Ellen‘s “The Puppy Episode” aired 20 years ago, April 30th.
Ipstenu and I were next to each other all night; we had the same experience, though we perceived it differently. Therefore, I won’t give an account of events, but I will give an assessment.
Let me preface my assessment by saying that I wasn’t a fan of Jorja Fox. I never cared whether I met her, never wanted an autograph, never cared if I had my picture taken with her. I can’t actually think of anyone of whom I’ve ever been a “fan” in those terms. There are people I’ve wanted to meet, just to tell them “thanks for standing up for Cause X” (whatever Cause X may be), and there are people whose work I admire, and yes, there are people I’ve enjoyed when they appear in some of my better dreams. But autographs, photographs, and other “fan” activities… it’s not me. Even if I had harnessed the wild magic that is HTML or CSS, I still wouldn’t ever make a fan website. I’m not that girl, though I think Ipstenu is cute when she’s that girl, because I know if I were still performing, I’d have a fan site maintained by her, and I’d be grateful for it.
So, yeah. I like Jorja’s work a lot, admired her ability to act, to react, and to act silently without *needing* to speak to get her point across, but I wasn’t a fan. I knew she was a tireless activist for the protection of animals, children, women, and many other causes dear to me, and I’m grateful for the fact that she highlights… and yet I wasn’t a “fan.”
Then I saw her give gratitude and honor to Ipstenu for her 15 years of dedicated service — which Ipstenu did without ever wanting recognition. She invited us to this local event, just to say thanks. When we walked in the door, she immediately sought us out. She introduced us to a friend, Joe Fab, the genius filmmaker behind Paper Clips. (Go rent that movie right now. I mean it. I’ll come find you if you don’t.) She seemed to actually want to talk to us, and as if she’d actively been waiting to do so.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know Jorja didn’t want to spend her whole night with us, talking like we were bestest friends evar. Let’s face it, we move in different crowds, and she brought some of her crowd with her, meeting up with her friends who are local to us. Speaking as a former high school student, Jorja is head cheerleader, student body president, Most Likely To Succeed, Best Smile, and captain of the debate team… and we’re basically new in town, don’t know anyone, unknown quantities that she invited because she’s generous with her pool parties, okay? She just wanted to do something nice.
And still, Jorja looked genuinely sorry when others pulled her away from us, as if she actually would have enjoyed playing hostess (we figured, at the most, she would say, “Hi, thanks for the site, sorry, I gotta mingle, it’s in the contract.”) and getting to know us. Not like she was fascinated with us or anything, but because she’s popular by virtue of the fact that not only do a lot of people know her, but she knows them, and enjoys widening her circle of potential friends.
Okay. I know she’s an actor, and it could’ve been an act, but… it wasn’t. I’m an actor too, and while onscreen or onstage the “acting” may be invisible, in person it is absolutely not. It is always extremely obvious when you’re in person, right up next to someone, whether they’re acting. She was not acting. Jorja was off duty, and if she hadn’t wanted us there, she wouldn’t have invited us; and if we hadn’t been people she would’ve enjoyed talking to, she had dozens of opportunities to escape and claim “Sorry, I’d love to say and chat, but I have to do this other thing somewhere, anywhere, I mean, thanks for coming, goodbye freaky fans.”
She could have just brushed us off, and we’d have simply accepted it as truth — she was there to promote animal protection, not to be a hostess, after all. But she didn’t. She actually did seem like she was happy doing this thing, yet she’d have been equally happy to sit down over pizza and beer and just talk about the cause, or anything else. See, the thing about actors is that they’re best at what they do because they see other people, are genuinely interested in them, and that’s how they have the insight to be able to portray others with such truth.
Whenever someone inevitably asks me whether she’s like her character on CSI, I’ll be able to say, “Sort of. She’s equally smart, equally passionate about being a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves.” But Sara Sidle is a bit hardened, a bit harsh, with the strength that comes from resisting more than the average person’s share of opposition. Her shoulders are set in a hard-won pride; she’s had dignity, had it smacked off her, and gotten it back, tougher and badder and hard like a diamond. (See? I’m an actor. I see people, too, even the fictional ones. I know how it works; see above.) I love that character to pieces; but if Ipstenu and I ever had her over for dinner, I’d see her out the door afterward and then tell Ipstenu earnestly, “We need to have her over a lot more often. She needs some extra mothering, or at least aunting or sistering. And soup, lots of soup.”
Jorja doesn’t need that quite as much. She has the strength that comes from gentleness and graciousness, too. In a word, she’s a lady. Her mother, of blessed memory, must have been proud of her every single day of her life.
Also, Jorja is very huggy and tactile. Normally I really don’t want to touch people or have them touch me; yet somehow it didn’t seem like an invasion from her, but rather like an acknowledgement of a human connection.
Summary: I expected Ipstenu to be acknowledged with a handshake and then left to her own devices. I expected my own presence to be required only so Ipstenu wouldn’t have to just stand in a corner all night feeling superfluous, and just to listen to her say over and over, “I can’t believe I just met Jorja. Oh, snap, I forgot to get a picture with her. The fans will kill me.” I expected to be bored. Instead, I felt — and I know Ipstenu felt — appreciated, and as if we mattered. Jorja Fox is made of class and gentility. Now, now, I’m her fan. (I still don’t want an autograph, though; the hug was better than a scribble on a piece of paper.)
OH, yes, and Billy Petersen was a gentleman too. Wish I’d asked him what aftershave he was using, because it was nice, and I think it would’ve smelled good as a cologne on Ipstenu. I miss his cute curls, but straightened hair is apparently required by his current role, which started rehearsing yesterday. Hope the show goes well, whatever it is.
Questions? Go for it.