Coming of age pre-broadband, I was one of the last generations of smut-scavengers. As Caitlin Moran described perfectly in How to Be a Woman, before the days of RedTube, horny adolescents had to get creative to get off. Without instant porn, we fantasized. In my early teens, my classic standby turn-on was a VHS tape with this episode of The Daily Show recorded on it:
There they were, my top two celebrity crushes, with nothing but a Target-style office desk between them. Oh to be that desk, that cue card, that barely-buttoned V-neck! I lusted after Jon Stewart and Pierce Brosnan the way any single teenage-virgin-taking-Accutane would: I rented all of their movies from Hollywood Video, even the made-for-TV one directed by David Schwimmer with a bit part for Stewart. I PhotoShopped my head over other actress’s faces in Goldeneye makeout scene screenshots. I wrote smutty fanfiction—by myself, for myself, starring myself. And I plotted.
I knew hooking up with Pierce Brosnan was pretty much out of the question. He played James Fucking Bond. He was my Oxford-on-a-Rhodes-Scholarship of celebrity crushes. But Jon Stewart—Jon Stewart felt, in the delusional optimism of youth, vaguely obtainable. He was a self-effacing nerd, just like me. Not conventionally sexy. The pesky details of his wife and my age seemed minor compared to competing with Denise Richards for Brosnan’s affection. I just had to:
- Do something of note that would propel me to a guest spot on The Daily Show.
- Confess my undying love on-air.
- Live happily ever after.
To reach Objective #1, I turned over a new sheet of paper:
- Write Great American Novel before high school graduation.
- Survive some sort of wild animal attack.
In the meantime, just after the millennium turned, our world shook. For my junior year high school project in 2002, I worked on a research paper centered on the September 11th aftermath. It was my first serious attempt at writing narrative nonfiction. In between creating timelines and cataloging theories, a brilliant idea spawned in my head: I should interview Jon Stewart about this! His first monologue back on TV still brings me to tears, and watching it air was the most cathartic moments of those baffling post-weeks. As the only person I (delusionally) knew from New York, he seemed like the best on-the-ground reporter I had.
After a search with our newfangled dial-up Internet, I found the number for The Daily Show’s studio. Enough “0” presses on the phone shot me to a receptionist, who listened patiently to my story (“I’m from White River High School in Buckley, Washington and I’m working on an important research project…”), then transferred me to the voicemail for Stewart’s publicist. I must have left that woman ten heavily-breathed messages with my interview request, none of which were returned. Because Jon Stewart had a wonderful publicist.
At the time I was indignant, but now I am overwhelmingly grateful that I was never let through to my fake news god. Not only did she shelter her client from a possible lunatic, she saved my self-respect. How could that conversation possibly have gone well? Suppose I was able to spit out whatever lame questions I had drafted without stuttering, stumbling, choking, or passing out. Well, there is no supposing in that scenario. Because I wasn’t trying to interview Stewart. I was trying to pitch my affection in the only way, at 17, I knew how. Thankfully there was a giant buffer keeping me, my hormones, and my wholly lack of self-awareness away from an innocent bystander. If I happened to meet Stewart nowadays, I could give him my dog-eared copy of Naked Pictures of Famous People to sign and share a laugh, without him getting skeezed out about my past as an unsuccessful stalker. First crushes are ugly and ridiculous and best left in whatever shithole town you graduated in.
Which is why, along with my great appreciation for good publicists, I thank Cheesus that I grew up without YouTube. Because this would have been the first lame tactic I tried to catch Stewart and Brosnan’s attention:
Yes, not only do today’s youth have instant access to porn, they also can amass enough video views to go viral and reach whatever celebrity they’re asking out to prom/the debutante ball/Aunt Lucille’s wake. Instead of celebrities being in our dreams and screens where they belong, now we can virtually “interact” with them. And unless they want to look out-of-touch and uptight, they have to play along. No one wants a Tweet firestorm about ignoring a sweet, lovelorn fan. All that stood between Jake Davidson and asking out supermodel Kate Upton was a Sony Handycam and a tripod, and bam! He’s on the Today show, eliciting an actual response from his muse.
According to the latest reports, Upton is busy with bikini work and can’t make it to the dance. A decision I hope that Davidson will thank his lucky shaving nicks for in the next decade of life. Because if she’d said yes, she wouldn’t be going because he was irresistible and she wanted to have his babies and run away with him to a private island in the Bahamas. Her attendance would be charity and PR, like a day on ladle duty at the soup kitchen. Anything he thought to say to her would sound idiotic, because he speaks human and she’s on Planet Rich Supermodel. In the real world, celebrities don’t fall in love with the teenagers who jack off to them. And that’s a lesson to learn laughing at yourself, not with 2 million video viewers.
Keeping fantasy corralled away from awkward, pointless encounters is liberation. Be free, young ones—jerk off and dream big! No one can judge you in your own bedroom. Your gawkiness cannot be immortalized unless you cement your own sarcophagus. Kids, quit filming. Viewers, quit biting. Morning talk shows, I’m sure the cast of Celebrity Splash is free instead. And sexy superstars, please. Hire a fucking publicist.