zac efron, airport, los angeles
November 15, 2008
it’s so strange to see these pictures of you, these pictures people have on paper, he thought, stopping and smiling, the routine, the way it always was. everywhere, all the time, these pictures, these people, the thems with their hims – he’s walking down the street to meet a friend, he’s buying a latte, trying on a jacket, making a connection, eating chicken, whatever, and all of a sudden here’s someone sticking a piece of paper in front of him and it’s him, on the paper, him staring back at him, him smiling at him, always with the smiles. there are so many different hims, hims from every month of the year, hims in plaid and stripes and solids, in suits and hoodies and board shorts, all of the hims all smiling back at him. the one he was looking at right then was a picture of him cut out of some magazine, him with his shirt half on, half off, smiling back at him. looking good, of course. it was in a cardboard frame, homemade, taped on, and there was a sweaty hand giving him a magic marker, the fingertips touching his palm and then shooting back off. he didn’t even see the girl the hand was connected too, he just felt her there – he’d gotten good at recognizing and saying hello to someone without actually seeing them, blanking them out of the scene like green screen special effects. she was saying something about how she loved him and he was nodding at her and starting to sign his name. the routine, how it always goes, the smiles and etc.
as he was signing, though, the cardboard and the marker and the tape made him think of deconstruction and meta and all that stuff, the meta deconstruction stuff, the stuff he had learned on the movie. he had learned so much on this movie, so many things, so many words, ideas, etc. he had learned stuff on HSM, sure, even some on HSM II and HSM III though not as much then, but that was practical stuff, stuff like how to sing to synch (you didn’t really sing! meta…) and conditioning and routines and stuff, stuff about your body and what to do with it and how it worked. on the HSMs he hadn’t learned any school-type stuff like he had on this movie – man, he had learned so many things. even just the words he had learned, a whole big bound book of words: meta, deconstruction, artifice, avantguard, paradox, biopic! being on set with richard and everybody was like being in school, like when you had to take vocabulary tests and you didn’t only have to know the definition of the words, you had to be able to use them in sentences, to prove that you really understood them. zac always got perfect scores on those, he was great at them.
deconstruction. richard used the word deconstruction a lot, especially when he was talking serious and art-like about what the movie was about and what it meant and stuff, what it “signified.” “this movie deconstructs orson welles,” he had said one night at the mexican restaurant, swinging his beer bottle like a conductor’s wand, “it deconstructs the standard hollywood biopic. hell,” he had said, laughing, “it deconstructs our friend zac efron here, it turns him completely upside down, am i right? it’s gonna fuck with everybody’s head when they see him in this shit, you know, how good he is.” and he had punched zac in the arm when he said “good” and zac had smiled and everybody had laughed. zac hadn’t been sure what deconstructed meant then, but he liked the sound of it and especially liked that the same thing that was happening to orson was happening to him. he felt like the word and its use made them closer, him and orson welles, it drew them together, they were alike because they were in the same sentence and the same word was being used to describe them. he could be like orson if he wanted to, he could make something more than himself, bigger, different, filled with words and ideas and silvery light.
and meta, how had he lived without meta? he had told richard he had gotten a new dog and named it “puppy.” richard, just call him rick, had laughed and said in his texasy accent, “damn, that’s pretty meta, zac.” zac, because he didn’t know the word then, had thought he had said, “metal,” like “heavy metal.” he was really confused because it didn’t seem very extreme or hot topic or anything to name a dog “puppy” and, anyway, he hadn’t had any real idea behind doing it, not at all, he had just named the dog puppy because that’s what it was, it was only two weeks old.
now that he understood, though, now that he knew the words “meta” and “deconstruction,” it seemed like everything was meta and everything could be deconstructed, you could see everything in this different way, like x-ray vision. like, even his name, “zac,” his name was really meta, so meta, apparently, it was totally deconstruction and everything. he couldn’t imagine how he had lived without knowing these great cinematical hollywood words, what the world had been like then, how dumb and simple. it was like the difference between having the small package of crayons and the big package, with all the colors – fuschia, aquamarine, chestnut. it was the difference between movies and films – one of the producers had a british accent, a real one, like shakespeare or something, and she had said to him that he might have been in some movies in the past but this was “a film” and things were “a little different” on “films, darling.” she was being mean to him but he didn’t care, he loved the way she pronounced “film” because it sounded expensive and artistic. he was meta, his name was meta, it was meta because it didn’t have an “h.”
autograph. auto…graph. it’s weird, zac deconstructed, that autograph means “write your name.” an autograph should really be some kind of graph made automatically, like a pie chart or a line graph or a dot plot. he remembered them all, economics, tenth grade, A+. or maybe it shouldn’t be like that, maybe instead it should be a graph about autos, like automobiles, like cars, etc. the thought began to bounce around in his head, the creation, the deconstruction, the energy. like orson. the auto-graph would be a funny joke if he was on a talk show, he thought. he had to do talk shows soon, to promote the movie, ellen and leno and letterman, regis and kelly, some others. it was a small movie and he was the biggest star and he had to sell it, he had responsibilities. so, since the movie had wrapped, he had been practicing for the appearances in his head, doing the interviews over and over, the whole thing, the entrance and the talking and the smiling and the laughing and the clapping and the exit. he imagineered it, he innovated it, he deconstructed it in his mind, every angle, every second, every beat. he was excited to go on most of the shows but not about letterman, he only had bad stomach feelings about letterman. he had been on letterman once before, for HSM, and it had been hard, letterman had been mean, a mean old man. because of this, he imagineered letterman the most. in his mind, he could see letterman making some mean comment about how famous he was and asking for his autograph, which would really just be a trick to make him look stupid, a fake-out, a mean old man trick. but now, because of his deconstruction, he had an idea, a creation, a weapon. like orson. deconstruction was like a superpower for artists, it was, it was like thought magic. in his imagining, zac would fake letterman out, would deconstruct his fake-out and turn it around on him, fake him out. instead of signing the headshot letterman gave him for the autograph, zach would reach behind his chair, out of camera range, and then pull out a big piece of posterboard and on the posterboard there would be a picture of his audi overlaid with some kind of graph of its fuel efficiency or how green it was or something. the crowd would murmur and whisper and letterman would act confused and say something like, “now…what is, what is this you have here?” and do that old-man chuckle of his to the audience. and zac would say, confident, “well, it’s just my auto-graph, dave, isn’t that what you wanted?” and he would smile right to the camera and audience and everybody and they would all laugh, everybody, with him, not at him, with not at. maybe even the next day people would write posts on websites about how clever he was and other people would comment and agree with this.
he continued writing his name, automatic, his hand moving without his brain having to move it. auto…matic. no, that wouldn’t work, he couldn’t deconstruct that, he didn’t know what a matic was. that was a disappointment, the brain failure took him out of his imagining space and back into the real world, into the airport. he felt gross in his hoodie because of the air – the dirty plane air was still in there. he wanted to take off the hood of the hoodie but he couldn’t, he knew, it would mess up his hair and then they would take pictures of him with the bad hair. they woudl take these pictures and they would make copies of him that had bad hair, more hims, on paper and on screens, and that was not an acceptable thing because if you had bad hair people could accuse you of being drunk or on drugs or just plain getting uglier than you used to be, they could say any old thing about you they wanted, they could ruin you. he left his hoodie on and began signing his last name.
would orson welles wear hoodies? what would orson do? that was a game they had made, a deconstruction game, a really meta kind of imagineering. it had started out as a joke. christian had been sitting on set, in his orson costume, the hair and the make-up and everything, waiting for a light to be set. while he was waiting, he had been playing a game on somebody’s PSP. richard had come up to him and said, “now christian, do you really think orson welles would play PSP while he was waiting to do a take?” and christian had not really been paying attention and without looking up had mumbled, “i don’t know.” so richard had asked zac, who was standing right beside him, watching, “ok, zac, what do you think, would orson play PSP?” and zac, he didn’t know where this had come from, it had come from deep inside his brain, some electric thought magic, zac had said, “no, i think he would play a nintendo DS. the DS is fresh and creative, right? with the two screens and the little pen and everything, and I think orson, because he was an artist, would play that instead.” and richard had looked at him and christian had looked up from the game and looked at him and even though it lasted less than a second, it seemed like they were looking at him for a really long time. they looked at him in two ways, first like he was crazy and then like he was smart. zac liked those two looks, both of them, together, the one and the other. he imagined that those were the looks people looked at orson with way back when, the ways they would see him, crazy and smart and mad and genius and wild and brilliant. he liked those looks and the way they made him feel and how they made him feel different than the usual looks he got, the looks about his looks (meta!), the looks about his smile and his abs and his bangs and the way he could make a picture of himself with his shirt half on, half off seem completely natural. finally they had laughed and richard agreed that he was absolutely right, orson would play DS, definitely.
after that it had been this game they played all the time, everybody, every day, what would orson do? would orson have an extra serving of the hot entree or would orson just snack throughout the day? would orson drive an SUV or a hybrid? would orson read variety or nikki finke? would orson like 50 cent or kanye? would orson dip in hummus or salsa? the great thing about the game was that everyone could have an opinion and give reasons for it but because of that thing he had said about the DS, everyone said zach was the expert, he was the genius of the game, he was the man. no one had ever treated him like that before, like he knew more things than other people. so now, even though the movie was over and the game was over, he kept playing it in his head because it still made him feel that feeling inside, that good feeling of being smart and creative, like orson.
orson welles would wear hoodies, he decided, both orsons, the young orson and the old orson. there were two orsons and sometimes you would make that distinction, he had decided, that was sometimes part of the game, it was a rule he had made which he had the power to do being the expert on orson. he had done a lot of research on the internet about orson besides seeing all his movies. films, they weren’t movies, they were films. zac decided that the young orson would wear hoodies like the way pete wentz wears hoodies, he would wear them in this stylish, fashionable young avantguard way, that’s how he would wear his hoodies. but then the old orson would also wear hoodies. he would wear them to cover up how fat and drunk he was, he would use them to hide, like in that movie when he wore a black magician’s cape and a top hat and did magic. the old orson would use the hoodie to show that it didn’t matter how he looked, it mattered what he did and said, what he thought and created. zac liked a lot of things about orson but what he liked most of all was how orson had deconstructed himself, had changed, had gone from young orson to old orson and become a completely new person. zac was tired of being who he was, he wanted to change, it was time. even though he was proud of the movie, it wasn’t the role he wanted, it wasn’t who he wanted to be. the name of the movie was “me and orson welles” but what killed him was that no one would ever pick him to play orson welles, he would only ever get picked to be “me.” he would never get to play an artist or a villain or a renegade cop, he would only get to be a more handsome version of normal, a more attractive average. and yes, he was attractive, yes, he was handsome, yes, his smile was incredible, yes, it was beautiful, yes yes yes, so what. he was more than eyes and lips and teeth, he had done this movie, this indie movie, this avantguard biopic, he had done it to show that he was more, to change himself, to deconstruct. he didn’t know it then, before, but now with all the words and ideas he had learned on this movie, he knew, he could express it. he had depth, he had range, he was meta, he could deconstruct. that was the thing, he could construct and deconstruct, he could do it, he had the ability somewhere deep inside to do it, like a red button in a control room inside his brain and all he had to do was press it and he would explode. he wanted to deconstruct himself so bad, like orson. he wanted to take himself and make himself into something else.
but he couldn’t, that’s what he was finding, he couldn’t, it was impossible. it was impossible because of all the hims. because there were all these hims, hims on paper and screens and bedroom walls, in plaid and stripes and solids, and they decided who he was, not the him inside but the hims outside, all of them, they were him, not he. all the hims, smiling. he couldn’t change them all, he couldn’t get rid of them, there were too many, he couldn’t. so there, in the airport, in his hoodie, in the bad air, he finished signing his name and, when he was done signing it, he did what he always did – he drew a little star after the “n” in “efron,” five points, a star to show who he was.