I find it interesting that there have been several recent cases of a well-known person being unknown by police or other officials.
It started a few weeks ago with Henry Louis Gates, one of the country’s foremost African-American scholars, who was arrested for breaking into his own house and getting really miffed when the officer asked for his I.D. Gates, who apparently felt that he had been dissed one time too many, raised such a ruckus that even President Obama sought to be peacemaker by having him and the policeman over to the White House for a beer.
Within the week, aging troubadour Bob Dylan was picked up in Long Branch, New Jersey while taking a quiet walk before a concert. Someone called the cops to report a suspicious stranger wandering around a neighborhood, and the pair of 24-year-old officers who responded didn’t recognize him. Dylan had left his I.D. on the tour bus (I’m sure he has people for that), and the policemen drove him back so someone could vouch for his identity. Dylan, at least, made like a rolling stone and moved on without making a fuss. If nothing else, he knew he had a great story to tell at the concert, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t inspire a song.
The latest instance of untaken identity also took place in New Jersey, when Bollywood mega-idol Sharukh Khan was detained for more than an hour by security officers at Newark airport who thought his name sounded suspicious. Khan cried foul and claimed to have been “humiliated” by the treatment, raising enough Bollywood cane to turn it into an international incident, as millions of Indian fans and even government officials rallied to condemn the U.S. for mistreating their national version of Elvis.
Collectively, the three incidents suggest that being famous in one arena — no matter how big that arena is — doesn’t necessarily make you famous in other circles. It’s a reminder of how bogus our “celebrity” society is, a society in which we treat some people as worthy of better treatment than others.
There are few folks who wouldn’t benefit from a dose of humility.