Seeing Stars

And with a sigh of relief – this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is over.

How I hate the damned thing.

It’s not that I don’t like the movies, or that I don’t appreciate what goes into them, but TIFF seems more and more about the “celebrities” each year than the actual films. Who’s wearing what, who ate where? One publication even had a bathroom broadcast, reporting on the washroom habits of visiting celebrities.

I find the obsession with the stars so very strange. Sure, when you’re a teenager, it’s natural to be obsessed with the cute rock star… but I always assumed being star-struck was something we grew out of as adults, secure in the knowledge that the stars are just like the rest of us, and would prefer to be treated as such.

I had the misfortune to find myself on a King streetcar on the evening that George Clooney’s new film was premiering at Roy Thompson Hall. There was a crowd outside as we rolled past and as everyone gawked to see who might be there, someone let out a scream. They had caught sight of George Clooney and within seconds there were people screeching, yelling things out the windows and generally making fools of themselves, unaware or unconcerned that he couldn’t actually hear them.

One might offer up the excuse that Clooney is handsome. Or talented. But so are many people with careers other than acting. We don’t screech like hyaenas at handsome waiters. We don’t wave our underwear at handsome accountants. We don’t chase down handsome garbage men to collect their autographs.

So what makes celebrities so special? Is it their talent at acting or singing – special skills that we don’t all possess? Is it their glamorous lifestyles (even though all the tabloids assure us that celebrities have cellulite, buy groceries and walk their dogs – just like the rest of us)?

And how does our collective behaviour make celebrities feel?


There’s a train of thought that people go into fields related to celebrity because they’re insecure and want the constant attention. That’s a bit of a cliche, but maybe not off the mark. But I don’t think it applies to everyone in the business.

What must it be like for the shy ones, the folks who treat their work like a regular job and just want to be normal at the end of the day? How invasive must the shrieking and pictures and autographs be to the reclusive actor who cares about their craft and not about being famous?

I think – no, I know – that I would be utterly weirded out. Although it’s no possible comparison, I’ve had a few occurrences of being “recognized” as “Sheryl from TasteTO”. I’ve had people flatter me, gush at me about the site, and ask to come to restaurant visits or food events with me. Maybe it’s the anonymity of the web; the idea that we can’t see the people we’re “talking” to – but being approached by readers is still kind of freaky.

And yes, I know it’s absolutely apples and oranges. But if having someone grab you by the arm and start gushing about your work can happen to boring old me, think about what it must be like to be a movie star. The things people have said to me in what I guess is an attempt to win my approval (like seriously dissing our competitors) is sometimes shocking – if I were George Clooney I’d have a whole staff of people to ward off stalkers and check for crazies.

I think it’s great to get excited about movies or bands or theatre or any other arena of the arts. There’s a number of movies and concerts and plays coming up that I’m really looking forward to. Seeing a band like Devo, that shaped, really, who I am, is a splendid opportunity. But it won’t be made better by meeting them. Because what could I have to say to Devo that thousands of other people haven’t already?

From my time doing concert product and working with a number of bands and musical artists I admired, I know that while these folks appreciate the kind words about their work (as we do at TasteTO when we’re approached in public) unless there’s something more there beyond “great show” or “loved your last album”, the situation is just uncomfortable. I’ve seen people approach their idols, gush at them, and then stand there expectantly after the artist  thanked them. Like they’re waiting to be asked backstage for a drink, or to some super cool rockstar party (those happen a lot less often than you would imagine). Now it’s time to turn around and go…

And the artists always have a wink and a chuckle for those particular fans afterwards – but who really wants to be remembered by their idol as a big weiner?

It’s perfectly alright to admire someone who does something creative and shares it with the world. But our society puts far too much value on “celebrity”, and we all put far too much pressure on those celebrities to have relationships with us. And they might not even know they’re having a relationship with us, which is kind of creepy when you really think about it.

And just in case you’re wondering, while everyone else was screeching at poor George as the streetcar passed him… I crushed his head. Which will give us something interesting to talk about – if we ever happen to meet.