Here's a scritch-scratcher: what's the difference between fame and attention?
I really don't know. I don't know if there even is one. Maybe it's a little uglier to overtly want one than it is the other. But the more I play with that idea, the less I'm sure which is which.
I grew up having an unhealthy obsession with both and, in case you weren't tipped off by this whole ruse where I try to keep you focused on me by prodding your inbox every week, I haven't totally been able to shake them.
I just watched most of A Tribute For a King, the special that ABC ran to eulogize Chadwick Boseman. I was as shocked as anybody at the news of his passing, but felt a little bit of that shame you feel when someone who really touched a bunch of people but not you dies and everybody is grieving publicly and you feel for them, but you don't feel what they feel.
I'm still kinda there. Of course this is quite a bit related to the fact that I am a white dude and have been as represented as you can be in media for as long as I can remember (and well beyond). The loss of Chadwick Boseman doesn't and can't mean to me what it means to many others.
But in a backwards way, this Hollywood-ass-packaged-out-the-wazoo-please-get-Kevin-Feige-off-the-fucking-screen tribute drove home some feelings for me that I wasn't able to glean from hearing the news, reading the articles, or watching the Instagram stories.
The thing is, I expressively and pointedly and loudly do not like nicely packaged Hollywood special-type-things. They remind me of magazines and I no longer believe in magazines. Words printed on a page are important, but not if they're just there to fill space between ads in a way that cleverly makes roughly the same information as last month look fresh.
HOWEVER, the reason I'm doing anything I'm doing, and the reason I even sat down and watched almost the entirety of that special because it was on tv when I got back from my run this evening, is that I. USED. TO LOVE. THAT SHIT.
It is Sunday night as I write this. This special aired on ABC after a commercial free showing of Black Panther. COMMERCIAL FREE. SUNDAY NIGHT. MOVIE. ON ABC.
Sunday night on ABC is when the Wonderful World of Disney went down. I'm talking about Model Behavior. I'm talking about Life-Size. I'm talking about Alley Cats Strike. Fuck the Rule of 3s, I'm talking about Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire. I'm talking about MY. DATE. WITH THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER.
I lived for that shit. And I lived for all of it, top to bottom. Especially the parts that I am, today, loudly against. When Michel Eisner, former Chairman of Disney, and a man who is exemplary of everything I no longer fuck with, came on screen back in the day, I flipped shits as a 10-year-old.
I pointed at the screen and shushed my parents: "SShhh! It's Michael Eisner." I sprinted to the bathroom at the commercial break hoping upon praying that I would not miss a little chat with that bald fake-ass smile businessman with a capital B who had me so fooled. Respecting him like I was a goddamn CAA mailroom shitbag, or the same who had evolved into a position of power.
As you can tell, I don't feel that way anymore. I don't believe in magazines because I worked at a magazine. I look back on every stressor and think about how dumb and pointless and only tied to money and the prospect that maybe I would catch a dream promotion out of it they all were.
I also remember the first time I heard of Chadwick Boseman. It was probably mid 2012. I was working for that magazine doing talent research, mostly all I ever did there, and there was a movie about Jackie Robinson coming out, and I got excited--but not because there was a movie about Jackie Robinson coming out.
I got excited because there was a "man section" (meaning one of the few sections for this men's magazine where we would consider featuring a man) still open for April 2013 and I needed some good ideas or else I couldn't go home or sleep or just relax or I don't remember what the particular stakes were that day, but something like that.
And then my heart sank because I saw that the person starring in this movie about one of the most important athletes, men, people, in history was... someone I hadn't heard of. And if I hadn't heard of them, it was unlikely they would move the needle in a way that I needed it to to get the heat off my back on this particular task.
I just looked up the email to my boss from the time, subject line: "Guys for the next few months."
Under April, there was:
Harrison Ford- 42, 4/12/13
Christopher Meloni- 42, 4/12/13
John C. McGinley- 42, 4/12/13
Chadwick Boseman- 42, 4/12/13 (Plays Jackie)
Charlie Sheen- Scary Movie 5, 4/19/13
Mark Wahlberg- Pain and Gain, 4/26/13
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson- Pain and Gain, 4/26/13
Anthony Mackie- Pain and Gain, 4/26/13
Ed Harris- Pain and Gain, 4/26/13
Fucking "Plays Jackie." Plays Jackie. That's the only reason Chadwick Boseman, who I am now convinced is one of the greatest movie stars to ever live, got listed alongside CHRISTOPHER MELONI. AND JOHN C. MCGINLEY. FUCK YOU AND FUCK ME.
Because I was a shit researcher, none of the people on my list got featured, but instead it was Michael Bay. If you were an early reader of Sternal Journal, you maybe caught an extended version of this interview with moi. While Michael Bay actually gave me a good interview, I think we can all agree Chadwick Boseman would have been way greater, and not just because he Plays Jackie.
But what I learned tonight from watching this floofy doofy memorial for Chadwick Boseman (all legitimate respect to Robin Roberts) is that the reason it felt to me and the rest of the dumbasses who work for magazines like Chadwick Boseman was a nobody in 2013 when he erupted as Jackie Robinson, is that he did not want to take roles that he didn't think were worth it. Being a nobody didn't mean anything to him.
He principally and resolutely torpedoed his first major gig, a soap opera. He suspected his character was a stereotype, asked the execs about his character's background to challenge his own assumption, and was let go the next day. What really struck me about this is how crystal clear his skepticism was, but how patient, generous, and thoughtful he was with his exploration of it.
He gave them so many fucking chances. He did what anyone should do for a fellow human, a colleague, whoever, even if you have every reason to think their intentions are fully misguided. He gave them the benefit of every doubt he had.
I still don't know the difference between fame and attention. The closest I can get is knowing that part of the reason Chadwick Boseman didn't ever catch my attention is that, even though he was famous as hell, he didn't care about it. And while I am not fully sad, that is sad for me.
I watched an attention-hungry broadcast event about an artist who was never attention-hungry and therefore never caught my attention. It reminded me of back when I was (even more) fame-hungry and adoring the chairman of the company (disney) who owns the company (marvel) who took got to look pretty fuckin great by working with that artist. And then reminded me of the time the company I was working for chose to feature Michael Bay instead of this dude in their pages.
And none of it mattered to him. Which, in a way, I'm still processing. Somehow, it matters a lot to me now.
If you're bored this week:
-Watch Crip Camp, phenomenal documentary on Netflix.
-Watch my friend Alex Hooper, who does not respect me, on America's Got Talent TOMORROW. He is a joyous and positive person and I look forward to seeing what he does. One time, I was huffing along on a run and he was slacklining between two trees out of nowhere. He's magical like that.
-Listen to Shakespeare on the Radio's Richard II. Shakespeare in the Park moved to a podcast and it's pretty fuckin cool.
-Give me notes on my Patreon.
-Do what I'm going to do: watch all of Chadwick Boseman's movies I was too stupid and fame (or attention?) focused to catch before.
Much love to all,