I was picking up my bags in the Santiago, Chile airport when I first heard the news. The terminal was buzzing about a big celebrity who was going to be flying in at any moment. The celebrity was Ricky Martin. I had heard of Ricky Martin from seeing his posters around Latin America,but this was before he became an icon in the US. I wasn’t exactly sure what he looked like, but I figured it would be pretty easy to spot him if he was somewhere in the airport. We had just gotten off a flight from Easter Island and were figuring out how we might get a bus or taxi to our hotel.
As we walked out of the baggage area, we could see that there were a lot of fans lining the sidewalk outside waiting for Senor Martin to appear. There were camera crews, police, limos…it was a pretty big deal. George Bush didn’t even get this kind of treatment. As I walked out through the gauntlet, I was not prepared for what was about to happen.
As soon as I walked out of the building the crowd went wild. It was like The Beatles had arrived. I was the only one walking out the door so the noise was all intended for me. There were women trying to get across the barricade and video cameras in my face. Cameras were flashing. It was insane. I didn’t know what to do. So, I picked up my hand and waved. That’s when all hell broke loose. It was the biggest surprise party in the world and I was the birthday boy. Cameras were on me, people were asking me questions in Spanish. News crews were filming me with crane cameras. It was the biggest moment of mistaken identity.
I waded through the throngs of people and tried to wave like I was the president or a rock star while wondering who they thought I might be. There was a limo waiting at the end and I was quickly approaching. People were literally reaching over the police barricades trying to touch me. As I approached the limo, I had to make a decision. To get in or not get in. I’d like to say that I got in. That’s what I would do now. If everyone else thought I was famous, it wouldn’t be that hard to pull off a doppelganger with a driver.
I took a hard left and hid behind a building. Maybe I didn’t want the crowd to be disappointed that I wasn’t really who they thought I was. Who that was, I wasn’t sure. I had long hair at the time, so maybe they thought I was a band member. I’m pretty sure that no one thought I was Ricky.
I was overwhelmed. No one followed me and I quickly jumped into a taxi. The next day the front page of the Santiago newspaper had a photo from the airport. I wondered if I might have made the headlines and been able to solve the mystery of who everyone thought I was. Ricky was on the front page, getting into the limo. My limo! A fan had crossed over the line and had a handful of his hair. He was obviously trying to get away in the photo and looked like he was in pain. It wasn’t a good photo for a front page story, but I had to smile. I had all the fame but didn’t get my hair pulled. Take that Ricky Martin!