May 22, 2010

Stalking Steve Martin

I have had a writer crush on Steve Martin for about a decade now. It started when I moved to New York in 1999 and started reading The New Yorker in earnest. One day I was reading a “Shouts and Murmurs” essay and laughing out loud. I thought," who is this guy?" I looked at the byline and saw the name Steve Martin. I wondered if it bothered the author that he had the same name as the also funny actor. I didn’t realize the author of my favorite essays was Steve Martin, the actor, until a few years later when I read his 2002 piece, “The Death of My Father.” It was a personal history, and his being Steve Martin the actor was important to the piece. As the title says, it was about his father dying. It was sad and beautifully written. I wept as I read, wondering why it takes death to finally understand our parents. This brought up another feeling. To put it into words, it was, holy crap, not only can this guy make me laugh out loud, but also weep.

There are certain writers, whose books I have loved, that I don’t ever want to meet. And there are those that, after reading them, I believe that we would be great friends. Annie Dillard is one of these (I read An American Childhood over and over again). Wallace Stegner is another; he and I have the same love for the West—not a love like some people have for a lifestyle or a climate—but a love like a tree has for the earth it is planted in.

My desire to be the writer Steve Martin’s friend was crushed somewhat when I found out he was a celebrity. It is one thing to be a famous writer, it is another to be a famous actor. The primary difference being that famous writers don’t have to worry about people hiding in their shrubbery.

I could write a letter to most writers, even Annie Dillard and say, “Hey, I like your work and I have this feeling we’d be friends. Want to come to tea? Maybe do a reading at XYZ?” But because he has to worry about the shrubbery people, the same letter to Steve might make me sound like a stalker. It would be much trickier to sound normal. And since I would be so worried about not sounding like a stalker, I would probably sound like one. I know because I have several creepy unfinished drafts. So I am thinking, along the same logic, that if I go for stalker, I might sound normal. Not sure this thinking is sound.

Also, I couldn’t invite him to a party, because who knows how other guests might act. Ack. I realize now that the only way to proceed is for him to take me into his inner circle of writing friends. But I am not sure how that is going to happen considering that I still haven’t sent any of these letters, and that he is apparently somewhat shy and off-put by people who think they already know him.

I did meet him once at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. He signed three of my books. I’m guessing he doesn’t remember me, despite the fact that I slipped him a note that said, “I love you.” (I had to think fast and I only had two square inches of paper to write on.) I think it was probably misinterpreted. Sigh. I promise I don’t have a suit that looks like a geranium bush.

A few years ago I saw a guy with a bumper sticker that said, “Steve Martin is a personal friend of mine.” I followed him for about 4 days (okay just 4 miles), trying to figure out if it was true or a joke. I realize now it was a joke--from one of Steve’s old comedy routines. But is it a joke Steve would carry far enough to give bumper stickers out to his friends? I’m guessing no. But there are a lot of things I have yet to learn about Steve, when we meet. If we ever meet. However, at this point, I won’t be devastated if we never meet so long as he keeps writing.

Although, I suppose I could do with what he has already give me. There are few books I read over and over, and it may surprise you that Steve Martin is on the same list as JD Salinger, Annie Dillard, Wallace Stegner, F.Scott Fitzgerald, and Rilke, but it makes perfect sense to me. All of these writers have a tender-hearted quality that is difficult to describe. It was in the way Fitzgerald describes Gatsby, the way Stegner makes mountains feel like holy temples, the way Holden describes his kid sister, Phoebe, in The Catcher in the Rye, and in Steve Martin’s poetic descriptions of his native Los Angeles in “Hissy Fit.”

I would love for readers share the books you over and over. And feel free to share any Steve Martin stalking stories. Steve if you are reading this, I had nothing to do with the recent banjo incident.


  1. Then there was this profound play about Einstein meeting Picasso. I thought he was another dumb platinum blond actor until then. I may use a quote for a book I 'm supposed to be writing on creativity.

  2. OMG. That was a great play. I think I'll go re-read it.

  3. Felice, Steve seems to be quite adored by the ladies. Reminds me of a Joyce Maynard piece (who, incidentally, had a short relationship with JDS). Check it out:

  4. This makes me want to read something by Steve Martin - thanks for sharing.