It is said that fame is a prison, albeit one with nice toilets and some excellent catering. In places like Los Angeles or New York, for example, famous people get accosted all the time by adoring fans and camera-crazy paparazzi. That’s why famous people in those cities tend to stay home and order take-out—because walking around in public will inevitably attract two or three helicopters and a pack of nobodies, all desperate for a glimpse of you, an obvious somebody. Even us famous people don’t want that kind of attention, so most of us turn our homes into a kind of prison, rarely venturing outside except to take out the recycling.
One of the best things about being famous in Minnesota, however, is that people respect your privacy enough to leave you alone. In the Twin Cities, I can go into a grocery store any time of day or night, and no one will hassle me for an autograph. In other cities, I might get mobbed. But here, other shoppers will pretend they don’t see me. When I walk by, they’ll often make a big show out of examining the label on a mayonnaise jar or feigning interest in an oh-so-fascinating can of soup. Even when I make eye contact and hint with a wink that yes, I am that famous guy they’re thinking of, and no, I wouldn’t mind being asked for an autograph or selfie, they’ll avert their eyes and duck down the next aisle.
Sometimes, Twin Citians are so respectful of my privacy that they won’t even attend my readings or other public events. I might be expecting two or three hundred people at a book signing, but ultimately find only four or five people audacious enough to break the silent pact between the ultra-famous and the incredibly invisible. Too, in the middle of the reading, suddenly mindful of their local manners, half of those people might get up and walk out.
Minnesotans are special that way.
Alone in a room with two or three hard-core groupies—people whose lust for a brush with fame is so intense that it overrides their Midwestern social conditioning—I still might have to fend off intrusive questions and sign a few books with witty insults, but that sort of thing comes with the territory. As distasteful as it is, famous authors are sometimes forced to mingle with their public—and, as long as you shower with good anti-bacterial soap afterwards and get two or three days of rest to recuperate, the trauma is rarely permanent.
My advice to famous people in other parts of the country who are tired of being so oppressively adored is: move to Minnesota. People here treat the famous like everyone else. It’s part of the culture, and it helps lighten the burden of fame. After living here a while, in fact, you might even start to miss all the attention you used to receive. But that’s how you know you’re really famous in Minnesota: when the public respects you enough to ignore you wherever you go.