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Celebrities in Panama

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Written by Matt   
Friday, 22 February 2008 08:07
"Don't look right now" my friend Liz whispered in my ear. "But Steven Seagal. He just walked into the restaurant. Oh, my gosh. I just saw his latest movie. He's so amazing. How's my hair look?" I would probably have been more tempted to look at a team of elderly women in bikinis. "Seagull?" I asked as I turned around, against her request. "How the heck did a seagull fly through that revolving door?"
It was a breezy afternoon in Washington DC when, at a small corner café in Georgetown, a famous actor named Steven Seagull sat down behind me and my friend. He was soon thereafter swarmed by a flock of fans young and old, who buried him with requests for just about everything: a picture, an autograph, the torn corner of his used paper napkin. Steven Seagull seemed accustomed to it all and happily entertained the fans until there were no more left. He then put away his autograph pen and ordered a bowl of shrimp gumbo without chorizo. 

I suffered from an acute sense of ignorance regarding Mr. Seagull; partly because I didn't know who he was. Celebrities are not something I've ever been up-to-date on and it was of similar naivety that I approached the star of a popular MTV sitcom only several months back to ask whether he happen to have a spare tissue. "Mine are all used up" I chuckled, in the bathroom of a trendy New York lounge. "So much mucus this season it's bizarre, wouldn't you say?"

It's not that I'm totally uneducated when it comes to celebrities; I've just always preferred to focus my attention on the upper-most crust of icons. People like The Pope for example, were luminaries I knew all too well. He was a Taurus back then and his favorite ice cream flavor was mint chocolate chip. Enjoyed birthday parties, cupcakes, and long walks on the beach (in his Pope Mobile of course). Michael Jordan was another example of someone I could undoubtedly identify at a crowded gathering. It was not his buzzer beaters that had me hooked, but rather the arsenal of Gatorade commercials he was in. That along with the phenomenal movie Sky Jam. 

These celebrities I knew quiet well. But it was a serious lack of knowledge about a multitude of B, C, and D-list celebrities that spawned a number of oblivious encounters.

I was raised in a country where idolizing even your local news anchor was considered perfectly acceptable. And it was this worship-like admiration that oversaturated the market with stars. Stardom came in unlimited supply and if you knew how to do something special like tie a shoe blindfolded or punch someone on reality TV, chances were you could make it big. Many people were celebrities back in the States, and if you weren't one yet, chances were you would be soon. 

"Wish me luck" I remember Clyde the postman once saying as he stuffed a small mound of envelopes in our mailbox. "I's goin' to the castin' call for a new sitcom show. It's called All About the Jeffrey's. It's like a family that's got lotsa problems you know? I's goin for the role of Uncle Jerry. Been practicin' my lines now for over a week."

"OK Good luck Clyde" I told him, knowing full well I didn't mean it. He would eventually get the role and quit his job with the US Postal Service, soon to be replaced by a woman with braces who'd refer to herself only in third person as Ms. May. Soon enough, we'd see Clyde on entertainment shows like E! sipping champagne and smoking cigars with beautiful women. Fox's Uncle Jerry, Getting Unlce Jiggy the tabloid covers might read, showing the man I once only recognized in a mail truck, now speeding off from the local nightclub in his shiny Cadillac Escalade.

Upon first coming down to Panama, I found myself in the unique position to build a new identity. It was not unlike a teenager switching high schools in that everything in Panama, from my friends to my reputation, would be starting from scratch. And it was because of this template-like position that I decided to enter the fold as a bit of a celebrity myself.

"I actually used to do a little bit of film" I told the first girl that I met, referring to a time when I was cast as an extra in a major motion picture. "Didn't have a speaking role but I pass by the camera like four or five times." I don't think I had finished saying the name of the movie before the girl had vanished into thin air. It was this introduction that briefed me on the status of celebrities in Panama; in short, no on really cares. 

Not long ago, I saw Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walking down the cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo. One local wearing only a pair of boxer briefs asked them courteously for a nickel, and another approached me pointing out that the neighborhood was becoming overrun with backpackers. I would have mistaken the couple for backpackers too if it wasn't for a co-worker from the States who I turned to find foaming at the mouth. "Brad!" she muttered.

Her voice got even quieter. "I...think I love you." 

We've seen a number of celebrities come to Panama, now that things in the real estate and tourism industries are getting juicy: people like Mel Gibson, Toby Maguire, and my personal favorite, TV's Pee Wee Herman. But there's a certain apathetic mentality you see in Panamanians which is actually quite refreshing. You'll rarely see locals crowding for autographs unless someone like Shakira is in town and if it's a foreign celebrity, chances are no one will recognize them at all.

Just the other night, seated in Manolo Caracol with a Panamanian date, I was finishing up course number ninety seven which arrived on a small plate and resembled a tuft of astro turf sitting in a pool of blood.  Daniel Craig (the guy playing the new James Bond) walked in with his girlfriend and several other co-actors. 

"Don't look now" I told my date, "but James Bond just walked in and is about to sit behind us."

She looked at me tired, with blasé eyes, as if to say, "A James Bond? What James Bond? How the heck did they get a James Bond through that tiny revolving door?"
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wow
written by Panamena , February 22, 2008
you are right on matt. this is so true about panama's people. we don't care about famous people at all. i love the way you can describe it so perfectly. i was laughing a lot!!!
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 23:27
 
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