Poor Little Punk
You’re supposed to be jaded about people like Pete Wentz, bassist for Fall Out Boy, the pop-punk quartet from Chicago appearing tonight at WaMu Theater. Teen girls scream for him, which means you’re not allowed to take his music seriously. He’s annoyingly mouthy in the magazines, tending toward juvenile stunts like appearing on the cover of Out with the quote “Yeah, I Am A Fag.” He’s also blabbed about bisexuality, proclaiming that “anybody above the waist is totally fair game.” And, thanks to one of those “whoops-someone-stole-my-cell-phone” incidents that seem to plague celebrities, photos of him below the waist became fair game on the Internet.
But I liked him when I met him in the fall of 2007 and it serves as a good lesson.
Wentz was busy hawking a clothing line at Macy’s Bellevue Square. He sat inside with future wife Ashlee Simpson, with whom he would have a son about a year later. (They named him Bronx Mowgli. These people live in a different world.)
I knew he had bipolar disorder and one suicide attempt already under his belt. I don’t need any legal action coming my way so I’ll just say that I have absolutely no proof but wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he was on some medieval dosage of anti-anxiety medication when we talked. He was preternaturally mellow on the outside and maybe not so much on the inside. He had one of the least convincing handshakes I’ve ever experienced; it was as if he thought his fingers might dissolve given too much commitment. He curled up in a chair and talked to me, looking small, soft, pretty and very, very young—much younger than his then-28 years (he turns 30 this summer) and too young to deal with the kind of squealing madness going on inside and outside the store, not to mention whatever else he faces daily. He talked about constant stomach aches. I believed him.
In general, of course, I lean toward the ironic boo-hoo-for-you school of sympathy concerning the rich and famous. Especially when they’re, say, Sally Field talking about osteoporosis as if osteoporosis were the only reason a journalist would want to talk to an Oscar winner.
But it’s good to remember every now and then that these people are actually human. And that a spotlight isn’t necessarily warm.