Posted on Tue Feb 11th, 2014 6:41pm PDT
Tuesday at the X17online offices started like any other -- I had written about Kim Kardashian's massive butt, yet again chatted with my coworkers about Justin Bieber's sizzurp-tastic meltdown, and written about the death of 1930s film icon. All in all: it was a typical day in celeb news. However as my work day was coming to a close, that rapscallion Shia LaBeouf sent Los Angeles (and my office) aflame when news hit that he put up art installation in which he was apparently in a store front in West Hollywood, letting people in one at a time to speak to him.
Being the plucky X17online writer that I am (and because I LOVE a good story), I offered my services and said I would be willing to check out this sure-to-be sh*t show.
All I knew was this: a man who may or may not be Shia LaBeouf (because was wearing a paper bag on his head that said, "I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE") was sitting at a table, palms down, in an empty room -- and allowing people in until 6 pm today (and every day until Sunday) to laugh at him, berate him, hug him -- whatever, in an apparent attempt to apologize for his past actions (i.e. plagiarism, Twitter rants, etc ...). Umm ... what?! How could I pass this up?! It was too weird to miss!
I drove to the storefront and got into the line that was about 20 people strong at that point. As I stood among a sea (or small lake, rather) of strangers, I talked to people who had gone in and those who were waiting their turn. The overwhelming response from those who had gone in was this: "That was so weird!" The majority of the bystanders seemed to be other bloggers, tourists and the occasional older, confused person who just seemed like he or she wanted to see what the cool kids were up to.
As more and more media and camera crews showed up and started filming the scene, I stood in line and thought of my appearance, concerned that I wasn't wearing my most capable looking outfit and that I had left the house without any eyeliner (a rookie mistake).
While waiting, people talked about what they were going to say. One girl put on bright red lipstick so she could kiss him (but got too scared to do it when the time came) another girl wanted to give him her phone number (she did), one guy just wanted to get the hell out of there but had to stay because of work. I joked with some of the members of the media, who were former coworkers of mine, that I was there because I needed a boyfriend ASAP since Valentine's Day is coming up. A few people laughed. I was confident in my joke-riddled plan to ask Shia to be my Valentine.
This wasn't a serious thing -- so I wasn't going to take it seriously. Security had warned me I could not record anything and that no photos were allowed -- I told them that's fine -- since Shia and I were going to fall in love, so I would eventually be able to get all the photos I wanted of him.
After what felt like an eternity (okay an hour and a half), it was finally my turn. By this time I had a paper bag over my head on which I had crudely written, "I WAS NEVER FAMOUS IN THE FIRST PLACE." If he wasn't going to show his face -- neither was I. Before stepping into the office, I, paper bag on head, turned to the crowd and yelled, "I am doing it!" They cheered back. This was going to be hilarious!
Click thru to see read about the meeting with Shia ...
As the mysterious woman led me into the room, I could barely see through the rudimentary eye slits that I had poked through the bag just moments before. She led me past a black curtain and then suddenly there was a man in a tuxedo, palms placed strategically down, sitting down at a small table with an empty chair across from it -- with a paper bag on his head. I sat down immediately and said nothing. I let out a huge sigh and continued to stare. Tears began to well up in his eyes and stream down his face. We both sat in silence for minutes, all that was audible was my nervous breathing.
After a few loaded minutes of staring at each other, I finally spoke. Trying to muster words, I said, "Will you take off your bag?" He complied. As did I. The physical masks were off and suddenly, a mere two feet away, was an actor I had been watching since we were both teenagers. But I didn't really care. I didn't care that he had starred in blockbuster movies (that I didn't particularly care for), that he made a movie where you saw his d*ck, that he was on a Disney show that I used to like, that he kept doing seemingly insane things like skywriting apologies, that he kept tweeting out nonsense, that Marina Abramovic had done something very similar at MoMA and that maybe this was just another one of his digs at plagiarism -- the only thing that mattered was what was directly in front of me -- another human being. And that the person sitting just inches in front of me was looking for a connection. So was I. So I connected. I looked at him, at his face. His hair looked to me like it had been shaved and it was growing out. His skin looked tan and his eyes puffy. There were tears streaming down his face -- neon orange earplugs protruded from his ears, one of them I noticed was falling out. I stared into the eyes of a stranger as he stared back at me. And after a few minutes of this dance between us, bags still off, I began to speak again -- quietly and somberly with lengthy pauses between sentences, taking in everything I could.
As I sat at the flimsy wooden table, I heard my voice escape from my chest and run away on its own: I told him that he looked sad, and that I had come because I thought what he was doing would be funny to me -- he said nothing. I told him that my job was writing about people like him -- but I told him that right then and there it didn't feel funny -- he said nothing. I told him that I was pretty sure I thought he was crazy but that it didn't feel crazy sitting there in the empty room and that he seemed a person in pain -- he said nothing.
At one point, I looked at his left hand and saw where one of his fingers had been mangled in a highly-publicized car crash. I asked him if I could touch his hand -- he said nothing. I touched his hand. I told him that I wondered if he wished he could speak to people during this project and that I wondered what he wanted to say -- he said nothing. I told him that I might mock this later but right now at this very instance, connecting with another person made sense, that nothing about this seemed insane or irrational, that it was beautiful and simple. I told him that I wondered what he thought because his ear plug had all but fallen out -- so I knew he was listening to everything I said. I told him that I hoped other people would not be cruel to him and that I wondered what he was getting out of doing this -- he said nothing.
Then I broke open the bottle of Jack Daniels, had a sip and offered him a swig (cups weren't part of the deal) -- he said nothing. Before I left, I looked into his eyes and asked if I could hug him. I stood up, moved around the table and embraced him, fully expecting him to remain motionless as I put my arms around him. But as I came closer towards him, he moved his body towards me, opened up his arms and embraced me. As I felt the warmth of his body, his tuxedo pressed against me, his arms remained around me. I touched the back of his head and whispered "good luck" -- but still he said nothing. And I left.
He may have said nothing during a brief encounter, but he didn't have to -- the words were irrelevant, his silence was everything.
Earlier today, I stood in line for an hour and a half so I could make jokes about Shia LaBeouf -- because that's what I do. I get paid to do it. I have been paid for 5 years to mock the misdeeds of the famous. But today was nothing like what I expected -- he was nothing like I expected. He was beautiful and vulnerable -- and so was the experience.
-- An anonymous and grateful X17online writer
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