You know how we hold some people on such a high pedestal, they can’t possibly ever live up to our expectations? And in the quest to make a connection with such a person, we end up getting bruised and battered — and wiser?
Such is the case with Maile Hernandez’s relationship with Broadway star Patti LuPone. In her book, “The Unreachable Star: My Unauthorized Travels with Patti LuPone,” Hernandez chronicles her multi-year long quixotic quest to make a connection with her idol. While the narrative can easily creep over to crazy fangirldom, Hernandez retains perspective, always making it clear that she knows her boundaries between enthusiastic fan and stalker.
Ooh. Stalker. Yes, it’s a word that’s thrown out there with little regard. However, Hernandez is far from a stalker. She never crosses that line — you know, driving by her house late at night, making a Patti Shrine, or calling her number and hanging up. In fact, she respects LuPone so much, she avoids stage-dooring, as it might seem too obtrusive. Instead, she writes wordy, candid and funny letters to LuPone, which are featured in the book, hoping to elicit a response. It’s both humorous and heartbreaking.
In fueling her obsession with LuPone, Hernandez spends some time talking about the online LuPone MySpace fan community she befriends. She’s amazed at their collective knowledge of all things LuPone, and soon she’s exchanging emails and gossip with a group of teenagers — knowing how ridiculous it all is for a 30-something mother to be doing so. It’s an interesting perspective on how seemingly comforting it is to find community online, and then how dangerous it can become when one shifts from passive observant to full-fledged participant.
While there are times in the book you want to take Hernandez by the shoulders and shake her back into reality, you get the feeling she already knows this. In her travels, Hernandez confronts her fears in succeeding as a mother of an autistic child, a professional and an artist. In the end, her dysfunctional relationship with LuPone provides the needed face-slap to give her perspective on what really matters — something I think we all need every now and then.
To learn more about Maile Hernandez and her book, visit MaileHernandez.com.