Monday, November 06, 2006

Celebrities Are People, Too

Knowing that my sister, a new mother, is far too busy to be attentive to celebrity gossip, I took it upon myself to email her a news story about Neil Patrick Harris, who at 16 years of age gained fame as Doogie Howser, M.D.

The story reported that Harris, now 33, has come out of the closet. As the Washington Post put it today:

Doogie Howser is gay -- and he wants to quash recent reports that he has denied it. Neil Patrick Harris, 33, recently told People magazine: "The public eye has always been kind to me and until recently I have been able to live a pretty normal life. Now it seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships. So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love."
The reason I thought she might be interested in the story is that I have in a frame on my wall a photograph my sister sent me about 15 years ago. As I recall the story of how it came to be, Cathy and some of her friends were at a Hollywood-area restaurant when they ran into Neil Patrick Harris and a friend of his in the parking lot. So they all posed for a picture:

(My sister, Cathy, is on the far right in the Mickey Mouse shirt -- a nice touch, considering she now works for Disney. Neil is the tall one, second from right, and a pre-Blade Stephen Dorff is to his left.)

The friend turned out to be Stephen Dorff, who at the time was starring in a syndicated TV show called "What a Dummy". (As explained by, "The premise of the show was the discovery of a wisecracking ventriloquist dummy named Buzz, who had been locked away in a trunk for 50 years.") Dorff played 16-year-old "Tucker Brannigan" in the short-lived (24-episode) series.

At the time the picture was taken, Neil Patrick Harris was in the middle of his long run (1989-93) as a teenage prodigy physician, but his career was just beginning.

In reply to my email, my sister noted that this was not the last time she encountered young Mr. Harris:
I met Neil again like *gosh* 8 years ago maybe, at Alyssa Milano's house. We played Taboo together or something. He was doing Rent at the time. VERY nice guy. I love love love him on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. Now this will be interesting as he is hysterical as the womanizer on that show. Wonder if this news will affect anything.
In a follow-up, she mentioned the sort of trivia that only real fans would want to know -- how Alyssa Milano found her house.

She didn't remember who else had been at the party, but was certain they played board games. As to what she calls "Alyssa's GIANT mansion," it had years earlier belonged to Tyne Daly and her husband, actor-director Georg Stanford Brown. According to Cathy, "my friend Kat" -- their daughter, actress Kathryne Nora Brown -- was Alyssa Milano's roommate at the time and "heard the mansion went on the market so Alyssa bought it." She adds:
Must be nice huh? Alyssa was NOTHING but nice. Hope she still is. Again haven't seen any of them in 8 years.
There's a (possibly apocryphal) story about an exchange between Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. When Fitzgerald said, "The rich are different than you and me," Hemingway drily retorted: "Yes, they have more money."

It's the same with celebrity. A person might be starring in a Broadway musical and go to parties hosted in a Hollywood Hills mansion owned by a TV star, but everyone ends up playing board games -- just like the rest of us in Middle America do.

That said, the choice of board game may say a lot about the players: Monopoly? Scrabble? Scruples? Taboo? Trivial Pursuit?

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