Almost every print interview with a celebrity begins the same way. The writer describes the famous person’s entrance for the interview, and what she’s wearing.
Gwyneth Paltrow arrives five minutes early in a Bozo jumpsuit cinched at the waist with a citron Slapwatch. Pointing to the espresso bar across the room, she gestures, “I’m getting a skinny soy latte, want anything?” For the soy part, she squats and simulates a sprout growing into a beautiful, organic legume. She’s every bit as down to earth as her reputation alleges. I gesture back, ‘Three pump chai, thanks, whole milk, no whip.’
Writers seldom mention their own get-up in these feature intros. We’re aware of the author, but she’s invisible. As I read, I wonder: did she agonize over her own outfit beforehand, and get her chin waxed special for the interview? As I reflect, I realize that in reality, writers probably don’t give their coffee orders to stars. Which is another problem with these articles, if you ask me.
Before celebrities are famous, they’re just regular folks. Other regular folks never become famous, even though they deserve to be. For them, there’s no entrance to orchestrate, and no impressions to make. They can be invisible because their actions speak for them.
With this category of people in mind, I’d like to nominate the maker of The Awesome Table for the following award:
Best Non-Entrance of a Spectacular Person.
I discovered the table this morning on my way to the blueprint shop.
Because I don’t know who this Spectacular Person is, for ease of reference, I’ll call him/her “Mat.” (Maker of Awesome Table). Mat had the idea to put some belongings on a table by the curb. The items are free. In exchange, Mat asks that the taker do something awesome for someone else.
What Mat is wearing isn’t of interest to me, but I would like to ask the following interview questions:
1. I notice stuffed animals on the table. Did they once belong belong to a child? Is it hard for you to part with them?
2. Mat, forgive me, but any chance the animals have lice or pet hair on them? I was eying the little monkey.
3. It breaks my heart in that good-pain kind of way when I look at your table and picture you making the sign. Did you know you’d have this effect on passers-by?
4. The word “awesome” is an interesting descriptor for your table. It implies greatness (generosity of heart), and fear (the lice thing, per #2, above). What acts of awesomeness would be suitable in exchange for a table item? I was thinking of touching up a faded map of the U.S. that’s painted on a nearby school playground. I happen to have the exact shade of purple that outlines Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
5. Did I just blow the awesomeness thing by saying what I was going to do? Some people prefer awesome acts to be random (Ben & Jerry); others want them to be anonymous (12-step groups).
6. Have you heard of the late Bilgé Friedlaender? She was my mentor in college, my most beloved design professor. A native of Turkey, she lived most of her adult life in America, working as an artist, teacher, and mother. In her sixties, she returned to Turkey and put on an exhibit called “Golden Rule.” Visitors were asked to bring an item that held meaning to them–and then, to part with it. Friedlaender took the belongings, covered them in gold leaf, and made them a part of the exhibit. When a visitor let go of an item, he got to take something in return, something that was important in the life of a stranger: a child’s barrette, a primary school ruler, a toy soldier, a spoon, a thimble. The exhibit, to Friedlaender’s great surprise, became a phenomenon in Istanbul when it opened in 1998, on the 75th anniversary of the Turkish Republic. After a lifetime of quiet work as an artist, she became an overnight sensation. Less than two years later, she died.
What would you leave at the “Golden Rule” exhibit?
7. Years from now, what will you remember about The Awesome Table? Will you recall standing at the window and watching cars slow as they passed? Or will you remember not standing there, just setting things on the table, and then going inside to make a cup of tea?