My friend S. just came back from New York and was telling me about the dinner he had with K., a friend of his from college (they’re both in their late thirties). K. was a nice, grounded guy, S. tells me, but not long ago he won one of the major reality shows and in the space between then and now he appears to have…changed. S laughed and shook his head and said, “He’s becoming intolerable, actually. He refers to himself now as a ‘celebrity’. He talks about how celebrity is really awesome — he tells me, “S, it’s like being a hot chick in New York!”
“There are lots of miserable hot chicks in New York,” I pointed out. “I’m not sure that’s the best analogy.”
“He better enjoy it while it lasts,” said E.
We were hanging out at the bar inside the cinema at the Bridge, a massive shopping complex in Culver City. We were drinking martinis — we had just come out of MR AND MRS SMITH, and watching Brad Pitt throw back martinis made me crave one of my own — and waiting for our nachos.
“You know the advice I gave him?” said S. “Just before he went on the final show — the one where they announce the winner — I told him, ‘K, look, you win this, you’ll have your fifteen minutes of fame. And if that’s what you want, fine. But if you want to extend that level of attention, then what you should do is, if you win, you should say, ‘No thanks. I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided it’s not for me.’ You should refuse [the prize].”
“The prize sucks anyway,” said E.
The waitress set some chicken tenders in front of us. We realized that she’d screwed up our order but decided to eat them anyway. We re-ordered the nachos. Behind us, cheers erupted from the crowd below the television. They were watching Afleet Alex win the Belmont.
“But he didn’t,” S said needlessly. “Refuse.”
“You know,” I said, “I saw every episode of that show and I never liked that guy. I wanted the other person to win.”
“The other person sucked.”
“Yeah, but they all sucked.”
“K won by sucking the least,” S agreed. “You know what he told me before I left? I said, “You know, K., good to see you, give me a call when you’re in LA. He looks at me and says, ‘S, do you know the queue of people I’ve got waiting to see me when I’m in LA?'” We all groaned. S. thwacked a hand to his forehead. “A queue of people,” he repeated, and shook his head.