Last month, I went to see George Clooney (yes, 2-time People Sexiest Man Alive George Clooney) speak at Wortham for the Brilliant Lectures Series. The brother of a friend of mine (D) founded the lecture series, whose mission is to "educate, inspire, and increase public awareness in our community." Fortunately for us, D was unable to attend that night, and so Husband and I got to go with his wife, A, and his mom.
I didn't really know what to expect from the evening. Since it is Houston in the summer (summer in Houston begins in April, sometimes May if we're lucky), Husband and I headed out the door wearing jeans and a button-down shirt—Texas formal. Then just as we were getting into our car, A called and said that we should "dress nice." So in we ran, tugging on khakis and skirts to make ourselves more presentable. And thank goodness we did. When we arrived, there were so many ladies in ball gowns. Full on, 1% glamour happening. Just when you thought it was safe to stop teasing your hair, the Houston gentry have proven otherwise.
We settled into our box seats (knowing the organizer has its advantages) and people watched until Clooney took the stage.
A few years ago I watched the Inside the Actors Studio, hosted by James Lipton, featuring Clooney, and I expected the Lecture Series to take roughly the same format. It will not surprise you to hear that he is as charismatic in person as he is on the screen.
Clooney reminded us that he first found fame when he was 33. He said he was in 13 pilots before ER, and that if ER had been scheduled for Friday and not Thursday, it was very likely that the show would have been #14. He demonstrated great humility and respect for his luck, and mentioned that his greatest regret would be not trying. If every lecture has a take-home lesson, for me, this was it. As creators of art, we never know when something will resonate with others. We want everything we make to generate the same excitement and passion we feel for our art, but it's hard to guess which will be the tipping point. All we can do is keep striving and perfecting our methods, and eventually, we will achieve success in some form or another.
There were some questions about his movies—some Batman jokes were tossed around. At one point, Lynn Wyatt asked what he considered to be his greatest accomplishment, and Clooney responded, "my kids." He was charming, gorgeous, and funny, naturally, but most of the conversation during the evening focused on his humanitarian work.
Celebrity causes have become a bit of a cliche, but Clooney responded with intelligence when asked about his work in the Sudan. He had recently been arrested for civil disobedience during a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy (on March 16), and he spoke candidly about his efforts to raise awareness. During the Q&A, a Darfur refugee spoke to him through a translator regarding her experience. Though she spoke too fast for us to understand her words, the energy and pain in her voice echoed in the silence of the room. Clooney gave an eloquent and responsible response, the most you can ask regarding a complicated issue raised in a public venue.
I feel like, as an academic, I should end this post by asking something about the nature of celebrity culture, but I won't. At the end of the lecture, I truly was inspired to keep trying. To keep working on my writing, to keep working to make the world a better place. A little positivity goes a long way.
And now, silly picture found on interwebs:
Keep writing, my friends.
(post edited to add pics as per request!)