Celebrity ABC* Gum Project

The Results

Although I didn't expect a great response, I certainly thought I would get back more celebrity chewed gum than I did. With but a few notable exceptions, the only celebs who responded were those who were already known to be "hip." In other words, Mark Mothersbaugh, sí; Henry Kissinger, no.

Sonny Bono MIA
I got a lot of the celebrities' addresses from inexpensive and unreliable address services, and several of the packages I sent out later came back as undeliverable. The oddest of those was to Sonny Bono. I had sent it c/o City Hall, Palm Springs CA (+ zip), which seemed safe enough on its own, but since he'd been elected to Congress between the time I sent the package out and the time it came back, I thought the U.S. Postal Service really should have had no problem finding the guy. Frankly, I don't think they tried very hard.

Compiling the list
The list of celebrities I sent gum packages to includes people I like, people I hate, and people I feel totally indifferent about. I don't think I could explain to anyone just how I arrived at the selectees -- I went on gut intuition. As I was compiling the list, friends would occasionally suggest a few names and then would be baffled by the apparent capriciousness of my choices, as I quickly accepted some and rejected others. The bottom line was that I knew almost by instinct who belonged on the list and who didn't. I suppose there may have been some subconscious logic behind the choices, but if so I can't quite make it out.

Pretentious analysis
In hindsight, I can see that part of what I was getting at was not a critique of our culture's celebrity obsession ("celebsession," I call it), as that is something I share and generally embrace. Instead, I think it was some sort of commentary on celebrity stalking, on the seeming randomness of which celebrities might become victim to it. I wanted to simulate some of that randomness in a way that would, by the very weirdness of my request, mildly disturb the celebrity solicitees, yet, in the apparent benignness of the request, not totally freak out them out either.

That's what fiends are for
To guarantee some chewed gum coming back to me, I also sent gum requests to many of my friends, in addition to the 120 (counting teams such as Wilson Phillips and Penn & Teller as one) celebrities on the list. I didn't keep as careful a tally of the results with my friends as I did with the celebrities, since they weren't the focus of the project, but an educated guess is that 75% of my friends did return their chewed gum, and I am grateful for their participation. It's clear to me that they "got it" much moreso than did the celebrities, although I suppose that goes with the turf of being one's friend, doesn't it?

I also received one alluring response of unknown origin.

Gallery exhibit
One friend, Annie Rearick, recommended the project to the curator of a musicians' art show at Cambridge's Zeitgeist Gallery. For the show, which went up in March of 1995, I mounted an introductory text, a blow-up of a sample letter, and all of the returned baggies of celebrity ABC gum. Since I had some unwrapped packs of gum left over, I also mounted coming off one of the boards a small box containing loose (but wrapped) gumsticks, and a sign reading "Take One!" Finally, I included the one celebrity response that included no evidence of the gum component of the project -- it was, instead, a mass-produced autographed postcard of a popular starlet. I have serious doubts that the autograph is really her's.

Bill Wyman MIA
I include here links to scans of all of the celebrity responses I received. I sincerely appreciate their cooperation. Oh, one more thing -- Bill Wyman did not respond.

singer Adam Ant (ew -- a real gross one)
cartoonist Peter Bagge (a nice juicy red one)
musician Bun E. Carlos (very clever)
actor Peter Falk (gum + autographed photo)
singer Don Ho (genius response! best of show)
sleeptalker Dion McGregor (a nice stick from the founder of Lovelyville)
musician Mark Mothersbaugh (a little blasphemy never hurt anyone)
director John Waters (lots of spittle)

musician Penelope Houston (my request was "too weird" for this former punk rock queen)
actress Tori Spelling (at least her fan mail service took the time to respond)

Mystery entry
stripper (?) Jolene (feelthy peecture -- but who is Jolene?)

Returned to sender
actor F. Murray Abraham
politician Sonny Bono
actress Annabeth Gish

* already been chewed

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