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  CHASING AMY SEDARIS.  
   
   
 

There comes a time in every boy's life when he stops being a child and starts to become an adolescent. Besides the poor skin and awkwardness in movement, there is one rite of passage that we must all pass through: celebrity stalking.

Stalking is a hobby unlike any other. The hours of research one must put in often renders negligible results, with some stalking purists asserting that any measurable outcome implies unsuccessful stalking. But such controversy only distracts us from our purpose, which is

 
 

obsessively uncovering any information on the celebrity at hand.

But whom to stalk? How to find a celebrity to waste all your time on? Inevitably, the first person one thinks of to stalk is Madonna. This is a very common -- and very foolish -- mistake. Stalking Madonna is best reserved for the seasoned

     
  professional, someone who has cut their teeth on such lesser luminaries as the Julia Robertses of the world. Madonna is
  1. constantly surrounded by bodyguards
  2. really strong
  3. international
  4. being stalked by many other stalkers, and;
  5. a mother, no doubt full of maternal paranoia hormones.

The ideal candidate for stalking must be none of these things.

Bodyguards can be very detrimental to a stalker's health and well-being, and it is almost impossible to stalk anyone after having your head caved in by a lead pipe. And they all carry lead pipes, every last one of them, which is why they're so good at playing Clue.

A physically strong celebrity is also poor stalking material. How strong is too strong? Roughly, if the celebrity is chased into a deli and starts to scream for help, the stalker must be able to clamp their hand over the celebrity's mouth and drag them outside to the trunk of the car. This is why Lou Ferrigno does not have any stalkers. No one can pull the Hulk into a car, because Hulk smash.

International celebrities must be avoided at all costs. To successfully stalk across borders requires knowledge of foreign mores and languages, an up-to-date passport and a lot of money. You're a stalker, not a diamond farmer. Stalking people from other countries is just plain crazy.

Popular celebrities already have their own cadre of stalkers, which is a very difficult thing to deal with. It is crucial for the stalker to sustain the belief that the celebrity comprehends him and his deep depression that never goes away, alienating even his grandmother and keeping him from sustaining any sort of friendship, let alone a sexual relationship. But this is very hard to do when 30 other people have deluded themselves into thinking that your "meant to be" future

 
 

spouse understands them. It is almost impossible to show these lunatics just how wrong they are, and your own resolve might crumble in the face of their pathetic compulsion.

It is also important to make sure that the celebrity is naïve and trusting, not viewing themselves as stalkable. An up-and-coming actor or a has-been

     
 

singer would be perfect here. For example, Carnie Wilson of the pop band Wilson Phillips might make a worthwhile project, or anyone from That '70s Show (except for Ashton Kutcher.

Knowing all this, it was still very difficult for me to pick a celebrity to

 
 

stalk. My first choice was Edith Massey. Best known (so to speak) as the Egg Lady from John Waters' Pink Flamingos, Edith Massey was a deranged old fat woman with three teeth. Very kitschy, sure to have a listed phone number, little mobility. Then I found out that she was dead. Ditto my second and third choices, Rue McClanahan and Deborah Harry. Rue and

     
 

Deborah Harry aren't dead.

I settled, briefly, on Jane Wiedlin. Jane, as I incessantly referred to

 
 

her, left the Go-Go's to release several failed albums and play Joan of Arc in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. It was a masterstroke on my part: a celebrity known more for what they did than for who they were. (Incidentally, this is why my friend Dennis is stalking Andrew Ridgeley.) "Perfect!" I told the record sleeve to Jane's disastrous 1988 single, "Inside a Dream," framed

     
 

and hanging in my bedroom. "Soon we will be together, Jane, you fur-bashing goddess you!" But I learned that Jane lives in Panama, and I am unable to drive. Reluctantly, and unbeknownst to her, we parted ways.

I grew disconsolate. Would I have to start living responsibly? Such a burden would be too heavy to bear. I turned on my television, thinking I could find happiness through the misery of others. "Comedy Central!" I cried. "The bitterness of The Daily Show anchors! The vaguely masked depression of uninspired comedians! Jimmy Kimmel's very voice shouting out, 'I want to die!'"

And then I saw the commercial. The show: Strangers with Candy. The premise: "junkie whore" Jerri Blank goes back to high school, picking

 
 

up her life exactly where she'd left it as a teen runaway. I was in heaven. For the star of the show, Amy Sedaris, is the most stalkable person on earth.

She has no bodyguards.

     
 

She's 5'2".

Her home is conveniently located next to the A, B, C, D, E, F, Q, 1 and 9 trains.

And no one knew who she was! People knew of her brother, David Sedaris, the author of Naked and Barrel Fever. And some may have heard of the show. But no one knew what Amy even looked like, because she wore tons of makeup and a wig to play Jerri. And that is how I began to stalk Amy Sedaris.

It was easy. A phone number and address were listed in her name, and confirming that it was her number only required calling her answering machine and hanging up three times. I initiated phase one: I wrote her a letter, enclosing a self-addressed stamp envelope for her convenience. To assure her of my honorable intentions, I even added a postscript to that effect: "P.S. I am not stalking you."

I awaited her reply. In the interim, I made sure to read every interview she gave. That way, though my friends didn't care that Amy talked about getting Vicodin from a mulatto cripple, I was comforted by knowing that she psychically heard me repeat her story from the CyberChat and appreciated my loyalty. Eventually, I realized, she would think so fondly of me that marriage would ensue. After all, no one understood her like I did, and her acceptance of this was inevitable. Always remember that, as the stalker, you must never lose sight of your goal of marrying the celebrity -- or owning their body.

Six weeks later-success! A reply from an employee of Comedy Central, thanking me for my letter. I was getting closer, but still she had not written. I did not have her autograph and needed to escalate the situation.

The second phase of stalking is the Unsolicited Present phase. This is where you purchase gifts for the celebrity that they may kind of want, in the hopes that they will respond with gratitude or pity. I mailed Amy a copy of Retarded Isn't Stupid, Mom! by Sandra Kaufman. I expected dinner invitations shortly.

But I was disappointed. No reply ever came.

I was in dire straits. My mailbox remained empty. The pharmacy wouldn't refill my Lithium. I started working at an investment bank. Things could not get any worse. My non-relationship with Amy took a turn for the pathetic. I wrote her a second letter, regressing to phase one (a cardinal stalking sin). I stapled a photograph of Sally Struthers to the missive, jokingly telling Amy that, "for the price of just one stamp, you can help this poor boy out!" I even drew pentagrams and the symbols of the zodiac around the page's border, to send Amy some positive voodoo brain-energies.

For months, nothing. Then Strangers with Candy was cancelled, though awareness of the show and Amy herself had been increasing. Would I have to exhume Edie Massey after all? But when all hope was lost, a large manila envelope arrived, hand-addressed to me! She had included two signed pictures! The first said, "Thanks so much for that book! Amy," and the second was autographed by "Jerri" with one of her outrageous quotes.

It was time for an encounter of the third kind: direct, face-to-face contact. I went to the restaurant where Amy occasionally waitresses. She was nowhere to be found. "Doesn't Amy Sedaris work here?" I asked the waiter, spilling water very casually all over myself.

"She's off this week. Why, do you like that Strange Lady with Candy show? Yeah, people come in here looking for her all the time. Do you want her phone number?" the ogre asked me, as if I hadn't thought of two mnemonics for it already. "I know she loves to talk to her fans."

"No, thank you," I replied, to all appearances nonplussed but inwardly raging. There are mere Amy fans, people who don't know her and worship her like I did. Infidels! The waiter was forced to console himself with a scant 10 percent tip.

Then there came the denouement. Amy appeared on Conan O'Brien as Amy, without any disguising makeup whatsoever. The mask was gone, and her mystery with it. I was not amused. I stared at the inscribed headshot she had sent me, full of tears and disquiet. "It's not working out, Amy," I yelled. "Try to understand. Things have changed. I'm not the same person I was when we first started not having any sort of relationship whatsoever."

But Jerri's picture just hung on my wall, smiling a smile more cryptic than that of the Mona Lisa. And in her scrawled hand, she informed me unambiguously: "My ovaries are diseased."

 

Ego & Hubris: the Michael Malice Story, will be published by Random House in 2006. He also edits OverheardInNewYork.com.