So, in the last few weeks I’ve been to a Patti Smith reading/signing; seen “Heart of a Dog,” the new Laurie Anderson movie; and heard Monday’s “Fresh Air” episode, with Illeana Douglas, the actress — she has a new memoir.
All are, or were, partnered with a man of equal or greater fame – Smith with Fred Smith, Detroit rock legend (OK, he probably took a back seat to his wife, fame-wise, but they were a power couple); Anderson with Lou Reed, and Douglas with film director Martin Scorsese, who was also her mentor.
I’ve been reading in the new Smith book, and I’m struck by how…ordinary it is. The story about the boat with a broken axle? Amusing, but ultimately, your life is just as interesting. I promise you. But people in the audience that night were rapt, absorbing the details of this pair’s domestic life, as though there was a secret about to be revealed — of coolness, or magic, or powerful creativity. There seems to be an inordinate interest in the personal lives of doubly famous couples, and maybe it’s a fact of being older, but the more I learn about people, the more I believe we have a lot more in common than not, and that the lives of the famous/brilliant and anonymous/ordinary contain a roughly equal number of farts, whining, dumb conversation and other things that make us wonder what life would be like if we’d only married someone famous and brilliant. (Note the children of these pairs, how often they are deeply unimpressed by mom and dad. Take your cue from them.) They probably go to better parties and have nicer clothes and travel schedules, but that’s about it.
Not that I’m not insanely jealous of Illeana Douglas, mind you; the other ladies can keep Sonic Smith and Lou Reed, but I’d pay money to share coffee with Scorsese in the morning.
The Anderson movie is very fine, but it’s about…well, it’s about a lot of things, but death is the biggie, as the whole thing is purportedly inspired by the death of Anderson’s rat terrier, Lolabelle. But someone else died in the last year in Anderson’s family, and Himself goes unmentioned, appearing in one brief shot and the very last one of the movie. There’s a certain oooh, it’s him frisson when his famous face flashes by.
No such enigmatic take for Douglas, who complained sharply about the interviewers who assume genius and influence only flows in one direction, always asking her how Scorsese affected her work, but never asked her paramour how she might have influenced his own. (If you think the casting of Don Rickles in “Casino” was genius, credit Douglas.)
Sorry no posting last night. I wrote much of the above in my last hour of consciousness, and this morning the punctuation was definitely showing it. But that allows me to absorb the election results, which weren’t particularly surprising. I guess the Houston equal-rights ordinance being overturned is the biggest news, but I’ve felt for a while now that transgender rights are not going to be as easy a sell as the LGB variety, so again, probably not surprising. As soon as you can convince the rubes that little girls won’t be safe in their own bathrooms, it’ll be game over for the other side. I don’t want to keep returning to Toronto, but I will say I noticed a trend in the restaurants we visited — the rise of the unisex toilet.
In this country we call them “family” facilities, and they’re useful for fathers out with little girls, and vice versa, and using them, you see men and women and toddlers, most often. But in Canada many places had three one-holers — M, W, U. I have no idea if this is a transgender accommodation or not, but I noticed.
Finally, I listen to less public radio in the evenings than in the mornings, and missed the “Marketplace” interview this piece in Fortune, about Ben Carson’s ignorance of economics, is based on. Simultaneously amazing and depressing.
So, let’s tackle Wednesday. Coffee’s calling.