Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Your head is there to move you around.

Chris over at Boys' Briefs wrote today about how he met R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe over the weekend, which led me to write to him about how I apparently stalked Stipe like crazy when I went to college in Athens.

I'm reprinting what I wrote, so everyone can either consider me a psycho or consider me cool for getting Michael Stipe's phone number, sorta, from the man himself.

I met Michael Stipe about four or five times between my ages of 18 and 20 when I was going to UGA, naturally. The first time was the best one, for he was doing a reading of names at the campus display of the AIDS Quilt - which I was covering for The Red & Black.

He was looking at the panels, I was looking at the panels, and we met at an intersection and had a real, good conversation about how overwhelming the whole thing was. He was wearing glasses and has real pretty eyes, and he asked me where I was from. Then, he let me quote him for the article on the display, and it was the first time in 20 or so years that a member of R.E.M. had been interviewed by the paper.

In the process of the whole thing, I forgot to introduce myself, so, looking up from my notepad, I said, "By the way, hi, I'm Benjie."

And he said, "I'm Michael. It's nice to meet you."

And he shook my hand, which is when I proceeded to get a big crush on him that I should not have ever considered. But, umm, I was 18 and in the closet, and everybody told me that he was dating this really bad poet named Doug Martin who didn't comb his hair.

And if you look at the photo essays Stipe's done, you'll see Doug Martin and his bad hair. Luckily, none of the bad poetry was ever published mainstream.

Once I saw Doug Martin do a public reading of an erotic poem about getting his hair washed, and he got so into it he started rubbing himself against the microphone stand.

I swear to God, I thought the staff of Jittery Joe's, the coffee shop, was going to have to mop up afterward.

Other times I met Michael Stipe, I think I bugged him and made an ass out of myself.

I was covering the promotion of Jim McKay's "Girls Town," with Lili Taylor, for the paper, and I saw Stipe out at his vegetarian restaurant Guaranteed. And a friend of mine dared me to ask him out.

So I walked up to Stipe, told him I was working on a story and asked him if he was free for coffee sometime.

He told me that he was really busy and told me that I could get in touch with the director through the R.E.M. Athens office. Then Stipe, who was annoyed I'd interrupted his lunch, wrote his office number down on the tab at the end of his waiter's ticket, ripped it off and handed it to me. (I kept that number for years to impress people. "Hey, Michael Stipe gave me his phone number.")

At the "Girls Town" screening and Q&A, I asked Jim McKay a question, and Stipe, walking with Doug Martin, shouted, "GOOD QUESTION!" at me as he was walking out.

The other times I met him, I just managed to annoy him.

Like when I said hello outside the Paul Westerberg concert.

Or when I walked up to Doug Martin, whom I'd actually talked to a couple times, and said hello to Doug with friends of mine, just because Stipe was standing next to him.

So I said hello to Stipe, then walked my friends away from them.

As I did this, I said, "That's him," to them, trying to be cool.

But Stipe heard me, and he made a face of disapproval at me.

Then my friends, upon finding out who it was, RAN back to Michael Stipe and BEGGED him for an autograph.

Seriously, he was browsing in a store, and she ran up to him and asked him to autograph her hardcover copy of GONE WITH THE WIND.

That whole thing embarrassed me thoroughly, and I thankfully never saw or talked to him again.

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