November 8, 2005

Fame

As K and I strolled through Prospect Park, she pointed out three famous people, none of whom I recognized or had ever heard of. Notably all three were shorter than K had imagined. Does fame make one smaller? Does one slowly shrink from the attention? It wouldn’t surprise me if the desire to avoid being gawked at might result, after sufficient repetition, in a measurable reduction in physical size.

Admittedly this isn’t a scientific sampling, but I recall seeing Curt Gowdy (a legendary sportscaster, for those who don’t know) in Rockefeller Center, and he was tiny. This was around 1979, at the height of Gowdy’s fame. He was walking down the street eating a pretzel, and the pretzel looked bigger than his head; that’s how small he was – or had become.

Also I once had a conversation with David Byrne on the downtown A platform at 59th Street. This was in 1983, just after the Talking Heads released Little Creatures. Byrne was carrying an enormous black book. I told him how much I loved his music, and then added, out of nervousness, that I hadn’t imagined he took the subway. Byrne smiled and said that the subway was the fastest way to get around.

It wasn’t until later, on the train home, as I replayed what had happened, that I realized how small he was. He couldn’t have been taller than a ten-year-old child. And of course this explained why the book seemed so big: it was huge in proportion to his itty-bitty hands.