Weak-kneed With Fanboyhood

Until tonight, I really didn’t get the culture of celebrity. I grew up in Beverly Hills, hung out with the children of people who were on TV and in the movies, grew up to be interested in politics, and have met and talked with a former President, a Governor (plus I worked for one) and a dabbling of other elected officials (I negotiated with Barbara Boxer over purchasing a surplus school site when she was a County Supervisor). They’re all people, and I’ve always been a little bemused by the chest-clutching regard in which they are held by some.
Then…
…tonight I went to a dinner organized by the indefatigable Bob McBarton, at which the lead investigator (boss) of the Mars Rover program (Spirit and Opportunity) was going to talk about the current state of the rovers and the program, and Mars.
Bob took me aside as I came into the Beverly Hills steakhouse where we met. “You’ll never believe who’s going to be here,” he opened. I looked at him cooly. “Who??”
“Buzz Aldrin!!”
“You’re kidding!”
“No, really.”
I’ll admit I was kind of excited at the prospect of meeting the second man who ever walked on the moon.
Then as the group moved to sit at the large table, a jaunty, white-haired man with a leather blazer walked in and took a seat. Could it be him, I wondered? He took out an iPhone and a Blackberry and proceeded to start playing with them. Maybe…I tried to remember the pictures from the books I have at home, and drew a blank.
Then we all introduced ourselves, and yes, he was Buzz Aldrin.
I suddenly felt giddy. That man had walked on the moon. Those eyes had looked over a strange horizon and seen the Earth. Those hands had held moondust. Those feet had left footprints that I imagine every month on the full moon that I can look up and see.
Steve Squyres led a humane, intelligent, and interesting discussion of the Rover program and the state of the rovers today (including the recent problems with Spirit). And the whole time I was watching Aldrin, turning my eyes slightly to the side so I could try and measure his reaction and interest.
We took a break and I walked up, said hello, and shook his hand. I cannot think of any other time I have done that.
I was weak-kneed with fanboyhood. I Twittered and Facebooked and emailed the world. Buzz-Goddamn-Aldrin is sitting ten feet from me!! He raised his eyes from his iPhone when I asked a question!! I’ll never wash this hand again!!
Suddenly I got the impact that celebrity has on people. I was, in fact deep in the throes of it.
I wanted to walk out into the restaurant and grab the diners by their collars and shake them until they realized that the second man to ever walk on the moon was sitting at a table among them.

We all acknowledged his presence; Bob went around the room and we all told what we’d been doing in July 1969. I spent the week on my mom’s sofa, missing school, glued to the TV.
When it came to Aldrin, Bob went to skip him, but he interjected regardless: “I was out of town with two other guys.” A line he must have used a million times, delivered perfectly – level, flat, and knowingly funny.
And that showed me something about celebrity as well.

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