Brian M. Palmer in Long Beach

Fifteen feet from Natalie

My interest in Natalie Portman began when I saw a trailer for Mars Attacks . I was 16. I didn't know who she was, but her almond eyes and aquiline nose caught my attention. I did research and found that she had appeared in a few films. After renting them, I was at an impasse. Mars Attacks had not yet been released, and I had exhausted her brief oeuvre. Around this time, the term "world wide web" was becoming a part of the American lexicon. During a visit to my computer-equipped mother's home, I found that others shared my interest in Natalie and had built shrines to her on the Internet. I read all the interviews I could and discovered evidence that further fueled my obsession. Like me, Natalie was a 16-year-old junior in high school, a vegetarian of many years, and found the word "clutter" to be pleasing to the ear. I felt a common bond with her. All the older men taking an interest in the 16-year-old girl sickened me. It was okay for me to be interested in her; in fact, if one were to take stock of the evidence, I had many good reasons to be infatuated. She was meant for me, not all those other crazy, creepy guys. I knew what I had to do. I needed to go to New York to meet Natalie.

After coming to this conclusion, I attempted to hatch a plan to get to New York. I had many fantasies about hitchhiking there, spending a few days with some nonexistent artist friends, and just happening to see Natalie at a local pizza parlor. We would hit it off immediately, and she would bring me home to her artist mother and obstetrician father. Initially, they would be skeptical of my atheism, yet sensing their daughter's feelings, they would decide to reserve judgment. I would help her rehearse for auditions, and she would provide the muse for my inner writer.

But reality sunk in: I lived 3000 miles away and could no sooner afford a trip to New York than I could a new pair of shoes.

A few months later, word came that the pilgrimage might actually come to fruition. My aunt offered to take me to New York City with her during spring break. I jumped at the chance. A quick look at queenamidalasplace.com verified what I had suspected: Natalie would be performing on Broadway in The Diary of Anne Frank .

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to convince my Aunt to see the tragic play, but she was game. And so it was that I ended up sitting 15 feet away from Natalie Portman for more than two hours. I couldn't believe my good fortune. After the show, I was surprised to discover that we had chosen a night when the cast would answer questions from the audience. Initially, Natalie didn't appear on stage, and my heart sank. I was starting to worry that "select members of the cast" did not include her. But then she came out. She was giggly and acted like the teenage girl she was, yet she answered questions thoughtfully and professionally. My crush reached its highest point.

The next day I resolved to write Natalie a letter expressing how I felt. I tried to formulate the right combination of words that would warrant a response. I cringe now to even think of the specifics of the mash note I later delivered to the play's stage manager. Needless to say, she never replied. But at the time, I was convinced she would write me back.

One Saturday, not long after returning home, a hand-written envelope with a New York return address arrived in the mail. I allowed myself to be excited for a few seconds and then ripped open the envelope to find a brochure from Columbia College that I had requested while in New York.

My disappointment eventually evolved into disinterest. I stopped going to websites dedicated to Natalie, and 1999's Anywhere But Here was the last film I saw solely because she was in it. As she and I both began to become adults, my infatuation came to an end. I wanted the cuter, younger version of her, but she was long gone. As that form of her began to mature and change, so did the part of me that was so obsessed with her -- she was left with severely prominent cheekbones, and I no longer have the ability to harbor celebrity crushes of such magnitude.


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