Made my third little pilgrimage to see her speak, this time in Seattle. This was my favorite lecture, though, because she read a long essay about recognizing a higher consciousness and answered questions and signed books, and the whole event, at three hours, still didn’t feel long enough.
The thing about thinking that you had some kind of spiritual recognition of Shirley MacLaine when you were two years old, and that you are somehow special because she wrote to you when you were eight, is that about ten thousand other people feel exactly the same way. And these are the people who are willing to pay 80 bucks to see her talk about spirituality. So you go to these events thinking, “I flew all the way here from Minnesota just to see this, I am definitely the craziest person in the room.” But then she opens the microphone up for questions.
One man had written poetry about Shirley and God and tried shouting the stanzas from the back of the auditorium. Another woman asked if Shirley would please sell her the necklace she was wearing. A lady with a fanny pack told Shirley that her books were the only things that saved her during a long stay at a psychiatric hospital, where she baffled the doctors with her new, as yet unnamed mental disorder. A man screamed her name from the front row, waving a poster-sized picture of the two of them taken 25 years ago.
I stayed in my seat. I have Big Questions for her, but this wasn’t the time.
Later, I was standing in front of the elevator doors, at the tail end of the line to get my book signed, when the doors suddenly parted and there she was. With her handlers, with her dog Terry, with her dog Terry’s handlers. Shirley sort of threw her hands in the air and raised her eyebrows, and I moved to the side in reverence. This shit is like magical for me, right? But the woman in front of me was less obedient:
“Shirley, can I have a hug?”
Shirley kept that hand in the air as she walked past. “Maybe later,” she said.
The woman squealed. “She said later!”
I didn’t get to talk to Shirley because the woman who wanted the hug so badly was in cahoots with a gaggle of squawking ladies who also wanted hugs; they crowded up the front of the table and were taking cell phone pictures. “Move it, please,” Shirley told them with gritted teeth, without looking up at them.
I just slipped past. Rule Number Four of my life is to never, ever piss off Shirley MacLaine.