I usually get a few e-mails after my columns appear in the Deseret Morning News, but for some reason, my Jan. 16 musings on celebrityitis, which mentioned Diana Ross and Donny Osmond, among others, elicited particularly fine replies. I decided they warranted a column of their own.
One reader made me wonder if I should pepper my column with famous names to increase my readership. "Ms. Young: I just wanted to tell you I thought your article on the lady who moved to Utah was nice . . . I received it because I'm on a list that sends me anything to do with Diana Ross, however I would have found your piece nice even if Miss Ross wasn't mentioned."
An e-mail came from a woman in Munich, Germany. I wrote back at my surprise at having a reader so far away. She replied that she had spent time in Utah in 1980. She liked the area so she read the Deseret Morning News on the Internet. Also, she was interested in Donny Osmond.
Another e-mail came from Stefani Wanicur, who worked for my son, Steve, during his years with the San Francisco 49ers. My Jan. 16 column mentioned that my husband and I happened to move in across the street from Donny. Stefani wrote about her experience meeting Donny. "I remember the first time I met Donny was with Steve at the 'Donny and Marie' show, and I was absolutely giddy and nervous (ha!). He was my childhood idol and I can still sing all the words to 'Puppy Love.' Steve was absolutely embarrassed at my behavior. I didn't rush and attack him, but I was so nervous, I couldn't speak and was very fidgety. Steve couldn't believe it! I could be around any superstar athlete on the planet and be nonplussed; but with Donny Osmond — I was still an 8-year-old girl with her first crush."
She continued: "Over the years I would STILL get nervous and have my heart racing every time our paths crossed. There was one time he called me at home to try and find Steve and I was giggly for a week and told all my friends. So, it's not only the celebrity — but the context we all know them in! (If you see me now sitting out in front of your house, don't blow my cover.) This not from a Utah Mormon girl but a Jewish girl who grew up in Washington, D.C."
John Robben from Greenwich, Conn., related this story: "Years ago many people thought I either resembled or actually was Johnny Carson, even my son, Robert. When he was about 7 or 8 we saw a sculpted bust of Carson on display and he asked why there was a statue of me in the museum. For some reason African-Americans in particular would come up to me in Manhattan and ask for my autograph.
"I was on a flight to Chicago one night and Johnny was sitting in the seat directly in front of me. Against my better instincts, and perhaps because it was shortly after Robert had seen 'me' in the museum, I scribbled a note to Carson about people (including my own son) thinking I was him. The flight attendant relayed my note to him and as soon as he'd finished reading it he turned around, studied my face, and without cracking a smile said, 'You've got a problem.' "
When I started writing a newspaper column back in Connecticut, a mentor advised me not to expect readers to beat a path to my door. He added that most of the time I would not hear from them, and that others, in spite of enjoying what they had read, would rarely say anything, even if they happened to run into me.
Virginia Woolf calls it "the indifference of readers." She adds, "The world does not ask people to write poems and novels and histories; it does not need them. It does not care whether Flaubert finds the right word."
For the most part I find my mentor's advice true. That is why the response I received was so delightful. It is always pleasant to hear that someone appreciated my efforts. But whether or not I receive responses, it is a privilege to "have a voice."