Weird Thoughts About Celebrity

OK, so, funny story. In the context of SF author Jon del Arroz being banned from WorldCon 76, and then getting lectured by David Gerrold on humility, the situation reminded me of something that happened to me at SIGGRAPH in Detroit in 1983.

SIGGRAPH is the annual meeting of the Special Interest Group – Graphics of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). 1983 was the year SW:ROTJ was coming out, and ILM was going to show some of the graphics work for the new film. Lots of other Hollywood-type stuff. You know, the second Death Star in the force field and that sort of thing.

In 1983, I was working in video games, and another guy and I got into a private party at the convention that was held in a connected suite of hotel rooms at the Renaissance Center. This was the beautiful people party, and all the beautiful people were there. There were lots of beautiful women dressed in scanty SW and other SF outfits (early cosplay stuff, and my first ‘Slave Leia’ sighting), and lots of VIP types. All the beautiful people were swarming around the puffed-up VIP types.

So this guy and I were standing against a wall, drinking free beers and watching in amazement. We were engineering nerds, and anything but beautiful people, but we were going to hang around while the beer lasted or until somebody threw us out.

So this little Jewish guy with wire-rim glasses, clearly another nerd, comes up and says: “What do you guys do?”

“We design video games. You know, arcade games.”

“Cool. What games have you done?”

We named a couple-three games, and he’s like “I have that one. It’s great. That one, too. Love it.”

He has new-release arcade video games of his own? These were not cheap.

“So what do you do?”

“I make movies.”

“What kind of movies? I mean, would we have seen any of them?”

He looks sideways left and right to see if anyone is listening. “Jaws. Close Encounters.”

“You’re Ste–”

“Sshhh. Nobody’s recognized me, and I’m having a wonderful time.”

So my nerd-buddy and nerd-self spent an hour chatting with Steven Spielberg at SIGGRAPH 83 while all the beautiful people swarmed around all the puffed-up, self-important nobodies.

Spielberg was dressed like an engineer getting “dressed up” — blue jeans and a plaid shirt like always, with a cheap sport coat thrown over it all. And everybody ignored him as unimportant. And he loved it.

Which I guess is my point. The people who are really famous and important get tired of the limelight, and try to blend in, not puff themselves up. They don’t need to.

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