Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.


This weekend, I had the chance to head in to Boston for what turned into an entirely enjoyable social occasion. I leapt off the MBTA train at the Government Center station, took the stairs (not the escalator – offers exercise, saves time) up to the Government Center plaza itself, strolled vaguely toward the Harbor, past Boston City Hall, down the steps, across Congress Street and onto the grounds of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. As I have done many times before, I walked to the south side of Faneuil Hall, aiming to get around it and to the shops and eateries of the Marketplace.

Unfortunately, I found myself on a decreasingly wide sidewalk, as metal barriers had been set up to herd pedestrians away from the Hall, and … curiously, the barriers connected with the Abercrombie and Fitch store building to the south of the Hall, and there was no way to get to the rest of the Marketplace.

Creative and flexible person that I am … and also since I was more than a bit early for my appointed Social Event time … I smiled, pulled a 180 and walked around the Hall via the north side, which was not blocked off at all. There were more barriers keeping the general public from accessing Faneuil Hall via its main entrance on the east side, the Harbor side. A few tourists milled about, wondering, as I did, whether Faneuil Hall was closed for some reason. A few faintly-official-looking people stood inside the temporary metal gates, wearing relatively dressy and distinctly non-turista clothes. A couple other people stood around brandishing notebooks. No dummy, me – I immediately put two and two together and got “photo op”.

I heard a large cheer and then applause from inside Faneuil Hall. Hmm. Political pep rally of some kind? Concert? (Let me in!)

Then the local gendarme arrived.

There were men and women wearing neon yellow Boston Police Special Operations jackets. There were Boston Police officers wearing dark glasses and motorcycle helmets. They placed themselves along the gates, and responded to some gentle tourists’ gentle questions, first guardedly, and then with wider and wider smiles, particularly when the questions started to come from a few little children. I hung back, about ten yards distant. I thought about going and asking the nearest officer the obvious question: “what’s the occasion?” But for whatever reason, I decided to try and figure it out myself.

Then the fleet of dark-windowed, jet-black vehicles arrived.

Into the blocked-off area of the plaza swept a pair of Boston Police motorcycles. Then a Boston Police cruiser. All lights blazing. Then two black SUVs, each one just about the size of my first apartment. My eye for detail noted Massachusetts license plates. Hmm. Local politico, perhaps.

Then came a stretch limousine with District of Columbia license plates.

Well, that upped the ante. Not local politicos, then. Senator Kerry or Brown? Some other member of the House of Representatives? It’s coming on toward campaign season, after all. Politician? Diplomat? More exciting by the moment, I had to admit.

All of the vehicles pulled up to a (south-) side entrance of the Hall. Out of the SUVs piled an entirely sufficient number of men and women in black suits, mirrored sunglasses, and earpieces. I wasn’t sure whether one could conclusively say, “ah. Secret Service” – but these fine folks were gently assessing the potential of every possible passerby, and doing their best … or rather, their completely pathetic worst … not to look as if they were assessing every possible passerby.

Then the limo’s door opened.

I couldn’t see much. I did see a conservatively-dressed woman emerge from the limo, followed by a gentleman who, from my vantage point (admittedly at a distance of probably 30 yards), seemed like an immensely cheerful version of the rounder-faced member of the Muppets’ “Statler and Waldorf” balcony heckler duo. His flyaway white hair gave him the faint aura of a happy, benign mad scientist; Einstein with a laugh track. He smiled from ear to ear and beyond, and waved gallantly at the assembled onlookers, who by this time had assembled about two or three deep all around the metal gates. And many, many of the onlookers waved gallantly back. It all seemed very friendly. They seemed to know who he was. I suddenly felt like I wanted to know, too.

About half an hour later (my Social Event’s appointed time had, during the meanwhile, shifted to slightly later in the day), the small party of Famous Persons whom I had not been able to recognize – but whom clearly had been recognized by lots of other people – attempted to walk thirty yards from the side entrance of Faneuil Hall to a small restaurant on the corner of a nearby Marketplace building so they could have lunch. It took a concerted security-personnel effort to herd them from Point A to Point B, what with adjusting the crowd-control gates and such.

They must have been rather important. Or famous. Or successful. Or something…

A short while later, I sat at a table of one of the Marketplace’s outdoor restaurants, and my lunch friend asked the waitress, “so, what’s the occasion?”

Oh,” she said, “the President of Ireland’s here.”

(And, to be clear: she was the President of Ireland, and the Waldorf lookalike was likely her husband.)

Hence, the DC limo. Hence, the folks (both hulking men and verrrrry intense young women) in the suits. And (said our server) hence, the snipers on the rooftops all around us.

Snipers, eh? I had chanced to look up toward the tops of the surrounding buildings as the SUVs were appearing, and I hadn’t seen a thing. I guess that was the point…

Okay, then, it was a whole lot more serious an event than I thought. Belatedly, I grasped the idea that precautions had been taken, …in case there might be trouble. Oh, so I was standing out in the middle of the Marketplace plaza when someone at security central was thinking that the weather report might call for “cloudy with a chance of bullets”??


Anyway. So. Still want to be famous, like you did when you were a kid?

Sure, we can say plenty of disapproving things about the One Percent, or the Fat Cat Politicians – the people who rate a stretch limo and a security detail, while the rest of us scrape to afford a place to live and a thing to drive and food to eat and heat to get warm by. A lot of times one of those Famous Persons rates those accoutrements because his or her chief of staff (or manager or agent or publicity department) is concerned about the crush of crowds, or the paparazzi, or the one deranged wacko who might be lining something up on their employer’s forehead.

So, as much as I’d like to be independently wealthy (although I would not nearly so much like to be politically important) – and as much as such a condition would make life easier, what with relieving all the financial worries and such – it all got me to thinking: we (as children) said things like, “I wanna be a rock star, a baseball star, a famous millionaire, the President!!”

Yeah. Great, except for when you want to go around the corner to the store and get a soda. Or to the department store, to buy some more dress socks. Or to a restaurant that you always liked, to enjoy their terrific pan pizza. Then, seemingly, it gets complicated. And okay, so if you’re that well-off, you can employ people to fetch all that stuff for you. But if you’re one of those intensely-protected Famous Persons and you want to take a walk on the Common, or lie on the beach, or ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail, or take in a Worcester Tornadoes baseball game, or pop in on a coffeehouse concert of folk music, or browse the shelves of a bookstore in peace … it’s a more involved proposition, with next to no spontaneity, and probably a good deal less fun.

After the day was over, I realized that I’d found it that much more enjoyable to be able to hop a T train and meet a friend for lunch, undetected. No muss, no fuss. Sometimes, although some Kardashian family members or other members of the One Percent might not believe it, it’s better when you’re able to go places and do things, and nobody cares.


May 8, 2012 Posted by | celebrity, Famous Persons | , , , , | 1 Comment