When I wrote about famous recluses here over six years ago, I received a lot of interesting notes from people that I still receive on that same piece today. In a lot of cases, those who chimed in with comments were ones who apparently cater to the reclusive lifestyle themselves and realize the benefits for themselves as well as for those in the limelight. What makes that piece about recluses all the more unique, though, is that many of the ones I wrote about have since broken their reclusive nature and decided to become public again. This isn’t to say they’re going out in public and appearing on every talk show in existence.
The above recluses I’m talking about have at least come out to do new interviews without necessarily being seen. Thanks to advanced tech we have, that can easily be done without having to show their faces to a high-definition camera looking up their nostrils. One of those key people becoming a little more public is former “Calvin & Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson. He’s been known as one of the most reclusive creative artists in the modern world, almost to a point where nobody really knew if he still existed. For a while, he was close to the equivalent of J.D. Salinger who adamantly decided not to be seen by anyone in his lifetime other than close friends and family.
Well, even Salinger has had some irony of being exposed since the time of his death. But Bill Watterson recently coming out to do a new interview for Mental Floss magazine, plus doing some artwork for the comic strip “Pearls Before Swine” seems to show a new twist in the act of being reclusive. We may not be seeing many more celebrities who can take becoming a Greta Garbo or J.D. Salinger and manage to drop out of public society for the rest of their lives.
Is Becoming a Recluse Impossible in Today’s Society?
Those who’ve experience fame before and attempt to become reclusive probably fight all the time the temptation to do something for the public again. While you can see why Bill Watterson wanted to get away from the daily grind of creating “Calvin & Hobbes” seven days a week, it’s always been a mystery why he wanted to completely go away from society and do little to no work with his creative artistry and writing. Within the last few years, big fans of “Calvin & Hobbes” wondered what in the world he was doing with his time when he could have been doing new projects to give back to the people who appreciated his creative philosophy.
It had to take the artist of another comic strip to persuade him to come back and do some new artwork as a secret ghost artist on “Pearls Before Swine.” When the strips’ creator, Stephan Pastis, managed to communicate with Watterson about doing the project, it was the equivalent of someone landing communication with a Salinger or Garbo. You have to wonder if Watterson found the outlet cathartic since he hasn’t really shown his creative muscle in years. He also must have realized that being reclusive can ultimately be a detriment.
Yes, it’s possible that the more reclusive you are after being famous, the more apt others may be apt to track you down and attempt to expose your lifestyle. It ultimately happened with Salinger where, in the recent documentary “Salinger”, we saw paparazzi-like photos of the writer in his later years. Taken without his knowledge, you have to wonder how horrified he’d be at being exposed. Then again, the same thing happened to Greta Garbo who always tried to hide herself from the cameras for many decades after dropping out of the public eye.
Another person mentioned in my earlier-mentioned recluse piece was legendary singer/actress Doris Day. She’s another who was very famous for so many years and suddenly became a recluse 30 years ago, other than to her close friends and family. After coming out to do numerous radio interviews in the last few years, she’s admitted to missing being in the spotlight, even if her willful reclusive nature was probably healthier in the long run. It was only this year when she turned 90 that she was finally photographed at her home after well over 20 years since last seen publicly.
With this incredible streak of famous recluses finally coming out to acknowledge the public again, it seems doubtful we’ll ever see recluses like that again. Considering the hunger for attention and stardom seems at fever pitch today, most in the entertainment world you see today probably couldn’t take moving away from cameras, or at least doing interviews. The fear of being forgotten has always been a very human fear, and those who’ve experienced the tidal wave of adulation will always miss it sooner or later and return in some form or another.
Fortunately, the best recluses like Watterson know how to keep those returns limited so overexposure doesn’t ruin their legacy.