in New York.  We were going to a production of "Uncle Vanya" at Lincoln Center with my parents.  The show was starring Kevin Kline, one of Sophia’s favorites.  We were eating in an Italian restaurant before the show, when Kevin Kline, his wife Phoebe Cates, and one of their children, sit at the booth behind ours.  I’m the only one who notices them.  Kevin Kline and Sophia are literally sitting back to back in their respective booths.

Since I know of Sophia’s obsession with Kevin Kline, I wanted to tell her about him, but my parents have a reputation for being somewhat "overfriendly" and I was concerned that if I told everyone at my table, my parents would go over and talk to him — and embarrass me for the rest of my life.

I decided that I would just tell Sophia.  I was already living in Los Angeles at the time, so I was already indoctrinated in the "being cool with celebrities" attitude necessary to be considered a hipster.  How can I tell Sophia with being overheard by Kevin Kline?

Neil:  (whispered)  "Sophia.  Twelve o’clock."

Sophia:  "Twelve o’clock?"

She looked at her watch.

Sophia:  "It’s seven o’clock.  What wrong with you?’

Obviously Sophia never used this code when out in a bar checking out the opposite sex with friends.   No, she was probably talking to the opposite sex, not just standing there all night with loser friends, like I did.

I came up with a new plan.

Neil:  "Do you have a pen?"

Sophia:  "Why do you need a pen?"

Neil:  "I just want to write something down."

Sophia:  "What?"

Neil:  "I dunno.  An idea for a screenplay."

Sophia:  "Now?  In the middle of dinner?"

Neil:  "Just give me a pen."

Dad:  "I have a pen."

My father hands me his prize possession — his Parker pen that he’s kept in his shirt pocket for 30 years.  I try to write with it on a napkin.

Neil:  "It doesn’t work."

Dad:  "It has to work.  It’s a brand new refill from Staples.  You need to shake it."

Mom:  "Artie, when are you going to buy yourself another pen?"

Dad:   ‘They don’t make pens like this anymore."

Neil:  "Because they don’t work."

My mother dumps the contents of her pocket book onto the table, and hands me a Bic pen.

Meanwhile, a waiter brings a birthday cake over to Kevin and Phoebe’s child.  A group of waiters come over to their table and start singing Happy Birthday.  My parents and Sophia, still not knowing who they are, start singing along.

Everyone:  "Happy Birthday to you…"

Everyone claps.  I write a note to Sophia on a napkin.  It reads "Kevin Kline" with a arrow.  I slide the napkin over to her.  She reads it, getting annoyed at my behavior.

Sophia:  "I know who’s in the play.  Are you in a rush again to get there?  It’s not like it’s a movie where you need to watch all those boring trailers.  We already have seats."

Neil:  "No, read it again." 

Sophia:  "You’re acting really weird."

My father finished shaking his pen and scribbled something on his napkin.

Dad:  "Look, it’s working!

The Kline family left before I got a chance to tell the rest of my family.   After they left, I finally told them.   My family was upset at me.

Sophia:  "How could you be so selfish not to tell me?  You know I love Kevin Kline!"

There are many reasons to move to New York or Los Angeles.  Just don’t make it because of the celebrities. 

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