Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Hillary meeting Bette Midler revives me, Glenn Close does the most on a red carpet, and we must protect snack Michael B. Jordan.
I'm not one to typically recognize celebrities, which is odd to me as I'm obsessed with celebrities and pop culture in general. I'm not really one to care about celebrity gossip and drama but I find myself deeply invested in their careers, lives, work-product, and my assessment of their happiness. It's possibly for this reason that whenever I see a celebrity out in the wild, my mind doesn't say "Oh, that's Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar winner" but rather it says "Did we go to college together despite the fact that this person is 10 years younger than me? Why do I feel such a deep investment in her well-being? We must be related in some way; I think I'll wave."
This happens to me all of the time. I once saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the street and my brain told me it was a friend with whom I worked at a restaurant, so I approached him and said "How've you been?!" He didn't respond, which I found rude but then again we hadn't really gotten along at the restaurant. I bestowed him with an awkward smile, said "Good to see you! Find me on Facebook!" and walked away merrily.
So, when I tell you that last night I spent the evening in a room full of celebrities, I am not humble-bragging but rather describing a delightful and yet very confusing series of interactions with a bunch of complete strangers I know very well. I'm part of the Dramatists Guild, a trade association representing the interests of playwrights, composers, lyricists, and other people who write for the stage. Pretty much every playwright you've heard of is a member, and for good reason--artists need people to advocate for their opportunities and their rights and often lack the time or resources to do so. The DG has reps across the country who help foster community and a home office in New York that offers classes, provides legal consultation, and, once a year, holds a conference. I went this year because I'm a member and because (brushes dust off of the deeply buried lede) I won a very prestigious award from the Dramatists Guild.
The Lanford Wilson Award is given to an early career playwright based on the work they have put forth so far and the promise they show. I shared the award this year with Isaac Gomez, a Chicago-based playwright whose partner, by coincidence, recently starred in my play Time Is On Our Side. In the past, playwrights like Christopher Chen (Caught), Martyna Mojak (2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for Cost of Living), and Chisa Hutchinson (Somebody's Daughter) have won the prize; these people are idols to me--on par with my good friend Joseph Gordon-Levitt--so to win this was an incredible honor and an incredible challenge. I've been pretty much dumbstruck since the moment my friend Jackie Goldfinger, a playwright and a fabulous mentor, called me to deliver the news. Which is why I didn't really put together that at an awards ceremony hosted by the Dramatists Guild where they give away major prizes, some of the more famous members of the Guild might show up.
"Who is that woman?" I muttered to myself as I stared openly at a black woman with dreadlocks across the taco bar. "She looks like two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage who wrote Sweat and Crumbs From the Table of Joy, among others. I wonder if anyone ever tells her that."
"This person sitting at my table bears a striking resemblance to Martyna Mojak, who the program says will be presenting me with my award. What a funny coincidence."
"You know who would like that whimsical yet stately ensemble? Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel. I should tell that woman who is wearing it and has a very Paula Vogel-esque haircut about it."
This went on all night. My brain never fully caught up to the idea that people whom I'd idolized my whole life were sitting right beside me. And of course most of these people didn't carry themselves with the air of a celebrity, which is sometimes how you can guess that a person is famous and not, say, a distant relative or old hookup. I imagine playwrights don't get recognized as much as the cast of Big Bang Theory. Just a hunch. And it's not a terribly glamor-filled job, so I think the chances of a slack-jawed superfan openly staring them in the face with a mix of joy and befuddlement is relatively low.
But then, it's possible that anyone can be a celebrity in somebody else's mind. You never know the affect that you have on people and, when you write or create art or teach, for instance, you work travels much farther than you ever will. Somebody could be thinking about something you did, reading something you wrote, watching a video you filmed right now for the 50th time, marveling at you, wishing you well, and dreaming of day that they can run into you on the street, not recognize you at all, and yell at your to find them on Facebook.
This week, speaking of celebrities and plays: Hillary saw Hello, Dolly!, Glenn Close deserves an Oscar for red carpet shenanigans, and Trump's imaginary plane. But first: SNACK EMERGENCY.
Hello? Food and Drug Administration? This is professional conspiracy theorist and thirst journalist R. Eric Thomas. I read in Time today that many snacks are being recalled over fears that they have been contaminated with salmonella and I am calling to urge you to step up your protection of the ultimate snack, Michael B. Jordan. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
You need some joy in your life? You down in the dumps about the news? Need a pick-me-up after people found out that your large adult son has connections to Russia? Well, have I got a treat for you! Broadway superfan Hillary Clinton was finally able to score tickets to Hello, Dolly! last night and according to the show's inimitable star, Bette Midler, the political icon stole the show. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
The Trump Administration continued its years-long war on words, meaning, and the fabric of reality today by announcing the development of invisible planes which will help us to fight the many imaginary, all-caps wars we are involved in against Iran, North Korea, journalism, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, late night television hosts, some movie stars, President Obama, and definitely not Vladimir Putin. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
We don't deserve Glenn Close. Well, I do, because I appreciate her. But some of you? I don't know. I just don't know. Who else is able to so effortlessly glide between high villainy and heartbreaking humanity?! This woman played Cruella de Vil and Iris in The Natural. What more do you want from her? [READ THF FULL COLUMN]
Irony, that ole threadbare rapscallion, is making another go of it this month, as photographers in China documented workers in the country's Anhui province manufacturing flags for Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. While it is not confirmed that Trump's campaign ordered the flags, who else besides Sean Spicer is really that hype about the dude? Though the fabric harbingers of our continued collective doom are ready to ship out, their journey to your estranged uncle's front lawn may be hindered by tariffs Trump is threatening to place on China in his on-going trade war. One is tempted to label this poetic justice, but justice has put its out-of-office message up for the foreseeable future. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
In the recording, which is both highly damaging and also a real snooze (the two moods of our age), the two men debate paying with cash or check like they're standing in line at a grocery store in the mid-1980s and plot to open up a company to cover these sorts of transactions. It's not clear from the recording, but it is believed that that company was called Sex Hush Payments 'R Us. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Random Thing on the Internet
This article about the years-long scam to defraud the McDonald's Monopoly game blew my mind. It's outrageous. No wonder I never won.
Do I know you?