Have you ever run into a celebrity before? You know, either just walking down the street and a star walks right past you, or you’re chilling in some restaurant and you notice a famous person walk in?
Okay, cool. Table that thought.
Now think about your absolute favorite famous person in the world. It can be anyone, your hometown hero. Your celebrity crush. Whoever. Kobe, Messi. Emma Watson. Just think of someone. Not some generic, “oh yeah, Jennifer Lawrence is a riot, I totally get why people like her.” No. Think of someone you worship. The celebrity you’d make a deal with the devil to be with. The athlete whose sweat you’d drink just for the off-chance you could somehow just taste what greatness was like.
So then what if you got to meet your idol/crush the same way you ran into whatever other celebrity in real life? We all dream about this at some point of our lives. “What would it be like to finally meet that person?” “Man, I bet we’d hit it off and be friends, and stay in touch forever and ever.” “I wonder if she’d remember me afterwards.” “I wonder if he’d think I’m cool.” It’s happened right? You know the feeling?
Well let me tell you something, the whole thing’s fucked. Don’t ever ruin it for yourself like that. Having that kind of experience traumatized me, and it happened TWICE.
I was a Bulls fan as a kid. My grandparents had a place in the suburbs of Chicago, and those were the Jordan years. Michael Jordan was what hooked me into basketball, and to me, Michael Jordan WAS basketball.
My earliest NBA memories are going to the old Chicago Stadium and hearing “We Will Rock You” blasting in the arena’s audio. Growing up in New York mattered not. I couldn’t have cared less about the Knicks and the fact that the Bulls were their rivals. Back in those days, “Bulls fan” was just as much if not more a part of my identity than the black spot of my Knicks fandom is on my present day self.
So surely, SURELY, you’d think I’d have gone nuts at the opportunity to be close proximity with, speak to, or at least get the autograph of His Airness, right?
It was Christmas Day (how dramatic, right?) and my family was out to dinner. My Christmas gift had been tickets to a Bulls game, which as far as I know, ended with a Bulls win. I no longer remember the year, or the name of the restaurant, but I remember it was later at night and I was bored. So then, who else walks in, of course, but Michael Jordan and his entourage. I shit you not. I didn’t even recognize him at first, but there he was. I scrambled for a pen and piece of paper, and after some fumbling around my mother’s purse, found some acceptable tools.
So this is the part of the story where my mom or dad takes bright eyed little Greg over to the basketball messiah for an autograph right? That’s what I thought was going to happen. I looked at my mom and waited expectantly. No dice.
“You have to go by yourself, we’re not going to take you over there.” I wasn’t even in first grade yet, I clearly didn’t know how to curse, but if I had to describe the sentiment it would have been something along the lines of “WHAT THE FUCK, MOM.”
I don’t remember much else. I remember feelings of despair. As every minute passed and as my family finished dinner and prepared to leave, the fear settled in and the desperation grew, but it was never enough to overtake the deficit of courage in my bones.
I have the worst fucking parents man, I should write about how America and Korea don’t love me because they didn’t help me get Michael Jordan’s autograph.
How frustrating is that though, in retrospect. The greatest basketball player of all time sitting in the same room and I have absolutely nothing to show for it but this story. As long as I learned my lesson and was traumatized enough to build up some freaking courage for if/when I ever found myself in a similar situation, right?
I make no secret of how much I adore Girls’ Generation. I self-identify as a SONE (the name for Girls’ Generation fans) to people who are familiar with K-Pop, and don’t really bother to hide my fandom from those who are not. I don’t have the space left in this post to even begin describe to the uninitiated how I came to like them and to what lengths my fandom will go (this post’ll probably happen sooner or later when I have nothing better to talk about). You’ll just have to take my fanaticism at my word, if the random cameos of SNSD in my posts the past few weeks haven’t been enough.
Surely if I were to meet the girls I would have something prepared, right?
The year is 2012. I’m not a college student anymore, I’ve dated girls, I’ve broken up with them, I have a job now, part of the real world, so on and so forth… I’m supposed to have my shit together.
The point is, I’m not just some fanboy like the hordes of people on Twitter and Instagram, I’m a grown ass, liberal arts educated, young professional man who is also a fan. I’m not some teenager behind a computer monitor. I’m supposed to have my shit together.
Girls’ Generation are in New York for some random promotions related to an English single they’ve released, and by some stroke of ridiculous fortune and use of connections, my younger brother and I have found ourselves sitting in a near empty theatre, watching the girls rehearse before the taping of a prominent American TV show.
A staff member walks over. “So they’re wrapping up soon and we’re going to see if you guys can get a picture with them, is that cool?” Is that cool. Like my heart has never skipped that many beats before.
Moments later we’re standing in a hallway outside their dressing room and the girls start filing out for this glorious photo op. One by one. My brother has enough consciousness to sort of awkwardly bow and say “annyeonghasaeyo” (hello in Korean).
I, however, make eye contact with Yoona (pretty much the most beautiful girl in all of Korea, let’s be real). I’m stunned. I have been rendered completely dumb. Like stupid dumb. Like I don’t know how to even speak English anymore, let alone whatever terrible Korean is in my vocabulary. I have zero comprehension of what to do or say other than look around and wonder in wild disbelief whether what is actually happening is actually happening.
The staff introduces us as friends of the TV host, and motions us to get ready for a picture. My brother’s favorite member is Taeyeon, and only Taeyeon. Mine at the time are Tiffany, Jessica, and Yoona. We start shuffling into position to take the photo, but I’m too busy staring at my feet because god forbid I make eye contact again—I’ll probably turn into a vegetable, shit myself and die all at once.
I end up standing next to Taeyeon as we get ready for the picture. I of course, have no idea, because I’m lacking all coherence, so my brother literally has to push me to the side so he can line up next to her and so that I end up next to Jessica and Yoona.
We take the picture. The girls bow and say goodbye. I’m still shellshocked. We go back up to our seats and sit through the whole TV recording and the girls’ performance as feeling begins to come back into my veins.
As we leave the studio at the end of the recording, I start to feel the emptiness of another missed opportunity, and can’t help but think back to that cold Chicago night when I found myself walking away from Jordan empty handed.
It’s amazing what awe will do to you. I had this whole fantasy in my mind right up until the second I walked into that hallway. I had bought Knicks tickets earlier that day, and I was going to offer one to Tiffany. How often does a K-Pop star get to go to Madison Square Garden and see the Knicks play? Tell me that isn’t a goddamned unique experience I could have given her? (Ed. note: Uh… probably not that unique. — R.H.)
I had all these questions, I wanted to make an impression, I wanted to be friends, I wanted so much. But nope. Two seconds of eye contact with a girl who literally glowed with an aura of an angel sent from heaven, and I was just gone. No autographs. No handshakes. No hugs. Nothing. Just a photograph. Useless. The MJ situation brought out my cowardice, but this time it was just good old fashioned stupid.
I couldn’t watch any of their music videos or tv show appearances or anything involving them for months after that night. It was too depressing. It’s still depressing, sometimes. The only solace? At least next time I’ll have something to talk to Tiffany about.