Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Abducting Justin Bieber

Kidnapping Justin Bieber wasn’t nearly as difficult as you might have imagined. His security people were stopping teenaged girls, those who looked like teenaged girls’ parents, and anyone who looked Middle Eastern (imagine how al-Qaeda or the Taliban would love to get their hands on a decadent North American teen idol!), but not really bothering with anyone else. I look these days like a teenaged girl’s grandfather, so the security boys just grunted at me as I limped past them toward Justin’s dressing room in Poughkeepsie’s Preparation H Arena the last week in August. I told him I was a jeweler, that I’d once sold Elvis a wristwatch, and that I had some merchandise in which I thought he might be interested. A few months before I’d told a girl singer that I’d once scored crack for the Go-Gos, only to realize she’d never heard of them. Just about everyone’s heard of Elvis, though, or counts an Elvis impersonator among his neighbors, and Justin seemed to enjoy the idea of buying something from a jeweler who’d serviced him. Out in the corridor, I held a chloroform-soaked handkerchief over his pretty face until he lost consciousness, and then put an old Bill Clinton mask on him and hustled him out to the taxi I had waiting for right outside the artists’ entrance.

I wasn’t surprised when, after regaining consciousness, he seemed not at all dismayed to discover himself abducted, as my preparation for his abduction had included reading lots of articles about how he’d come to feel a prisoner of his own fame. It turns out that he doesn’t much care for fast food, but eats it with prospective endorsement deals in mind; when I and my co-conspirator, the newly laid-off high school guidance counselor next door, asked later that evening if he wanted us to call for a Domino’s or something, he wrinkled his little nose and said he was much more in the mood for some stuffed turbot Provencal or Pepita Crusted Pacific Halibut with Cilantro Serrano Cream.

His love for fine food aside, he turned out to be very much a regular guy. The third night of his captivity, while we were trying to get his management to deposit $20 million into our Swiss bank account in exchange for his release, I — mindful of how precariously the hormones of one his age are balanced — asked if he wanted me to try to get a young swimsuit model over for him. He said I didn’t have to go to nearly that much trouble — that a couple of pats of butter and the latest issue of Maxim would be fine.

We began talking about our respective hopes and dreams and what have you. I confessed that I’d once longed to be a singing sensation in my own right, but that I’d learned to be content over the decades with designing the odd Website and writing the occasional article for an online magazine aimed at triathletes. He talked, sure enough, about how much he disliked being a prisoner of his own fame, and about how, when his audience got old enough to be mortified about ever having adored him, he looked forward to doing something meaningful with his life, like teaching Africans how to make Powerpoint presentations. He asked if I’d ever heard the old saying about how, if you give a family some fish, it may have stuffed turbot Provencal for dinner one evening, but if you teach it how to fish for itself, it can keep itself fed for a lot longer. “Oh,” I said, with my characteristic straight face, “only about a million times.”

I have often thought that it was turbot that starred in the single most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten — at Langan’s Brasserie in London in 1979. I didn’t see any point in mentioning that to my hostage, though, since he wasn’t even born until 20 years thereafter.

Depairing of getting his management to play ball, so to speak, we eventually released Justin into the wild one chilly evening early last week, in plenty of time for him to be euthanized and made into Lady Gaga’s head dress.

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