Last year I quit my job as a film critic and an editor at the Weekly to move with my husband, George, to the small town of Hanover, New Hampshire, where he took an English professorship at Dartmouth College. Among other things, I soon found myself missing the potential for celebrity so specific to L.A. I’m not just talking about seeing a star at the supermarket, but that shining chance that, metaphorically at least, you’ll be at the drugstore having a soda and a producer will discover you. Or that, even without the producer, you’ll be able to wangle a daydream or two. Several years ago, I had a raging crush on Gabriel Byrne. I went to a party at a starlet’s house with a friend, and there he was. “There he is,” I said to myself, as if it had only been a matter of time. I had a lot of fun at this party. Not too much action Gabriel-wise — Pamela Des Barres was there, too, and she commandeered his lap, bold kitty — but he did share his cigar with me, so, you know, we swapped spit. And I ended up jamming with Michael Des Barres (the hostess’ boyfriend) and Steve Jones, singing Bob Marley tunes.
That kind of thing just doesn’t happen here in New Hampshire — unless you count spotting a cantankerous, unwashed Grace Paley at a reading as that sort of thing. Worse, whatever meager amount of fame I’d managed to scrape up on my own has dissipated completely. I admit I did get some satisfaction out of knowing that my work was in print on a weekly basis in a major metropolis, that I was paid for insight and opinion, and people I didn’t know might read my stuff and think “that Hazel-Dawn Dumpert really knows what she’s talking about,” or even, “Hazel-Dawn Dumpert has no idea what the hell she’s talking about.” When people asked me what I did for a living, I could feel reasonably good about the answer.
I’m an ex-film critic now, and it’s my husband’s star that’s rising, which can be fun to watch, if somewhat weird. Shortly after our arrival, I was at a department function for the majors; I overheard one of the students say, “I’m writing a paper for Professor Edmondson.” It was the first time I’d actually heard anyone I didn’t know call George that, and I was startled. Later that evening, we were leaving Hanover’s sole all-night convenience store and at the same moment a rowdy group of three young men came in. They saw George and immediately sort of snapped to order.
“Hi, Professor!” they said, respectfully, but also as if they were genuinely glad to see him. This sort of thing is happening with increasing frequency. Professor Edmondson is, it seems, already gaining a reputation as a cool and excellent teacher.
When George and I run into such students, I see them casting glances my way, as if to see with what kind of woman their professor keeps company. I’m not sure yet what they’re thinking, but I do know I can’t be content letting my own notoriety rest on being a faculty wife. I’ll have to think of something but, without that drugstore, it’s going to be tough.