How To Name-Drop Without Sounding Like an Asshole

At the Brooklyn Book Festival, Dennis Lehane demonstrates an important life lesson.

This weekend’s Brooklyn Book Festival, a free event full of panels and authors and literary extravaganzas that I went to, had many takeaways, but the most surprising one was not literary. For context: In Stephen Colbert’s first week of his Late Show gig, he interviewed Amy Schumer. Incidentally, I’ve been to a live taping of the Colbert Report so Stephen and I go way back. I was excited to see it, since I enjoy and respect them both immensely — which was why I was dismayed that during that interview, which was full of casual mentions of hanging out with Katie Couric and Bruce Willis, they both kind of slightly sounded like assholes.

If you rub elbows with famous people, there is nothing wrong with mentioning it when it’s relevant. One time I met Pedro Pascal. But the name-dropping scale, like most things in life, is a spectrum, and at the Brooklyn Book Festival, which I went to, Dennis Lehane — author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and the screenplay for The Drop — demonstrated how to do it the right way. When I was in the room with him and we made eye contact.

In his book to film adaptations, Lehane has come into contact with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Tom Hardy. He casually calls them Clint and Tom. One time I met Passion Pit. He could have easily come across as self-important in the same vein as Nic Pizzolatto but when someone asked him a question about film adaptations of his books, he told this story:

“My father has never read my books and he has no idea who Clint Eastwood is. I’ve asked him why he hasn’t read my books, and he said, ‘Your brother works in a prison and I never visit him in prison.’ When they were filming Mystic River, I brought him and my mother to the set. My mother was so starstruck by Clint Eastwood, she could barely talk to him. At one point I look over at my father, and he’s in a conversation with Clint, telling him how much he loves his work and how it’s brought his family closer together. After, I asked him what that was all about — had he been lying to me that he didn’t know who Clint Eastwood was? But he said no, he doesn’t know who he is and has never seen his work. ‘But didn’t you and your brothers enjoy his movies growing up?’ he asked. I said yes. ‘Well, watching them kept you out of my hair. So it did bring us closer together.’”

The story covered Lehane’s tangental relations with a famous person in a way that didn’t showcase it, but made it serve as a backdrop to something funny and relatable — embarrassing dads! So to all you name-droppers of the world who missed the Brooklyn Book Festival, which I went to, that’s how you do it right. Of course, the story could have sounded flat in the retelling. Maybe you had to be there. Like I was, with acclaimed famous author Dennis Lehane.

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