So many people in the world claim to know (or even to have slept with) a celebrity. people make bold statements, often to be ridiculed by others online and in real life. To say that you know someone famous is to be arrogant or showy. Of course, it's not always true. Sometimes, knowing someone with some level of fame happens by sheer coincidence. Sometimes, it's not all the glamour people think it is.
Long ago, in high school, I was involved with singing and acting. Some people, such as myself, simply used it as a fun social outlet. Others had aspirations of stardom. When you're young, no one really expects any of their peers to make it anywhere. it's just a dream that most likely leads to table-waiting jobs in New York City. That reality is always in the back of your mind.
One of my classmates seemed to have the acting bug. We weren't close by any stretch of the imagination. He was the nice kid who treated me fairly. The one who leaned in close to me during choir to make sure he was on the right note. Eye candy for a shy, quiet boy yet to come out of his shell.School came and went. Years passed by. And then came the fateful day, watching an Absolutely Fabulous marathon on Comedy Central. A commercial flashed across the screen as I was getting something to drink. That voice. It sounded so familiar. But no, it couldn't be...
But it was.
A few years later, I was browsing for new movies. I stopped cold. There was that face staring back at me again. The movie was Camp. I grabbed a copy and watched it. I laughed and fidgeted. Daniel Letterle really had made it.
A few more years went by. A few more movies. The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green. Monster Island. I heard through the grapevine that he had returned home to Ohio and was living relatively nearby after a bit of a rough time in Los Angeles. On a whim, I emailed him. A while later, I finally heard back.
During the summer of 2007, we became reacquainted again. Living only a mile away, it was quite convenient having a new-found friend for socializing. We laughed, commiserated, and watched movies. We even plotted out a comedy script. I learned perhaps more than we care to learn about our friends. We had moments of disagreement, sometimes bordering love-hate. His life became rougher and had a few down slides. We stepped away for a few months, losing contact.
On November 14th, 2007, I was out with fellow ghost hunters having dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse in Akron, Ohio. As we waited to be seated, I saw him waiting tables. At first, I wasn't sure what to say so I said nothing. Finally, an hour later, I caught his attention. He seemed different in a positive sense. He didn't have that facade anymore. He wasn't pretending to be anyone. He actually seemed happy... stable. We talked briefly and said we'd get back in touch. We still haven't caught up on life and news.
Sometimes, people hold actors and other celebrities on a pedestal. We think them to be impervious to pain, emotion, and thought. In reality, they're just the same as all of us. They have hard times. They make mistakes. They try to seem happy when they're screaming on the inside. They feel confused about themselves and their lives. But they're human too. Beneath that tough exterior built up by the harshness of Hollywood, they're just like the rest of us.
I always had a difficult time thinking of Dan as a "celebrity". He was just Dan: the goofball kid who tried making other people laugh and be happy. The boy with the slight exhibitionist streak who would wander around before high school plays in nothing but a pair of white briefs, simply for the shock value. The guy with hopes and dreams, and deep down, a heart of gold. He's not a meal ticket or a toy. He's just someone who, all frustration aside, I still consider a friend. And like most friends I've known, we lose touch now and then.
Wherever he is now, whomever he's with, and whatever he's doing, I do hope he's happy. And perhaps our paths will cross again some day...