April 23, 2006

Thomas Dolby Rocks.

Tonight the gang and I (not to be confused with "Cool and the Gang") went to go see Thomas Dolby at the Fenix here in Seattle. I've never been to the Fenix, as I'm not a huge club-goer (shocking!) and I actually haven't been to a concert since, uh, Pink Floyd in 1989.

It's a pretty small venue, and there was apparently another, much louder band downstairs. Still, it was a great show. Thomas (and I think I can call him Thomas, because, uh, he doesn't read this and thus can't complain) really does have the funk.

It was pretty strange to watch him up on stage, with hundreds of adoring fans, because, you know, I've met him and talked to him a couple times. It's not like I'd pretend he's my friend; in fact, if anything, I'd say he probably finds me kind of annoying, since every year I try to start conversations with him at TED and he's always trying to escape to the other side of the room. (I'd like to point out, in his defense, I'm usually kind of drunk and my conversations are all, like, "Hey, ever think about making more music?" which I'm sure he never gets.)

So I thought about that tonight, as I swayed to his phat beats and clapped and hollered myself hoarse... here I am, enjoying myself to the tunes by someone who I actually know doesn't particularly like me. Ok, that sounds conceited, let me back up a bit.

My friend Mike said something really smart about someone we know who acts irrationally a lot: "Remember, he's the star of his movie." Each of us is. We have a movie of our lives going on in our heads, and we're always the star. I'm Peter in Family Guy, not Quagmire. I'm Samuel L. Jackson in every movie he's ever made, and Michael Caine in every movie that's left. I don't understand why I don't always get the girl and solve the crime, because I'm the star, dammit.

I think when we worship celebrities it's because we think, "Damn, I could hang with him! He'd like me! We'd have some beers, talk about chix..." But what do you do when you've met the celebrity and he pretty much was nonplussed with you?

Don't get me wrong... it's totally his or anyone else's right to not like me. I'm not mad at him about this. It just leaves me in this odd situation -- here's a person I've worshipped forever; how do I reconcile that with his disinterest once I've met him?

My favorite bit from the movie "Adaptation" was where the neurotic twin tells the fat twin how the girl that the fat one had had a crush on in high school always laughed at the fat one behind his back... the fat one said, "I know." Why did you continue to love her, then? The answer, and I have to paraphrase, was that his love wasn't contingent on it being returned; because that's not love.

So, Thomas Dolby rocked. And I enjoyed his show, and thought he was awesomely cool. And, sure, there's part of me that still thinks, if I really got to know him, he'd want to hang with me.

But, if not, that's ok. He's allowed his privacy. I'll still go to his concerts, because he's a great musician, and he speaks to me, and that's what matters.



Anonymous Ross Hetherington said...

Pink Floyd in 1989. you say Great! Woo Great gig.

April 23, 2006 2:35 AM

Anonymous Colin D. Devroe said...

I'm pretty sure, no no - I'm pretty much positive, that these same feelings could be directed at you - for those out there that consider you a "celebrity".

I consider celebrities normal people with public jobs. Most of them do not like the public eye, the attention of the fans, etc. - but they love the money.

Glad you got out to a show.

April 23, 2006 1:14 PM

Anonymous John Galt said...

The line from "Adaptation" that you refer to is - "You are what you love, not what loves you."

It _is a great line - or the stalker manifesto, depending.


April 23, 2006 2:41 PM

Anonymous Chris Clark said...

I'm a white, middle-class, straight male who has never snorted blow off of a hooker's ass... right away I'm superficially dissimilar to 90% of the artists and authors I admire. It wouldn't surprise me if I had nothing in common with any of them, but I love them all the same.

As disappointing as the reality is, I think you realize that you're nothing like your heroes when you find lists of their favorite bands, movies, and books. That's when it hits home that they're completely different from the persona you constructed for them. It turns out they're real people.

April 23, 2006 5:42 PM

Anonymous Jean-Michel Durand said...

How do I reconcile this article with the fact that you are a celebrity amongst some of the people I hang out with, that you'd probably think I'm cool and that I'd like to buy you a beer sometime to talk about chix and stuff?

Is this some sort of weird socially recursive thing with a broken exit condition?

April 23, 2006 11:36 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Actually, I have spoken to Thomas a bit on stuff and life; he told me of his great fondness for the Jaguar he used to have back in Britain. I read his blog about his studio in a shack and his love for his son, and I offered him assistance if he ever wants help with his OS X projects.

So, in fact, I know he doesn't do a lot of blow or experience a lot of hookers. He's a Mac programmer and car enthusiast, like me, he's just, you know, also a really great musician.


In terms of me being a mini-celebrity, the thing is that in my normal life nobody thinks of me that way or could be convinced of it even if I tried. I actually told a pretty barista once that I had a lot of readers for my blog, and she crinkled her nose up and said, essentially, there must be a lot of nerds in the world.

Sure, this is kind of an insult to you, but imagine what she thinks of me: I'm the nerd guru.

At any rate, I'm pretty easy to approach at WWDC or whatever -- when I go to a conference it's to meet people. Last year I gathered a huge number of people to go out for drinks on me, and even adopted a new intern.

April 24, 2006 1:55 AM

Blogger Melia M. said...

huhu I'm pretty sure that being a nerd will be the next "cool way to be" soon enough..

*Proud to be a nerd since 1984* ;)

April 24, 2006 7:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wil, the use of a really small font size was hilarious. My girlfriend is still wondering why on Earth I'm still laughing so loud. Really funny :)
And to think I come here seeking Cocoa advice :)

April 24, 2006 12:21 PM

Anonymous Chris Espinosa said...

At MacWorld in 1996 (the infamous GilNote) I was having lunch at Clouds, the restaurant above Moscone Center. It was crowded and I was alone at a two-top. The waitroid asked me if he could seat another single at my table, and I (occupied with writing my presentation on my Newton MessagePad 2100) said, "Sure."

Thomas Robertson (as his badge read) sat down, opened his show guide, and perused it. I did my work, he did his, we exchanged normal show-goer smalltalk. I certainly knew who he was, and he may have known who I was, but we treated each other respectfully as strangers sharing a table.

I have extremely minor fame, but know several very-famous people (like the Steves) and I appreciate how they value Not Being Noticed.

Thanks for the anecdote.

April 24, 2006 3:02 PM

Anonymous superfunkomatic said...

at least he didn't actually "blind you with science". maybe he's far enough removed from "stardom" to just be plain annoyed by the "starstruck"

April 25, 2006 4:22 PM

Blogger Chris Foresman said...

Clearly there are tons of nerds that read this blog, since no one even noticed you were trying to refer to Kool & the Gang, not “Cool and the Gang”.

April 26, 2006 8:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a celebrity to me!

April 29, 2006 8:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of concerts and great musicians who don't go for drugs and hookers, I got to see Rush at the Concord pavillion in 2002 (thanks, Gale!)

Dolby's been to WWDC, hasn't he?


April 30, 2006 1:57 AM

Anonymous Mark Whybird said...

Funny - I just came from reading this observation about posting without reading other comments, and then I read this article and these comments... Thinking that jcr (above) hadn't read Chris Espinosa's comment.

Then I re-read, and saw that that was MacWorld, not WWDC. DOH!

April 30, 2006 9:06 PM

Anonymous Thomas Dolby said...

I have never spoken with you.

May 16, 2006 6:27 PM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...


The _REAL_ Thomas Dolby has spoken with me at TED 2005 and TED 2006. At 2005 I came up on stage and offered to assist with any Mac OS X programming he was doing, because at the time he was concentrating on "visualizing" data using sound, with a new company he had started.

I also walked by him and whistled "Hyperactive" and he smiled and said, "EVERYONE DOES THAT!"

We also looked at the cool GM prototype cars together and talked the guy showing them into starting one up, and Thomas talked about his old Jaguar.

At 2006 I saw him the night before the conference eating fish and chips at the Monterey Crown and Anchor, and asked him if he liked his Blackberry (he did not, really) and said hi and then let him eat.

Later on in the conference I drunkenly suggested at one of the parties that he should release an album of remixes, after he did the incredible live remix of Sledgehammer.


So, although I'm not BFFs with Thomas Dolby, he certainly has spoken with me. Probably wouldn't recognize my name, though.

May 16, 2006 6:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next time why don't you bring up Howard the Duck....

July 16, 2006 3:00 AM

Blogger Wil Shipley said...

Howard the Duck? What about it?

[I should admit I saw that movie five or so times, even though it was so bad, because I had a crush on the girl in it.]

July 16, 2006 3:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmm.. Lea Thompson

July 27, 2006 9:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Dolby did the music for Howard the Duck...

July 29, 2006 1:21 PM


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