Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Mr. Ripley Complex

For years I have lived in NYC. It is a fast paced, wonderful mecca where anything can happen. However, it is also a place where people can be who they want to me. I wanted to be a ventriloquist, comedian, actress, singer and writer. My quest has been somewhat successful. I perform in the clubs, I have been Off-Broadway, my music has been on the radio, and I published my own book. Some people are ordinary and want to be extraordinary. There are two ways to go about this. One, develop a skill or talent and become good at it. Two, make up an identity that is so fabulous and put in all your energy to being a brilliant bullshit artist. Some people go with the second option.

I remember my first exposure to a Mr. Ripley was one year at the Heisman's. It was the year Troy Smith won. A man showed up, nice looking young African American with diamond studs in his ears. He told everyone he was Reggie Bush. Reggie had won the year before and was playing pro. Maybe he was swooping in as a former winner to say hello. That did happen from time to time. Anyway, he looked like Reggie, just maybe a little taller and less stockier. Reggie is very sweet and quiet in person. This dude on the other hand was introducing himself as Reggie Bush and people were buying into it. He was taking photos etc. At the end of the night he disappeared and my mother and father concurred it was not Reggie but some poser. We never found out who the poser was. But I just remember thinking something wasnt right.

There are some who impersonate celebrities, and others who claim to be related. One wannabe I met on my journey claimed to be related to Angie Harmon from Law and Order. They looked nothing alike but people believed her. The young woman was a reasonably talented actress and a wonderful singer but had a lot of mental problems, a severe eating disorder being one. She eventually disappeared to LA where she was never heard from again. I met people who knew her later and said the young woman was prone to lying and this was yet another yarn she spun. Another young woman I went to a summer workshop with claimed she used to party with Spenser Pratt from the Hills and it was because she was related to Heidi Montag by marriage. This chick claimed to go to parties and know people and blah, blah, blah. Well one of her stories fell apart one evening when the actual cousin of Heidi Montag showed up. Interesting and shit show were the understatements of the year.

There are some who have a fabulous career, and others who just make it up. A few summers ago I was working on a project with the former dance captain of Cats on Broadway. This kid was trying to worm our way into our circle. He claimed to be a former child star appearing on such programs as Sesame Street and even going so far as to claim he was in Up With People and Chunk in Goonies. I was at a party where he told a room full of people they were gossiping about him on TMZ and he was afraid for his life. Well it turned out the dude was homeless and had issues with drugs and alcohol. He was quickly persona non grata in our circle. But there were some people that he really had going. They believed him hook, line and sinker.

Then there are some who lead a mundane life that want so badly to be exciting. I dated a lawyer briefly who was bright but wanted to shine like a star. So he would tell tall tales about how he knew celebrities, rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, and even went so far as to make up a boxing and music career. I remember once he met my mother and told her flat out about how he almost made the Olympics for boxing but got hurt at the last second. My jaw dropped open at this obvious lie. The relationship soured because I never knew what was true and what wasnt. As he rubbed elbows with these trust fund kids, he would try to keep up which was sad and pathetic and I got tired of seeing a liar in action. We broke up and he found himself on the rocks with debtors because he lied about not having money to pay his bills, and he had champagne taste on a beer budget. And also on the rocks at his job. Well suddenly he had "cancer," and everyone felt bad for him. I had my doubts about this story. Well the cancer was gone in three weeks as fake cancer typically is. About a year later, my story with my puppet children aired on TLC and I spoke about my former fiance. This dillweed told everyone in his circle he was the former fiance which made his current girlfriend, a drug addict who is sober for an hour a day max, go on the war path of sorts against me.  Needless to say I blocked them all online.

But the one who takes the cake is the kid who pretended to be the son of the North Korean diplomat. He showed up to swanky eateries with his posse and answered any and all questions about Kim Jong Ill. He had photos of himself with atomic weapons and he seemed legit. He spoke about his country proudly and even said he hoped to introduce the idea of democracy to his people. I was swayed by the man and found myself wishing he didnt have a gal pal. Well it turns out that he was LYING. He was really from the Midwest. His parents were immigrants, yes. But he was no diplomats kid. They came from modest means and stuff. He had everyone fooled. The ugly curtains came down after one evening, a former friend of mine called him who knew him better than I did. He was no where to be found, left town, and turns out had a record as a scam artist. This man had all of us bought and sold. It was beyond terrible. We had all liked the diplomats kid and I often wondered who offered to spot me dinner in that swanky place that night. Maybe I will never know.

I guess in my travels I have met and worked with a great many celebrities. Many want desperately to be seen as normal and down to Earth, and when speaking to them in conversation tend to drive the focus away from their stardom rather to. And those who talk about how famous they are, well they are not really all that famous at all but rather wannabes. Even children of celebrities dont want to focus on their famous parents. I went to school with the daughter of a famous director who was very sweet, very down to Earth, and never dropped her father's name once. While we all knew, she didnt want it to be the pinnacle of our friendship. Still, some people very much want to be a part of that world.

Why not just become good at something that gets you recognized? A therapist friend of mine called it negative attention seeking. Basically, it is when someone wants attention and adoration but childhood trauma and low self esteem leave them feeling they have no skills or talents. But their desire to be the center of attention either causes them to make excessive drama or to fabricate a life that is so unbelievable that people can't help but look. Or maybe it is that reality for them has been so torturous and unbearable that they must create a fantasy world where they can be who they want.  I know this was in fact the case with the woman who claimed relation to Angie Harmon, the druggie who claimed to be Chunk in Goonies, and my ex.

Or maybe it was a childhood where they had nothing and there was a lot of lying and they want to be extraordinary. Who knows? That is why we have Clarke Rockefellers. They lie and are just that good at it.

Liars make me giggle sometimes because they are so obvious. But they also make me sad. Not only because they hurt so many people in the aftermath, but they don't believe that their truth-which is themselves- are good enough to begin with.

They inspire me to be rigorously honest.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Available on Kindle and Nook
Portion of Proceeds go to RAINN

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