A couple posts went looping around last week on Facebook asking others to share a story about someone famous they had met. There was plenty of namedropping, of course, some names more well known than others.
I didn’t post a reply, largely because I’m not really all that impressed. Growing up, I was never starstruck. I’m not sure why, either. I do, however, remember asking my oldest brother once if he wanted to be famous or rich. He said famous, because then you are remembered, because you touched someone else’s life.
Money can do that, I guess. But giving money to a cause or an individual can be a pretty impersonal undertaking. I mean, rarely has Bill Gates ever personally handed money to someone who benefits from one of his causes. He has people who do that for him.
I think my brother’s response meant so much to me because he seemed quite famous to me. Now, others could argue that I saw this bigger than life brother in the idealistic eyes of a 14 year old boy who would be forever changed by his brother’s death in 1972.
Years later, however, I was at a food industry trade show. The Rainier Beer booth was just down the way from ours, and as often happens at trade shows, you end up spending time with other exhibitors as they set up or tear down.
I just wanted a beer, really. Then he saw my nametag. He said, “You’re not related to Zero are you?”
I was aghast. The year was 1988. Jon (Zero) had left us 16 years before. But he remembered my brother like it was yesterday and told me wonderful stories about him, including the fact that a poster-sized photo of The Dirty Beaver Jug Band that he played washtub and kazoo in was hanging on the wall at The Brick Saloon in Roslyn.
My brother had reached his goal of being famous, I suppose. He obviously had touched a lot of lives during his brief life, and he was remembered well past his passing.
Obviously, that is what I have patterned my life after. Making memories for others, appearing in their photos dressed as a pirate, lifting their spirits with a song in a bar, making a kid laugh as I run crazily down a street in some no-name town during a festival.
I have touched literally tens of thousands of lives over the last 36 years as an entertainer, and perhaps even more during my years as just plain old Robb.
I have met lots of famous people along the way. I met Peter Fonda and Will Sampson, at one point, along with Max Gail, Wojohowitz on Barney Miller. At one point, when I had long hair, people thought I was Ron Jeremy. I used to tell them I was his brother Rob, and that I was his stunt double from the waist down. One day, a guy behind me said, “So you’re my stunt double, eh?” Ron thought that whole stunt double thing was hilarious and ended up buying me a couple drinks.
And then there was the Jimmy Buffett encounter. Two guys, leaning on a railing, one in the middle of recording License to Chill and the other a swaggering pirate. We looked at one another, nodded and smiled, two pirates offering up a professional courtesy to one another as we went about our respective work.
A friend at the time asked why I didn’t pose for a photo. “Why would he want a photo with me,” I asked. “No, for you,” she said.
Silly girl. He’s just a guy doing a job. He puts his pants on just like I do. He’s famous, but one could argue that I am too, a least within certain circles.
I even have proof. Long ago, when I ran parades, I had a barking mechanical dog, Spike. He was a pirate dog and I would sick him on kids up and down the parade route. It was hilarious.
Well, years later, I ran into a fellow pirate. When he was a kid, he had seen a pirate with a battery-operated dog entertaining children along a parade route. It was then that he decided that he wanted to be a pirate when he grew up.
And there he was, standing in front of me. Some little kid who I touched all those years earlier who became a pirate entertainer because of something I did as something of a lark during a parade.
These stories are endless. I could fill up most of the Internet with similar tales While I am not Jimmy Buffett famous, I am famous enough. And just as rich. Not in a bank account kind of way, but in a way that matters far more.
All of us are really. When all is said and done, no one but your heirs care about what’s in the bank account. And our heirs don’t even care about most of our possessions, except the ones that have some value if sold.
In the end, what counts is the lives we touch. It’s the lasting memories we leave behind with others who remember that we were here once. It shows that we mattered.
You may have taught someone something that changed the course of their lives. Or stopped on a rainy night to pick up a stranger whose car had broken down. Maybe you bailed out a friend when no one else would. Of, perhaps, you just sat up one night, helping your friend through a difficult time by doing nothing more than listening without judging.
Fame isn’t what we’re all taught. Neither is fortune. As you look at your own life, cherish the moments when you touched the life of another. And take the time to thank those in your life who touched you in ways that will forever be in your heart, mind and soul.
Like that trade show bartender so many years ago, let someone know that they are remembered, that for a moment in time, their lives mattered. That is the greatest gift you can give another, to let them know that their life has been important to you.
In the Emerald City, adding a star to my own Walk of Fame,