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February 26, 2005

Update: Trouble in NumaNumaLand

Internet Fame Is Cruel Mistress for a Dancer of the Numa Numa

Poor Gary.

He has now sought refuge from his fame in his family's small house on a gritty street in Saddle Brook. He has stopped taking phone calls from the news media, including The New York Times. He canceled an appearance on NBC's "Today." According to his relatives, he mopes around the house.

What's worse is that no one seems to understand.

Of course I'm guessing, but maybe I get it. In about 1996, when I first started posting to rec.arts.crafts.textile or to the KnitList, the fact that I was a man knitting meant that I had notoriety whether I had any talent or not. I also managed to use both the words "penis" and "faggot" (referring to myself in jest) - in the same post? I don't remember. The exuberance, though obviously intentional, was not calculated.

Shortly, I was getting invitations to national knitting conventions and offers for articles and teaching. It's a good thing I am a good writer and teacher and I think a decent knitter, but I'd say about 1/3 of the KnitList at the time were stronger knitters technically than I was; they just didn't have penises. (There's that word again.)

I thrive on attention but it also disturbed me. We don't just want fame; we want respect. They're two different things. Fame is random; the inflammation of the public imagination. Respect is earned on the merits.

I didn't care when the knitting gigs dried up; it was never a goal of mine. I learned a lot about the vagaries of popularity (however minor) from that experience. At 19, I think the lesson may be a bit disillusioning for Gary.

Thanks to P for sending this to me.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at February 26, 2005 1:57 PM

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I saw him on Good Morning America. I really felt badly for him as all the hosts seemed amused and entertained with his notoriety and he just seemed sad and depressed by it all. It also does not do wonders for one's self esteem (especially at age 19) to have the adjectives "doughy" and "pudgy" linked to your name in the national (even international) print media. Poor Gary! He looked so happy in his video!

Posted by: Steve at February 26, 2005 4:31 PM

I am so stupid... the correct response to this posting should have been... "Miya Boo Hoo!" My brain just was not thinking quickly enough!

Posted by: Steve at February 26, 2005 4:46 PM

Leigh, dear, yes, you DID use both "penis" and "faggot" in the same sentence on the KnitList. There was a sort of collective indrawn breath of ... not shock. Startlement? Bafflement? Astonishment? Excitement? Not sure. It was a long time ago...

Posted by: Grace at February 26, 2005 8:44 PM

Yeah - nearly a decade now. As I recall, I got one indignant letter and twenty "The list is filled with lots of fuddy-duddies, but I think you're just great!" notes. I'm sure I'm creating the story the way I would like it to be, but I still think it wasn't calculated. I completely forgot who my audience was.

Posted by: Leigh Witchel at February 26, 2005 10:18 PM

I think the knitlist used to be edgier. At the time, I remember you were a breath of fresh air...I shudder to think what the response would be now.

Posted by: stephanie at February 26, 2005 10:21 PM

Grace and I were talking about this earlier - how groups and conversations develop and how difficult they are to preserve - a great article on the subject: http://shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html

I feel like the topic cycle of a list is about a year. Then new people start discussing the same topics the senior members have already hashed out. The senior members have exhausted their topics, but don't want to rediscuss old ones, so they move on.

At this point I'm not even sure what the big list is like. I enjoyed it, but it got overwhelming to read, and I got overwhelmed by the topic cycle after 5-6 years myself, and a lot of the people I really liked when I first arrived were no longer there.

Steve - Poor kid. I wonder if there's more to the story and his discomfort than what's on the surface.

Posted by: Leigh Witchel at February 26, 2005 10:36 PM

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