Awkward encounters with celebrities

Words by Brodie Lancaster, Illustration by Chrissy Lau

Ever since I could talk, I’ve wanted to be famous. Not paparazzi-camped-outside-your-house, every-personal-relationship-in-your-life-analysed-by-strangers kind of famous, just invited-to-do-Oprah famous. I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that I’ve practiced a series of acceptance speeches to myself while trying to get to sleep, and concocted ridiculous situations in which I could meet my idols– eg. a film I wrote is a hit at Sundance, I DJ the premiere after-party, see Spike Jonze in the crowd and cue up ‘Amarillo By Morning’, knowing he’ll get it and we’ll smash our mouths together. The situations you never imagine, though, are the ones in which you could actually interact with someone you admire. These are the situations where you are caught off-guard and don’t have anything prepared. You’ve gotta improvise, kid!

When I was 19, a series of ridiculous incidents at a music festival resulted in me being shepherded backstage following a set by my favourite Australian Hip Hop group, the Hilltop Hoods. My friend, who was in a band that had toured the festival with them, introduced me to Suffa, the object of my teenage affections, who invited me to come along to the after party. There, I made mistake #1 of the starstruck fan: I became an encyclopedia. I talked about the festival, about their records, about his regular segment on Triple J. I forgot he was a human and acted like I was trying to win a “How Well Do You Know Things About Suffa” quiz. Eager beavers don’t make good friends.

The flip side to this rule is mistake #2: playing it cool. After filming an interview with An Horse, a band I’d listened to obsessively after moving to New York, I spoke with Kate about her plans for the day. She mentioned a meeting she was having with Jesse Lacey from Brand New. Instead of showing my genuine excitement at her collaborating with one of my favourite bands as a teenager, I played it cool. I name dropped some bands I didn’t care that much about so she’d think I was “in the know” (ew), rather than congratulating her for doing something I knew was incredible.

The third mistake you can make when finding yourself in the presence of something you adore is to pretend you don’t know who they are. As a kid I was obsessed with Jawbreaker. I grew up watching Charmed and list Scream as one of my all-time favourite films. And yet, when I literally bumped into Rose McGowan backstage after a runway show at my first New York Fashion Week (LOL r u impressed?), she said, “Sorry,” I said, “That’s okay,” excused myself, and walked away. I didn’t even gush or stare or acknowledge her brilliance. I pretended not to recognize someone I’m mildly obsessed with. I was, in short, the worst.

Finally, the worst thing you can do when encountering a celebrity is to do nothing. That’s right; worse even than mistake #1. If someone has created something that has contributed to your life in a worthwhile and meaningful way, they would want to know about it. No ifs, buts or maybes. Human beings are complex and different, but we all love to hear nice things about ourselves.

One of my greatest regrets of the last 6 months (because it’s really not dramatic enough to be a long-term regret, despite my love of hyperbole) was noticing Marc Maron walking towards me on a busy afternoon during SXSW in Austin, Texas and doing nothing but surreptitiously glance in his direction. I listen to his podcast religiously. I paid money for his premium App. I know every detail of his notorious audition for Lorne Michaels, and I’ve listened to his epic hours-long tell-all interview with Louis CK so many times that I can anticipate when every awkward beat or tear-filled confession will occur. I appreciate his work and I am certain that he would want to know about his impact on my life as a comedy fanatic. And yet I let him walk past me without telling him any of that. I couldn’t even dole out the standard, “I’m a really big fan.” Instead I just pulled out my phone and tweeted than I’d seen him. Hashtag regret.