Movie legend walks among us

Published on January 15, 2016

A few years ago I discovered I am a major celebrity, at least in the view of one great local sketch comedian, Graham Putnam. Celebrity comes to us all at some point in our lives, whether it be through a head table at a wedding, a local media interview, or a stunningly popular Facebook posting involving a moving, yet hilarious, pussy-cat photo.

My number one fan, Graham Putnam, did not always walk the streets of Charlottetown in awe of me and my greatness. Indeed, for the decade or two of our friendship/acquaintance, a line which most relationships on the Island straddle, I was just some other schmo to Graham. Just some guy on the street that, when he passed me by, we spoke for a minute or two, perhaps taking enough time to quickly and casually run down the reputation of some nominal Island celebrities who had made it into this paper on that day.

And then it happened. In one of these encounters I accidentally revealed to Graham that I had once been an extra in the movie, Police Academy 4, starring Steve Guttenberg and Bobcat Goldthwait.

If you don’t remember them, The Police Academy movies were heroic comedy adventures, if heroic and comedy are best defined as appealing to the basest of comic sensibilities of 12-year-old boys, which Graham was at the time of Police Academy 4’s release.

Fart jokes, pants falling down, relentless sexual innuendo and the lowest of low brow humour drive all the jokes. And since I had existed in that magical universe for a few seconds, as an extra playing basketball with Guttenberg and Goldthwait, who were expert on-screen farters and pant-droppers, I was, and now am a major celebrity to Graham.

So much so that now, when I pass Graham on the street, his pupils expand, and he extends to me the deference to which I deserve for having thrown a ball to a minor star in a crappy movie for $11 an hour.

We all have power needs, my old friend Maureen Larkin once pointed out to me a few years after I had fulfilled mine with my appearance on the silver-screen in a red basketball jump suit in a critically despised kiddie-comedy.

How we fulfil those power needs is what matters, healthily or otherwise. Witnessing last week’s curious sideshow of Hollywood celebrity Sean Penn’s Rolling Stone interview of the world’s biggest drug dealer, “El Chapo,” is an out-sized example.

For it turned out that the billionaire who is both a folk hero and a despised criminal, and one enormous celebrity, wanted more: He wanted Sean Penn and Hollywood to make a feature film of his life, presumably to fill some need for even more power. Running around on a basketball court with B-list actors would clearly not have been enough for either of them.

Some egos, it seems, are tempered by nothing, and just need to be fed-and-fed, making meals of anything, and anybody in their path. A little more Greek mythology might have saved El Chapo and El Seano from this misfire, in particular the lessons of the legend of Icarus perishing because of his egotistical journey took him too close to the sun. We are all made of wax in the end.

The Island, and those we pass on the street in any small constituency, may save many of us from these perils, for the simple fact that the details of each of our lives are known to so many. This lack of anonymity is lousy on one level, of course, but also celebrity endowing on another level. Each of our moments of humiliation and accomplishment are known far and wide by our Island acquaintances/friends, all of which adds up up to a minor celebrity status.

We are all a somebody. You are. I am. Graham Putnam is. And these days, oddly enough on the Island, Steven Guttenberg, not so much. At least on the Island.

Campbell Webster is a writer and producer of entertainment events. He can be reached at campbell@campbellwebster.ca