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Don't You Know Who I Am?
By:Stephen Schochet

One dilemma that the super famous face is balancing the needs of privacy and recognition. One time in New York an unnoticed Marilyn Monroe was walking down Madison Avenue accompanied by Eli Wallach. " My God, don't these people know who you are?" Wallach asked her. Marilyn, whose application of make-up took nearly as long Boris Karloff''s Frankenstein Monster, grinned at him. "I'm only recognized when I want to be. Watch this." She began to swing her hips and walk in a way that was familiar to movie goers and was eventually mobbed by adoring fans.

For some stars privacy is an overrated commodity. In 1919, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford went on their European honeymoon. The two international icons had divorced their previous spouses and were concerned about how they would be greeted. They needn't have worried. In London their limousine was surrounded by admiring women who pulled Mary out of the car to shake her hand, still grateful after two year for her efforts selling war bonds. In Paris they couldn't get any sleep with crowds gathering below their hotel room to serenade them. In Amsterdam they attended a party and were mobbed by other guests who wanted to get close to them. The acrobatic Fairbanks placed his wife on her shoulder and escaped through the window. Finally, they found privacy in Hamburg, because of World War I their movies were not shown there. For an hour the famous newlyweds walked the streets unnoticed until the bored Mary turned to her husband and said,"Doug I'm sick of this. Let's go back to one of those countries were they mob us."

Joan Crawford had similar sentiments. Once in the 1930s she was staying in New York getting over her breakup with Clark Gable. Tired of moping around her hotel she told her entourage they should go out and get some fresh air. The sycophants who had trouble keeping up with the star's brisk pace, were startled when she took a detour. "Oh my God. She's going into Grand Central Station!" Someone shouted," Look it's Joan Crawford!" and she was mobbed, it took thirty minutes to escape the crowd and get back to their hotel suite. Her hair disheveled, her dress torn and her face scratched, Crawford leaned against the door out of breath. "Oh. . .oh my. That was wonderful. Lets do it again!"

Notoriety can get you out of a jam. Tired of being identified as James Bond, Sean Connery took an unusual step for Hollywood leading man by publicly revealing his baldness on screen, beginning with The Man Who Will Be King (1976). On location in Casablanca, the Scotsman rejected the use of a chauffer and limo, choosing instead to drive himself in Volkswagen Bug. One day he drove around town dressed in a sweat shirt and shorts and was stopped for questioning by the local police. The former Mr. Universe runner-up had unfortunately left his passport back at the hotel and was arrested as a suspicious character. Just as he was about to be locked up, Connery shouted,"007! I'm 007 damn you!" They recognized him and let him go.

If you lose your hair, you can keep your privacy. Rob Reiner's big break was Harrison Ford turning down the role of Meathead on All In the Family (1971-1980) because Ford couldn't stand Archie Bunker's bigotry. When the show first went into production, Reiner and his fellow castmates would leave the CBS lot to eat lunch at the neighboring Farmers Market. Initial low ratings meant they were mostly ignored by the tourists. A few months later All In the Family was a monster hit and they received Beatle's like attention. From then on the cast generally preferred to stay in their dressing rooms at lunchtime. All except the ever hungry Meathead who removed the toupee he wore on the show and continued to eat at the Market in peace.

Stephen Schochet

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