Portland Anonymous: Fragment Seven

At first we liked the fact that #N/A was being nominated so much for awards, but eventually it became a problem. How would we preserve anonymity in the face of the attention that we were getting for the music?  Pretty quickly most of the group wanted to drop the masks and take advantage of the attention, but #N/A held out for a long time, telling them that while he would happily go on behalf of the group as a whole that he didn’t want to be known.  Eventually, though, everyone else insisted that in order to help the group out as a whole that they all had to be willing, eventually, to go to award shows and pick up their hardware, and so he did, although I don’t think it’s something that he ever really liked.  Watching those first few award shows was really uncomfortable, as one could tell that he was not the sort of person who wanted attention.  I guess it goes back to the question that we should have answered at the beginning of this whole effort.  Did we want to avoid attention as a way of getting more attention, with the whole reverse psychology of pretending not to want attention while really wanting it, or were we really serious about anonymity.  It’s a shame that #N/A was the only one who took the ideal really seriously, because he was probably the only one whose talent would have gotten obvious attention anyway from other labels than ours, as we found out much to our sorrow later on.

***

I’m representing Sub Par records here, and I’d like to thank all of the musicians who helped out on this project and all of the deejays and fans who were willing to support a song and stan for us even without knowing who we were.  You guys are the greatest.

***

I remember what we thought when he went up to take the award.  We had agreed that the label could send a representative to the show and pick up any awards that the artists got, and then we have this plain looking fellow get up and graciously and shyly introduce himself, and we were like, get this guy off the stage, he’s not handsome at all, people are going to turn off their televisions.  But he didn’t linger long and wasn’t invited to any of the aftershow parties or get any interviews from the press.  But later on, when we found out that he was indeed the star, this shy and decent but plain person, we were all pretty embarrassed about it.  I mean, we had treated him like a nobody and been really unkind to him when he was just representing the label, and we couldn’t be all friendly to him once we knew that he was indeed the star.  I don’t know if you’d call it a learning moment, but I can tell you that I’ve never felt worse than I did the day I found out who #N/A was, because I felt like the mean kid in school.

***

I’ve always been fond of the myth of the hidden prince or princess.  I’ll give you some examples first and then explain at least a little bit why it matters in this context.  If you’ve ever read C.S. Lewis’ A Horse And His Boy, or the Harry Potter novels, or Star Wars with both Anakin and Luke Skywalker, or the Gospels when it comes to Jesus Christ, you have some idea of the hidden prince and its importance.  A hidden prince or princess is someone who appears at first to be a nobody.  They aren’t wealthy, they aren’t treated particularly well by a lot of the people around them, and then a moment of realization comes when they and everyone else realize that they are immensely important people, and there’s that feeling of resentment from those who don’t want to admit that they were wrong in looking down at people just because of outside appearances.  I see the realization you’re coming to.  I remember what you said when you were discussing the Billboard Awards earlier this year and you made some negative comments about me because you didn’t think I was anyone important, just some dork who worked for an independent label that nobody cared about.  But once you found out I was a singer and a songwriter, then all of the sudden I was some kind of interesting celebrity that you wanted to get to know and pay attention to.  I never wanted the attention of being a celebrity.  I was happy to make music that people loved without anyone having to know who I was.  And being anonymous had plenty of advantages, in that I could see who cared for me as a person and who was only interested in fawning obsequiously over celebrities and stars because of their celebrity status.  My charisma didn’t improve because people knew that I was a star.  I didn’t suddenly become more handsome or less awkward because I was a famous singer/songwriter.  It is simply that people realized who I was and acted accordingly, instead of treating me like the way they viewed me as a human being.

***

I remember the promo that we had in our local area about the Teen’s Choice and Radio Disney Awards.  The whole promo, which we agreed to with Sub Par records and the show itself, was that we would send a kid or a teen with #N/A to the awards ceremony on a plane, and when he came into the studio to talk to us, we were instantly intrigued.  When we heard “Beside Me” on the radio, we thought of someone who, well, looked somewhat romantic, and what we got was a friendly but not particularly handsome person, balding, and we thought it would look bad to have just him and a kid show up.  To his credit, he agreed with us, and said that we could send one of our radio crew as well so that there was always some kind of witness that nothing was going wrong.  Eventually we agreed that was a good idea, and were quite pleased when he talked on the interviews they had about how it was important to protect children.  He talked about how it was like to dress up as a pedobear for the video of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and the  tensions that existed between our sexualization of teenagers and our encouragement of them to explore themselves and their desires and the difficulties this presents for adults whose feelings about this are often complicated.  It was a really good conversation, and I began to understand why it was that this person didn’t want the attention, but that he used it for good purposes.  It was quite a surprise to see him as he was instead of how I had imagined him to be, that’s for sure.

***

I remember how it felt when we talked with him after we knew who he was.  He was always very gracious and well-spoken, but he was also a person whose thoughts and opinions were not the kind we were used to hearing.  When we would talk to him in larger panels he would ask questions thoughtfully and politely and then spring logical contradictions on people and he had a way of making people feel really uncomfortable.  It was weird, because it’s not as if he was unfriendly as a person, it’s just that he tended to feel uncomfortable all the time, and he knew how to make others feel uncomfortable simply by treating others the way others had treated him, minus the contempt.  I found it fascinating to watch, and it gave me a lot to think about.  I suppose that since I won’t be able to talk to him anymore the fact that it was so thought-provoking will have to do.  I know we disagreed with each other a lot, but at the same time I was really glad that he was so well-spoken, as it made it a pleasure to cross swords with him in genuine debate.  It’s such a rare thing for someone to disagree very strongly with someone but also to be articulate about where the disagreements lie.  In disagreeing with him I learned things about myself I never would have learned otherwise.  There aren’t many balladeers who can have that kind of effect on others.

***

Yeah, I remember how it was when we found out that our coworker was a bit star.  It was definitely an uncomfortable moment.  We had been making fun of the song for quite a while, and he was his usual quiet person doing his own thing, and then we found out that our coworker had made the song and was a multi-millionaire, and it was super uncomfortable.  In fact, it was so uncomfortable that the discovery of his moonlighting as a singer/songwriter and his interviews after the fact pretty much meant that he would no longer be working with us.  But at least I can say I used to work with a big star.

***

Yeah, knowing who #N/A was was not a good moment for me.  I think it gave me a point of view of fame that I didn’t want to have.  It made me realize that the sort of jokes I had always made now had someone who felt them personally and was precisely the sort of person who would be likely to respond in a way I didn’t like.  I had already known him well enough to realize that he didn’t just take things but that he would turn them into motivation for reflection or response, and that the response would be public and well-thought and that I wasn’t going to like what he had to say, and that I knew what was said would be directed at some level at me.

***

What do you do when you’re no longer anonymous?  I suppose that’s a hard question to answer, but I would have liked to have been anonymous for longer.  I mean, few people have the chance to really do what they want to do without everyone else knowing about it, but I suppose that kind of opportunity never lasts.  There is a sort of quid pro quo that happens with stars.  On the one hand, we get a lot of money and influence because of our celebrity status.  People care about where we go, what we eat and drink, and who we choose to spend our time with.  They care about our opinions, at least when they agree with them, or want to club us about being brainless celebrities who shouldn’t have opinions at all.  But at the same time, with that influence and prestige comes a heavy price in that we lose a lot of privacy.  People don’t always handle the scrutiny of fame very well.  It doesn’t help that most celebrities are somewhat damaged people.  If we don’t come from difficult backgrounds that we are actively striving to overcome, the machine of celebrity status damages us all easily enough.  There is always pressure on you to act in a certain way, and people try to exploit their power to gratify their own lusts, and all that causes damage.  And we, as celebrities, often do the same thing ourselves, and so we spread our damage around as well.  Whether we are drinking to excess or using drugs to self-medicate, whether we hide in a studio like a recluse recording material because we don’t want to go outside and face an unfriendly world, we are all damaged in particular ways, and we simply have to choose whether that damage works for the good or not.  You don’t get to choose the fact that you’re damaged, though.

***

I remember what it was like to debate #N/A and I have to tell you, it was a fun experience.  He would keep you on your toes, and I respect that.  The fact that he genuinely wasn’t trying to make anyone else look bad helped out too.  I’m not sure where he got his ideas about allowing others to save face, and I never asked him.  I won’t have the chance to ask him now, though, and I think that’s a shame.  There was a lot more inside of him that we never got to see, and I’m going to really miss that.  We missed some really good opportunities to get to know him deeply personally.  We were just scratching the surface of what he had to offer and now there’s no more time left.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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One Response to Portland Anonymous: Fragment Seven

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Portland Anonymous Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

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