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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

The Face Behind the Fame

I haven’t known many famous people in my life. And the few I’ve bumped into I’ve treated the way any good Canadian would—by completely ignoring them.

 

CBC personality Peter Gzowski and his partner Jill once stepped out of their downtown Toronto condo just as I was passing by. They followed me for about a block before turning off to wherever they were going. Did I turn my head and acknowledge them with an appreciative smile? No, I did not.


Nor the time Jann Arden was planning her next tour from the booth beside mine at The Arden Diner, the eatery run by her brother. Did I wish her well as I rose to leave? No, I walked out without giving her so much as a sideways glance.

 

I’ve had professional dealings with a number of famous people, including two lieutenant governors, one provincial premier, and a small cache of well-known writers who’ve consented to be interviewed for The Mystic Cave. But in each case, they arrived “in character,” as it were, which is not at all the same as knowing them. I much prefer the unknown or lesser-known guests, the ones who are still happily, and gratefully, showing up to meet their audience ... as themselves.

 

The few famous people I have known personally I didn’t regard, or treat, as famous people. They were just my friends. One, a national broadcaster and her husband, were in and out of our home many times, and we in and out of theirs, while our children were growing up, until a misunderstanding drove us apart, which happened not because one of us was famous, but because we were friends.

 

The thing about famous people is that, whatever their public persona, we know there is a real person in there somewhere, a living soul, someone we could get to know, someone with whom we could become friends. Isn’t that the dream of every fan? That Paul McCartney will drop by and play a tune at my granddaughter’s birthday party. That Catherine Zeta-Jones will text me next time she’s in town, to meet up for drinks.

 

So, it is a rare privilege to have as a friend someone who is about to become famous. Because she really does have a soul, she really is a likeable person, and she really is generous and thoughtful and loyal to a fault, all the things that will likely be said of her public persona, as well as being smart and talented and hard-working in all the ways one needs to be in order to accomplish something worthy of fame.

 

When I asked Jessica Waite if we might have a second recorded conversation for The Mystic Cave, she had completed the memoir she’d been working on the last time we spoke in front of a microphone, back in September 2021. The title had changed, she’d resolved a few things about the ending, but also, miraculously, her manuscript had been picked up by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, a publisher only interested in blockbusters. The book will be officially released and launched this summer.

 

The Widow’s Guide to Dead Bastards, Jessica’s story about the sudden death of her husband Sean, and the secrets he left behind, is a searing exploration of grief and betrayal, as well as a deep and reassuring well of healing and reconciliation. I’ve read it. It deserves all the attention it will receive and all the sales it will generate. It could even become a literary landmark in the field of Relationship Development, a true “widow’s guide,” even though that wasn't Jessica's intent.


I will watch with fascination as the book makes its way out into the world and takes on a life of its own, pulling its writer along with it. I will also fear the demands that will be placed upon Jessica—to tell her painful personal story over and over again; to show up, ever fresh, ever interesting, for promotional junkets and early morning transcontinental interviews; to represent the book with unflagging enthusiasm as its greatest fan and proponent. And, along the way, to become ... famous.


But my fear for her is simply one more manifestation of fandom or, in this case, of anticipatory fandom, the non-famous person projecting their personal anxieties onto the soon-to-become famous person. Because for all the ways this experience will challenge Jessica, and possibly change her, she is perfectly capable of learning and growing and using her life circumstances to deepen her own soulful journey, which in some ways is what her memoir is all about.


Besides, behind the fame, Jessica will remain a real person, a living soul, and also … my friend, someone I had the great honour of being able just to call up and say, “Let’s talk.”

 

To listen in on our recent conversation, press the Play button, below. To learn more about the book and about Jessica herself, follow the Information button (i) to the show notes.



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