Big 50, Volume 16: My Idols

I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose this topic.  Because it’s SO hard to write about!  Mostly when people think of idols, they think of someone that you REALLY idolise.  But as I’ve got older, I’ve realised that I don’t really idolise the people who influence me, or who I find fascinating, or inspirational.  I think I did in some ways when I was younger, because there wasn’t any sense that these were people just like any other.

Ok I just remembered a story.

I have always been a huge fan of Billy Connolly.  Ever since I can remember.  Not just because he’s funny, but because he seems to be able to articulate things that I could never express.  And I’ve always loved his child-like wonder at the world.  However I must note that he seems to be losing that as he gets older, his comedy has changed from delight and wonder and general hilarity at the world around him, to something more akin to a grumpy old man having a rant.  Fair play to him I say, he is 70 now, he actually is an old man and he’s as welcome to grow and change and shift his perspective on the world as much as anyone else.  But the humour and passion he had as I grew up is what I loved most about him.

Anyway, it was well known amongst all of my friends that I’m a huge Big Yin fan.

So you can imagine my dismay at what happened one day in about 20 years ago.  I am about 19 years old.  I was on my lunch break from my job in the advertising department of a local AM radio station (a country music station, God I hated the music that was being played then!) and browsing through a nearby music store (for those of you who go back that far in Brisbane, it was the Brash’s in the Wintergarden, which is now HMV).  I’m standing there idly flipping through the CD’s, when I look up at the tall man on the other side of the CD rack.  “Hmmm, that guy looks like Billy Connolly.” I think to myself.

The man who looks like Billy Connolly goes over to the counter and speaks to the girl behind the counter.  The man who looks like Billy Connolly has a thick Scottish accent.  Fuck!  Fuck!  Fuck!  It IS Billy Connolly!

The man who looks like Billy Connolly, and IS Billy Connolly, turns around and walks towards me.  I stand there wide-eyed, looking at the man who looks like Billy Connolly and IS Billy Connolly.  My brain is thinking “Say hello.  It’s Billy Connolly.  Be cool!  Say something!  At least ask for his fucking autograph!”  My body will not comply.  I stand there with my mouth open, fixed to the spot, trying desperately to get it together to say hello.  The man who looks like Billy Connolly, and IS Billy Connolly, catches my eye.  He smiles warmly, winks and says “Hello.” in that lovely accent of his.  I STILL stand there like a stunned mullet, unable to move, smile, nod, anything.  The man who looks like Billy Connolly, and IS Billy Connolly walks past me, and leaves the store, and is gone.

I stand there for a little while, completely gobsmacked.  I then trudge back to my office, sit down at my desk, and promptly burst into floods of tears of frustration and embarrassment.

I’ve always regretted that moment.  I have met lots of other awesome famous people in the years since that one, and always managed to be coherent and talk to them.  I’ve made great men laugh, told amazing women that they’ve inspired me, had friendly banter with the most droolsome actors, and hugged amazing musicians.  But I will never forget that moment back when I was 19 and the man that I admired the most at the time walked briefly into my life and I made a colossal idiot of myself!


January 3, 2011. Big 50, Billy Connolly.


  1. Bilt4Cmfrt replied:

    No not an idiot (although it did and does still feel like it). Just a missed opportunity : )

    I’ve never really idolized any one celebrity either but I think, amongst those that do, it’s a function of getting older that causes most folks to do it less. As we get older, we experience the small disappointments with those we hold up as ‘perfect’ or ‘talented beyond words’. They say something we don’t agree with, do something problematic or just plain stupid, and we come to realize that NOBODY is above it all. Even the ones we saw as Titans walking amongst us. The politicians, the rock stars, even canonized Saints and knighted Lords or Dames. Just people like everybody else. Ignorant, flawed, and sometimes stupid. Gifted? Porbably. Talented? Sure. Human? Yes, with all the nasty, messy, baggage that comes with that. But, definitely, NOT above it all.

  2. Ariane replied:

    You did one better than me, if I’d been in that Brash’s, I wouldn’t even have seen the guy who looked like Billy Connolly and WAS Billy Connolly. I’ve failed to notice a number of famous people in my life. 🙂

    The problem with being a critical thinking adult is that no-one can ever live up to being an idol. I’m a pretty big fan of Stephen Fry, to the point that I was noticeably shaken when he made those ridiculous statements about female sexuality, and my first reaction was to look for an excuse for why he didn’t really say it. But of course, he did, and surprise, surprise, he’s human and fallible just like everyone else.

  3. sleepydumpling replied:

    The thing about Stephen Fry is that once he is given an opportunity, he will always own up to making a mistake. That’s one of the things I love about him.

  4. Ariane replied:

    He didn’t really on this occasion. I kept expecting him to do that, but he was mostly pretty obnoxious about the whole thing, as well as the Twitter storm that followed. Everyone’s allowed to be human, and he was certainly working very hard when it was happening, based on his tweets, so I’m not going to stop being a fan or decide that all his other wonderfulness is undone or anything silly.

    • sleepydumpling replied:

      I didn’t feel that way, but everyone approaches it from a different perspective I guess.

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