Jeff: I need you to go into my house, okay, go up to my bedroom. To the left of the TV, there’s a cabinet by the bookcase there. Open it up, move the linens in there, move ’em to the side, push on the back door, and it’ll open up. Inside there, I have, like, seven, eight porn tapes. A couple of magazines, all right? I need you to get ’em out of there. You gotta get it out of there, because if something happens to me …
Larry: Oh, you’re thinking, like, the anesthesia, something goes wrong …
Jeff: Anything goes wrong…
Larry: So in case you die, you don’t want your wife to discover your porno stuff.
Jeff: She doesn’t understand that.
— Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Porno Gil”
In the beginning, when there is only blind infatuation, you never think of the detritus. You never think that someday, all of this will end and you will be overcome with revulsion over your folly. And then you will sit on the floor with your head in your hands and wonder what the hell you were thinking. And how the hell are you going to dispose of the evidence of your 10+ year-long celebrity crush, an obsession catalogued by a pile of crap for which you once paid top dollar on eBay, but is now so worthless on the open market, you can’t even give it away.
If I were to walk outside right now and get hit by a bus, this is what my loved ones would discover when they sift through my belongings:
A four-drawer filing cabinet, one-and-a-half drawers of which is devoted to the aforementioned celebrity crush, crammed full of newspaper clippings, magazines, foreign newspapers and magazines, stacks of 8X10 glossy press photos and I don’t even know what else.
A bookshelf filled with choice finds pertaining to the career of celebrity crush, including script books, unauthorized bio, weird random memoirs by other celebrities in which crush is mentioned and movie tie-in novelizations.
Two shelves of movies on DVD and (woe is me) VHS, and another of bootleg tapes and DVDs from European sources and homemade stuff taped off the TV.
A book-on-tape, read by celebrity crush. I don’t even have a machine to play it on anymore.
An autographed photo that someone obtained for me, that isn’t even autographed to my correct name.
Three movie posters, rolled up in the closet.
Four action figure likenesses of celebrity crush, one of which remains sealed in its original package (the only items in this absurd collection that I actually wouldn’t mind keeping).
I deleted all the fan fiction in a pre-surgery panic, like Jeff on Curb Your Enthusiasm, a few years ago. So, that’s something.
I know you’re probably wondering why I let this happen. The truth is, I don’t know. I wasn’t unhappily married, sex-starved or a hoarder. Maybe it was menopausal hormone wackiness. Maybe I needed a hobby. Look, the “why” of it is not important. Neither is the “who,” so don’t ask. My problem right now is “how”. How do I get rid of this stuff?
Most of it can’t just be dumped in the trash. Have you tried to get rid of a video tape lately? They are among the least recyclable objects on the planet. Even my local library has a stern “ABSOLUTELY NO TAPES” sign next to its donation bin. I’d burn them, but it would probably destroy what’s left of the ozone layer. I suppose I could make it all Goodwill’s problem, but that seems like the coward’s way out. Yard sale? I would rather die than identify myself as the owner of nine cassette tapes of obscure BBC radio plays of the 1980s and a borderline gay-porn indie film that the former object of my admiration not surprisingly leaves off his resume. Why does a spring cleaning of the soul have to be so embarrassing?
When you’re in the throes of celebrity crushdom, you feel giddy every time you gaze upon your temple of spoils. It’s your obsession made tangible. But when you finally snap out of it, you see that it’s just a big, stupid pile of shame. And it’s not even cool shame! I once owned every issue of 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat from back when I was a kid in love with Davy Jones. Could I not have had the foresight to save those? At least that bundle of vintage pop artifacts would have been an adorable reminder of my youthful innocence, unlike this albatross of midlife insanity I’m now saddled with.
And it kills me that the dregs of an inexplicable passing fancy live on, while my collection of Springsteen tee shirts … oh, now here’s a sad story. I safely carted my precious E Street Band tour tees (going back to 1978!) on a cross country move, but 16 years later, when we moved three streets over, I somehow left them in a big green garbage bag in the garage and moved a big green garbage bag full of car-washing rags instead. I didn’t discover the mistake for months, and by then it was too late.
I still mourn the loss of my Born in the USA tour sweatshirt. Come to think of it, there was a Clash Sandinista shirt in that bag, too. And one that the producers of My So-Called Life distributed to TV critics after the show was cancelled, with the logo on the front and handwritten messages from the cast and crew on the back. Claire Danes! Jared Leto! Gone, all gone. And yet, my big, smoking pile of shame remains, mocking me, eternal as nuclear waste.
Breaking up with a celebrity crush is not like breaking up in real life; when the spell is broken and crush leaves you feeling nothing but queasiness, you can’t just tell him to pack up all of his lousy possessions and go. So, to anyone having a dreamy little thing with a celebrity, I advise this: Keep it dreamy, like, entirely in your head, because once you start accumulating actual, physical memorabilia, you are so screwed.
Oh, and if you can guess the celebrity who inspired my pile of shame, you’re welcome to (almost) anything from it. But I’m keeping the action figures, and you’re paying the postage.
©Joyce Millman, The Mix Tape, 2014