I’m a bright-eyed 19 year-old kid enrolled in the New York Film Academy’s summer program in Los Angeles. I’m in Hollywood making short films at a school that uses the Universal Studios back-lots as their classroom. And I’m shitting in my pants with excitement.
That was the year Steven Soderbergh was nominated for Best Director for Traffic and Erin Brockovich. In fact, Soderbergh’s offices were in the same building… the same floor as the New York Film Academy’s classrooms. It was, in a sense, Ground Zero for Oscar winning filmmaking.
While my family was off vacationing in Austria that summer, seeing such landmarks as the city of Vienna or Hitler’s chill out spot in the Alps… I was here slaving away doing what I love.
And on that specific summer day I was editing my short film by hand; cutting and taping a work print in the Steenbeck machine in order to tell my story. After hours of working, I took a well-deserved break and went the restrooms.
When I entered the bathroom, I quickly discovered that a gentleman was taking a laborious Blitzkrieg-of-a-shit in the stall. Oh man did it smell.
I quickly did my business and was washing my hands when…
CLICK CLICK. The stall door opened and…
HE stepped out.
HE that won an Oscar for Best Director.
HE that was Directorial Gold in Hollywood.
Mr. Ocean’s 11 himself… Mr. Steven Soderbergh ladies and gentlemen! …A “celebrity” to any aspiring American film student at the time.
As Rick says in the 1942 film Casablanca, “Of all the shit stalls, in all the towns, in all the world, he walks into mine”. Steven casually stepped up to the sink and washed his hands. He then gave me an annoyed “Hey” and walked out.
I was probably staring.
I stood there trying to comprehend what had just happened. I had just shared a most humanizing and smelly moment with Steven Soderbergh. This was weird...
That bright-eyed goofy kid was no longer in Kansas... He was in the 1st floor bathroom of an office building.
Something died that day. For me, it was the awe of being around someone famous... celebrities were no longer celebrities now. There were real people... with real indigestion problems.
Please keep in mind that there is a distinction between “people you admire” and “famous people”-- I'm talking mostly in the “famous” sense-- people that you don’t necessarily admire for their accomplishments but rather are aware of them because of their fame. In essence, people that often grace the cover of tabloids.
At the time, Steven Soderbergh was a little of both. Someone I definitely admired, but mostly someone famous that I just knew about.
However, to be completely honest, the awe of celebrities had been slowly dying in me for some time. While in undergrad, I ran a student run television station (SRTV) that did interviews with bands that played at our school for the music festivals. In fact, according to people I worked with at the time, UCSD had one of the largest budgets for music events of any university in the country.
I met a lot of bands during my time there. Some of them were considered “washed out” (like Vanilla Ice, Tone Loc, 2 Live Crew, to name a few) but also many that were in the caliber of top ten bands on MTV. The type of bands that played on “TRL” and had screaming girls yelling their name out in front of millions of television viewers.
I specifically remember one band in particular asking me after an interview, “Hey do you know any girls?”
Let’s keep in mind, I WAS A FUCKING DORK. I WAS NOT COOL. Which girls, that these guys would be interested in, WOULD I POSSIBLY KNOW? These guys were desperate.... kinda like me..?
The photo below will help illustrate my point.
|Warren G and "some guy"|
I chose this photo in particular due to the fact of my apparent cluelessness. Please note my Abercrombie shirt juxtaposed with Warren G’s “Gangster for Life (GFL)” shirt.
So who put the final nail in the coffin and killed the celebrity, you ask?
It was Mr. Soderbergh, in the Restroom, with the Indigestion.