I recently ran across a profile of actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the Guardian newspaper. The interview was to highlight his current appearance in the musical Chicago, now running in London.
In the piece, he recounted his “Show Me The Money!” rush of fame (in the film Jerry McGuire, with Tom Cruise), recognition (and Oscar win for his performance), and new found wealth (private jets and houses for his mother and mother in law, according to him).
Predictably, the money soon ran scarce and he was reduced to taking roles in less-than-worthy films. In his words, he spent “ten years in the wilderness”. It is a common story among Hollywood celebrities who work for years to achieve success and then find themselves in a world where conspicuous consumption is the norm.
Now back in good form with his performance in the television miniseries about the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the lead in the London musical, Mr. Gooding’s finances are probably back in equally good health.
An uncommon aspect to his story is a little more personal. For the last few years, Mommy Dearest has resided in a sleepy, affluent suburb of Los Angeles where she not infrequently encounters celebrities, including Mr. Gooding, most often at her favorite restaurant.
Hardly starry eyed–her friends have included household names from the music industry and anonymous powerbrokers–she remains a keen observer of manners and character. During a recent transatlantic conversation by phone, I mentioned Mr. Gooding’s interview in the Guardian.
Her recall and assessment were quick and absolute: she had watched him from her corner table numerous times over the years–in the wilderness and out of it, as he might say. He was unfailingly polite and consistently a gentleman, courteous and patient when approached by even the most pressing fans, she said.
She growled at the behavior of an inconsiderate public who interrupted his dinners with his family, and nudged him for ‘just one more photo’. She scoffed at the idea that the public owns a personality 24/7, and lamented his futile efforts to simply sit down and enjoy his meal on a consistent basis.
She and he had never exchanged any more than a familiar nod and hello, as many in the neighborhood have done. He had chosen the neighborhood for its absence of paparazzi and good schools. That choice deserved respect, she felt.
Celebrity, I once noted, is like wearing a full length fur coat all year long…winter, spring, summer and fall.
But if you’ve wanted it, worked for it, acquired it, and put it on, you won’t get much sympathy by complaining about it or being rude to people who recognize you.
So, congratulations, Mr. Gooding: you wear it well.