I haven't posted on the commentary portion of my website since late March. Not because there was nothing to write about - more just for lack of time.
So I didn't write about how completely addictive HBO's Game of Thrones is. Or why Justified's season finale was terrific - not a disappointment, as some have opined. Or why I got choked up at Steve Carell's departure from The Office - and why, as much as I enjoyed the weirdness of Will Ferrell's character, I'm glad he's not a permanent addition to the cast. Everything else I would have written about has to do with politics - and this is, after all, a movie and entertainment site.
And I didn't have anything in the movie world that made me want to spout off - at least nothing I hadn't sounded off about before. Sequels, comic-book movies, 3D, the problems of small indy movies finding their way to the public - after a while, you worry about repeating yourself.
And then I was friended by Joanne Woodward on Facebook.
You're probably thinking the same thing I am: What the hell is Joanne Woodward doing on Facebook?
I don't have a clue.
What am I doing on Facebook? The same thing as a lot of people: trying to use that whole social-network phenomenon to draw traffic to this website.
Along the way, I've reconnected with people from all phases of my checkered past. Where they used to have to go through the trouble of trying to track me down through the newspaper or magazine I worked for, now they find me directly through this website or on Facebook.
Most of the people I've subsequently friended are business acquaintances - or friends and family. And I rarely post anything particularly personal (though I do on occasion). Rather, it's been a way for me to promote the work on my website and elsewhere, whether it's my latest review or the production of a play I've written (Like this link to a one-act festival I'm part of in Manhattan this week.)
Because I write for my website virtually every weekday, I post something about each new post on Facebook. I also post the same link on Twitter. Somehow, I've developed 344 Twitter followers (as of today) and have about the same number of Facebook friends. It's not like I'm setting the universe on fire - but then, I'm not out there soliciting followers or friends. I'm not Ashton Kutcher, trying to whip up a massive wave of followers as a goof.
Anyway, each day when I post on Facebook, I will scroll backwards to see what else has been posted in the 24 hours or so since I put up my last post. And, out of curiosity, when I see someone I know has one of those notices about new friends ("Marshall Fine is now friends with Joe Blow and 6 other people"), I drag my cursor over to the link and look at the drop-down list of names to see if there's anyone I know.
I forget who had friended Joanne Woodward - and I'm not sure what possessed me to send her a friend request. But I thought, well, what the hell - why not? And by the next day, I'd gotten the notification: "Joanne Woodward has accepted your friend request."
She was actually the second movie star I'd had this happen with; the first was Lee Grant. I've admired the work of both actresses for a long time and thought, OK, so whenever I post, they'll see it. Or not.
Over the next few days, I watched as notices popped up on a daily - sometimes more than daily - basis: "Joanne Woodward is now friends with So-and-so and 85 other people." The viral phenomenon in action. A couple of weeks after she friended me, I went to Joanne Woodward's page - and saw that she had almost 1,500 friends (it's now over 1,700).
Why? I can't imagine. I understand what John Sayles is doing on Facebook; he's promoting his new novel. But Joanne Woodward and Lee Grant? Frankly, I can't imagine that either of them, at this point in their lives, cares about having Facebook friends or what's happening on the Internet in general. I assume that someone who works for them - or one of their kids or grandkids - said, "You should go on Facebook." When I looked at Woodward's page, she had offered only a couple of actual posts (including an understandable one about the late Paul Newman's Hole-in-the-Wall camp).
And, like my wife, who has a Facebook page but never looks at it or posts on it, I assume that Woodward's page exists mostly outside her purview, a phenomenon accruing friends at an astonishing rate, probably of people who are fans. (Occasionally, I'll say to my wife, "I see that you're now Facebook friends with so-and-so." And, indignant, she'll say, "Why? I don't even GO on Facebook.")
And they can all say, as I can, "Hey - I'm Facebook friends with Joanne Woodward." At this point, I imagine it's comparable to being a member of her fan club: someone with only the most tenuous connection to someone famous. Perhaps it's an imaginary connection - but it's a connection, nonetheless.