In the play Always… Patsy Cline (which ran December 12 through December 30 at North Coast Rep), a country music star befriends one of her biggest fans, forming a close relationship with someone who has no connection to the entertainment industry. It’s based on a true story, told mostly by the character of the fan during the short intervals between cast-performed covers of Cline’s top tunes.
On the surface, a regular person becoming friends with their favorite celebrity sounds fairytale-like. Certainly, sharing common bond with someone famous equates roughly to a mortal finding favor among the gods. The narrative suggests that all of us, even everyday folk, have something special to offer our most celebrated heroes.
But do celebrities really have that much to offer us? Let’s not forget the first step on the road to stardom is usually an obsessive devotion to craft. Most successful musicians spend the bulk of their early lives practicing their instruments. The more successful a musician, the more hours he or she has likely put in honing their talents. That means there were fewer hours spent practicing the art of conversation, or garnering enough unique life experience to hold up their end of one.
That’s not to say superstars are boring or don’t deserve friends. But how interesting can they be, really? There are only so many good stories that can come from long weeks going to work at a recording studio, or sitting on a bus for hours each day between tour stops.
Yes, we’re talking about real people, with real problems. But who wants to hear about all that? What’s the point of becoming friends with a celebrity if it’s only to hear them whine about how they don’t see their children often enough? It might be entertaining as a fan to hear about the wild parties, to be privy to lurid details and vices. But to a friend, such stories are merely a red flag signaling the inevitable rock bottom you’ll be expected to help cope with someday. It’s always going to be about them.
And it’s not as though we want to turn around and share the intimate details of our lives, either. How do you complain about the person at work who keeps using your salad dressing to someone who’s dating People magazine’s “sexiest so and so alive,” and has the power to start a Twitter feud with elected federal officials?
Worst of all, when a fan befriends a celebrity, that person effectively forfeits the discretion to stop being a fan. Especially when the career tanks, that star pal of yours will need to hear about how underappreciated they’ve become by the new generation. Patsy Cline seems to have been especially nice, but most of us deserve better than a celebrity BFF.