Several years ago, my husband, Flip, and I flew to Portland, Maine, to visit my older daughter. While there, we went to lunch with E and her fiance, B, at a restaurant in nearby Kennebunkport.
E dragged me excitedly by the hand through the restaurant to our table on the deck overlooking many pleasure boats, one of which belonged to ex-President George H.W. Bush. He was at the table next to us with three guys dressed as fishing buddies who were probably Secret Servicemen, having an animated conversation over lunch.
Flip was seated back-to-back with the Elder Mr. Bush. Their chairs were about three inches apart, and I was across from him with a good view of the neighboring table as well.
It was chilly, so I went out to the car to get a sweater for myself and a flannel shirt for Flip. When I returned, I walked around to his side of the table to place the shirt around his shoulders. Flip is over 6'3" , while I am 5'1", so I had to lift my arms high to accomplish this, even though he was seated.
I was also suddenly inside Mr. Bush's personal space as his chair was so close to Flip's. With his peripheral vision, he saw a shape, much too close to him, with raised arms. He snapped his head toward me with a look of absolute horror on his face, quickly noted that I was no threat to him, and went back to his conversation.
In that moment, I realized that for the rest of his life, he would fear assassination. That all ex-Presidents and other public figures must be on guard wherever they go. It was also clear to both of us that if I HAD been there to kill him and willing to die, his Secret Servicemen would not have been able to prevent it.
I do not think that fame is worth the price of losing ones anonymity and peace of mind. When young, we often lust to be cultural icons of some kind, so well-known that people treat us like gods. Whether we hope to accomplish this through music, art, politics, or even modeling, it dangles a shiny lure for so many.
When we stop assuming that famous people are somehow better than the rest of us and that only the most accomplished rise to the top in any field, fame loses its luster. I have always believed that in the political sphere, the most dangerous seek power. Events, both recent and historic, would seem to bear this out, while some of the best minds and hearts of all time have not become well-known at all.
But until I scared George Bush senseless over lobster, I never realized that fame is also a trap from which there is no exit short of death. John Lennon, Anwar Sadat, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Ghandi, the list is endless.
Fame is not all it's cracked up to be.