How I became famous

Mistaken for some character actor, I played along – curious as to who I was meant to be.

The Hollywood celebrity for whom the author was mistaken.

Brentwood has gotten to be one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Rolls-Royces are so common along San Vicente Boulevard that nobody glances. Celebrities are an everyday sighting.

I worked hard to keep up with the rising cost of living on the Westside. I kept gaining weight because I spent so many hours at my computer. At some point I noticed that people were staring at me, often giving me those double takes. The box boys at the supermarket spoke to me with respect – and when you get respect from a box boy, he must think you're really important. People were mistaking me for somebody else. But who? There weren't that many possibilities. It had to be somebody who weighed close to 300 pounds and wore a full beard.

I enjoyed the way people would suddenly turn to look at me as if I wore wings. Nobody mentioned my name, but naturally they assumed I knew who I was. I could hardly ask, "By the way, who am I?" Nobody asked for my autograph. That might have enabled me to learn my name. Of course, I could have simply confessed that I wasn't who they thought I was, but I wouldn't have wanted to disappoint them. Besides, I was afraid of being taken for an imposter and treated with appropriate contempt.

As a result of being in the public eye, I began to dress better. I wore slacks and a blazer. I kept my shoes shined. I changed shirts every day. I had my hair cut and my beard trimmed every other week. After all, there is such a thing as noblesse oblige.

The more I changed, the more second looks I received. From en­joying the attention, I began to crave it. I was only getting my just deserts. I'd always felt I was somebody special. Don't we all? Now others were finally realizing it.

How do all those other people get to be celebrities? Somebody once said that a celebrity is a person who is famous for being famous. Maybe it's possible to become a celebrity just by acting like one.

But who did people think I was? I must have been a movie star, or at least a television personality – not a real superstar but a prominent supporting actor. The only such person I could think of was Sebastian Cabot, who appeared in many Hollywood productions but was best known for playing Mr. French, the butler who looked after Buffy and Jody in the television show "Family Affair." But somehow that identity didn't feel right.

Then one evening I was sitting at a bus stop in Westwood Village when two young men in an old car with Minnesota license plates nose-dived to a stop right in front of me. Both ducked their heads and swiveled their necks to look up at me with that expression I had come to recognize as a tribute to my talent and success. One of them said, "Hello, Dom!" His foxy tone suggesting that they had outed me in spite of my trying to remain incognito on a bus stop bench – as if I didn't have my own chauffeur-driven limo.

So that was who I was! Once I visualized that well-known comedian and character actor, I realized I couldn't have been anybody else. I gave my young fans a big celebrity grin and said, "Hello, boys!" I waved one hand with a welcome-to-Hollywood gesture they would be talking about for years.

I also realized that it was time to go on a diet. I ate more salads and vegetables. I laid off the carbohydrates. I walked a couple of miles every day. When I had lost about 40 pounds, I shaved off my beard. I had only grown it to hide my double-chins. I didn't realize that my barber had actually been trying to make me look like the portly Dom DeLuise.

I waited for my clients to ask, "What did you do to yourself?" But nobody even noticed a change. I had melted back into the general population.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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