Meet Your Idols
There are certain people that we’ve always idolized. Actors we’ve grown up loving. Radio personalities we listen to daily. Authors or playwrights we read without regard to the topic of their work because their words are so phenomenal. Dancers and choreographers we would kill to be good enough to work with. Professionals we wish could be mentors, and mentors who are really heroes.
Everyone has these people, even if we don’t necessarily think of them that way. And I think it is interesting that these people inevitably pop up in our lives when we least expect them to. Sometimes you meet an actor on the street, or you recognize a voice in the hallway or a face in the airport. But what do you do?
I walked past Brian Wilson one day in San Francisco. He was just standing on the corner, staring at his phone, reading an email or maybe checking a map. No-one walked up to him, no-one asked him questions or for an autograph. He seemed like a completely normal person, just chilling out on a street corner, waiting for a friend to show up.
A friend of mine saw Fik-shun (So You Think You Can Dance) in an airport, and went up to say hello. Now they’re hanging out, drinking wine, being friends. Because sometimes your idols, though completely normal people, are also, well, normal people. They have normal friends and normal relationships and normal interactions with normal people.
Over the summer, I’ve met a lot of KQED reporters and voices that I’ve literally grown up with coming through the little box in my room and in the car. When we listen to their voices, we have an image of who they are, and sometimes (often) they don’t look like that. Just like the actors and actresses that are cast as our favorite characters don’t always fit the mental images we form while reading the book, these radio voices don’t always – rarely, really – fit the mental images I form while listening to them. Peter Sagal (Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) makes fun of himself every live show because he “doesn’t sound bald.” But the truth is that we can’t tell what someone looks like by the sound of their voice, and we often create false images. And every time you meet someone and they shatter your personal characterization of them, it is surprising. But it also reminds me that these characterizations are so absurd and so incredibly likely to be false. I’ve met dozens of KQED voices, including Joshua Johnson, Rachael Myrow, Craig Miller, and of course Michael Krasny. All of them were different from what I expected. For one, they’re all way nicer than I expected. (Did I expect KQED staff to be mean? No. Did I expect them to welcome any and all questions, offer to buy me lunch, and be quick to ask “can I help you find somebody” whenever I looked even the slightest bit lost? Also no.) They all look like…themselves, they all sound like themselves, but when they don’t look like they sound it is weird. I don’t really know how to explain it.
I started this post this morning, about six hours before the news of Robin Williams’ death broke. But now, it somehow seems even more fitting. He was such an amazing comedian; my favorite movies of his are Mrs. Doubtfire and Flubber. To see such a wonderful talent on the silver screen, such comedic genius, it is infinitely more painful for me to learn that he struggled with a fight against depression for so long. Of course, he has dramatic roles too (my favorite is Good Will Hunting), and I can’t help but think that he brought his real-life struggles into those characters. I guess everyone has a secret life, and maybe it should stay that way. RIP, Robin Williams, and may you always laugh.