“It has been said that you should never try to meet your heroes, lest they be found to have feet of clay.” Madison Magazine, volume 31, part 2 (1989).
I’ve heard this before, and I have to say, I disagree. If you meet your heroes, and are truly disappointed, the problem is more likely with you than it is with them. The pedestal that you put them on was simply too high. You built them up into a superhuman whose shoes they could never fill. By all means, meet your heroes, but go into the encounter with no expectations. That way you’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised.
In the early 2000’s my wife and I, and my friend and his girlfriend, went to see Jekyll and Hyde on broadway in New York. At the time the lead role was being played by Sebastian Bach, formerly of the band Skid Row. He was the main reason that I had wanted to see this particular play. If you are my age and aren’t familiar with Skid Row your youth was not what it should have been. How could you be a teenager without hearing 18 And Life or Slave To The Grind or, most importantly, Youth Gone Wild? I’m sorry you missed it. You can still jam to Youth Gone Wild now but when you’re rapidly approaching forty something, songs about being “another misfit kid” in “another burned out town” just don’t carry as much weight as they did when you were fifteen. Anyway. We went to the play and it was awesome. Sebastian’s larger than life vocals were a perfect fit for the composition and subject matter. During the closing applause my friend and I caused enough ruckus that the elderly woman behind us had to lean in next to her husband and explain to him, “He’s a rock and roll star, dear.” The theater patrons emptied out onto 45th street and most of them went their separate ways. We chose to stick around with a group of about thirty other people to wait and see if we could meet the cast. One by one they came out. Autographs were signed and hands were shaken. Finally Sebastian came out. And,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, He was the nicest guy you could ever meet. He signed every autograph and posed for every picture. I told him that I had taken my wife to see him at the Birch Hill Night Club in New Jersey and that it was her first concert. He asked if we had seen the play. My buddy emphatically told him, “Sebastian you never turned your back on rock n’ roll.” To which he excitedly replied, “That’s right brother.” He then got into a limo and, in true rock n’ roll fashion, popped out of the sunroof as it drove away.
I’ve met other well known people whose work I enjoy. They haven’t all been personable. Take Tom Ridge, former head of the Department of Homeland Security, for example. Most of them, though, have been really nice. Especially former Phillies first baseman, John Kruk. He was great. That same buddy that I went to the play with and I met him at a Philadelphia Eagles game. He was shorter than I expected and slightly inebriated. John is from a small town in West Virginia called Keyser. I told him that I was also from West Virginia. He signed my ticket stub and told me that his brother still lived there and wished me “Good luck down there in West Virginia.” I hadn’t lived there since I was eight, but I really appreciated the sentiment.
Legend has it that once upon a time, the great Jimmy Stewart was staying at a hotel, and when the bellhop brought his bags he said, “Mr. Stewart, this may not mean much to you, but I really enjoy your movies.” Jimmy turned to him and said, “No, you’re wrong. It means everything to me.”
Your heroes are just people, like you. Meet them. More often than not, it will be a good experience. Unless your hero is Michael Jordan. I hear he’s a real piece of work.