Tuesday, March 23, 2004

As a Famous Author, you no doubt suspect that I make the rounds of New York society on a regular basis, signing autographs, getting photographed, and generally showering the bleakly untalented with the shimmering radiance of my celebrity.

And you would be correct.

However -- and I know this will shock you -- Famous Author-ing only accounts for approximately 8% of my before-tax income (which I manage to push to 10% of my post-tax income, if ya know what I mean.) And that means that I have to have a Day Job to keep me in the style to which I have grown accustomed.

Fortunately, by day I am a Famous Not-For-Profit Executive. True, that title does not roll off the tongue as easily as 'Famous Author,' but the size of the checks are nice.

The reason I'm mentioning this is because when one is a Famous Not-For-Profit Executive, one often finds oneself hobnobbing with the rich, popular, and powerful. In that, it is much like being a Famous Author. Except that you don't get an editor or have an agent snagging 15% of your earnings (although she also gets me into Page Six, so I'm not complaining.)

Which is my long way of setting up the situation I found myself in last night, when I unexpectedly ended up hanging out with Multimillionaire Actress-Singer Liza Minnelli and Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The event was the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a drug and alcohol outpatient counseling center for adolescents. When I walked in with my trusted sidekick (let's call him 'Bobby I', which is not his real name, but is his real nickname... oh, and that's the letter 'I', not a Roman numeral 'one'. He is not royalty.)

Er... where was I? Oh yes: Bobby I and I -- ("I and I"? That just gave me a headache. Hold on... let me start again.)

So we walked into the building and flashbulbs started to pop. I'm used to the treatment, but Bobby I used to be a cop, so he immediately reached for his ankle.

"Chill," I said. "It's probably just Patrick McMullan. Again."

I calmed him down, then turned to meet the press.

"Remember to spell it with a 'Y', boys," I said.

"Liza with a 'Y'?" asked a reporter.

"No. B-Y-R--"

"Who the hell are you?"

It was then I realized that the cameras and reporters weren't there for me. They were there for... other celebrities. Real celebrities. People who don't just declare themselves famous because they've written two books and learned to post messages on Blogger.

Shattered? You don't know the half of it.

What's worse: because this was a drug and alcohol rehab center, the reception was dry! Oh, there was Pellegrino and Diet Coke, but no real liquids. (And don't these people read? Don't they know how addictive Coke is?)

So I stood off to the side while photographers elbowed me trying to get a better angle of the former Mrs. Gest as she made her way into the packed room. Now, you and I might question the wisdom of bringing in the Queen of Relapse as a celebrity spokesmodel, but I guess it works for them. Anyway, shortly after Liza made her entrance, His Honor appeared to snip the ceremonial ribbon, and once again I was squished [ed. - that's a technical term of art] against a wall.

There I was -- not only a Famous Not-For-Profit Executive, but also a Famous Author... a two-fer, dammit -- and I was being ignored in favor of a Woman On The Verge and some random billionaire who also happens to be mayor of the capitol of the world. The indignity. The shame.

And to make matters worse, on his way out of the reception, Bloomberg brushed past me, but gladhanded Bobby I! I just wanted to cry.

For some reason, I can't find any news stories about this event in today's papers. But it happened. It really happened. I was snubbed in favor of Liza Minnelli and Michael Bloomberg last night, and life may never again be the same.

Because last night, I... I... I was Not Famous.

POSTSCRIPT: But you know what? Wait long enough, and everything comes around. After an hour or so, I left the party, wandering down East 58th Street to the nearest gay bar for a desperately-needed cocktail. As I pushed my way through the front door, I thought I heard a familiar voice... and I did. It was Liza, standing next to the piano and belting out "New York, New York," a half-empty tumbler of scotch sloshing in her jittery hand.

"Boo-boo!" she shouted, when she saw me. "Buy Mama another drink!"

I shook my head. "You're pathetic, Liza."

"You're mad because I'm drunk," she slurred, taking a wobbly step in my direction. "You don't know the pressure I'm under!"

"Sorry, Liza. I got you into rehab once, but you're no longer my responsibility." I turned my back to her and started to walk away.

"Don't call Liz Smith!!" she screamed. "Please!!"

My back still to her, I quietly said, "No promises."

Outside, the cold air was refreshing. I pulled a pack of Marlboro Lights from my pocket and lit up. A shadowy figure called to me from the dark recess of a brownstone stoop.

"Got a light, buddy?"

"Sure," I said, handing him the lighter. The flame flickered, illuminating his face, and I gasped. "Mister Mayor?"

Fitzgerald wrote that the rich were different than me, and especially you, and he was right. A few brief minutes on East 58th Street destroyed all my illusions, as the 'celebrities' showed their true faces. More importantly, lessons were learned. I may indeed be doubly-Famous, but by learning from the examples of others, I can avoid their fates.

And it may be awkward, but you, too, will soon get used to uttering the phrase, 'Famous-and-Beyond-Reproach Author Rob Byrnes.'