I was invited to moderate a film discussion earlier this week for a film that has received rave reviews. My role was minimal. I was only required to ask two questions before turning it over to the audience. It was an interesting experience. I learned how seriously people take film actors and actresses as well as how highly they regard themselves. The audience was falling all over themselves trying to convey to these folk how wonderful they thought they were. Later, the Director, who I was sitting next to, was the only person on the panel who even acknowledged my presence. While she didn’t thank me, she at least turned to me and smiled. I then thanked her for participating in the discussion and wished her well on the film.

I thought the remaining panelists should have at least said “thank you” given how much it cost me to be there. I’m not much of a shopper so I’ve only been to this venue three times so I actually had to use my GPS to get there. Once there, I had no idea how to get out of the parking lot. I found some nice young people who helped me navigate from the parking lot to the theatre. When I arrived, it wasn’t clear how to even enter the theatre. Since I hadn’t eaten much, I bought a small punch and a box of Sweet Tarts, which totalled $10.67! It wound up costing me $8 to park and I had to walk in the rain to get back to the parking lot. By the time I got home to my family it was almost 11 p.m. and I was soaking wet.

In thinking about gratitude-especially as the Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner-it was clear to me that the actors and perhaps the audience members overlooked what it cost me because of the presumed benefit that I received of having a reserved seat, sitting next to the Director, and being one of the first people in Atlanta to see this film. No one was ever directed to acknowledge anyone else’s contribution to the evening. It never occurred to them, for example, that someone would have another idea about the value of spending time away from their family after a long day of work; about spending time with Hollywood actors; about spending money at the concession stand.

When Michael Jackson died, I called my father. When he answered, he said, “Yeah, I heard. That’s too bad. I feel bad for his family and I loved his music but when my mother died, I don’t remember Mike calling me to offer his condolences.” We both laughed. I thought about this as I reflected on the presumption that I would want to spend time with these Hollywood strangers. The fact that my encounter with celebrity, no matter how marginal, occured the same week that Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis attended Marine Corp balls (Timberlake’s reflections on his experience were thoughtful) didn’t help to illuminate another view of the meaningfulness of celebrity. Like my father’s remarks suggest, I can appreciate someone’s talent and still understand the place they have as a very important person in my life. As much pleasure as Michael Jackson’s music still brings me, if I had only one opportunity to select someone to spend my last day with, it wouldn’t be him or any other Hollywood stranger. I would certainly choose from among the people who I have actually known and loved. This is also true of living celebrities and my living family and friends. My family and friends are very important people even if people don’t have to pay money to see them; they matter to me.

I was sent an alert mid-week that my name was being placed on a VIP list for another film screening and was told that confirmation concerning the details of the screening would follow. Do you know that they did not email those details until 10:21 p.m. Friday evening for a film being shown Saturday? A friend sent a text asking if I was still going, to which I replied “NOPE.” My prior experience with these Hollywood folk taught me everything I needed to know about their presumptions regarding what it means to be a very important person. So instead of heading down to the Fox theatre, I spent time with my husband and my son, I talked on the phone with my mom, my friends, and my aunt. It was a good day spent with VIPs. I’ll catch the film on DVD.

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