Celebrity crushes are a normal, healthy phenomenon. While
occasionally some fans-turned-fanatics take their adoration to the
stalker-ish heights of candled shrines and “We belong
together” love letters, harmlessly “loving” a
celebrity is not so wrong. On “Friends,” Ross and
Rachel even allowed each other a freebie list of five celebrities
the other was allowed to sleep with.

Julie Pannuto

If it’s on “Friends,” it must be normal.

OK, now that I’ve painted myself as a non-stalker,
as-normal-as-Ross (maybe I should have picked another
“friend”) type of guy, let’s digress.

This was supposed to be the column where I delve into the
not-so-mysterious truths hiding behind my column title,
“Waiting for Portman.” Ever since I first saw
“The Professional,” I have been infatuated with Ms.
Natalie Portman. Don’t worry; I was 13 at the time as
well.

Lately however another has crept into the cockles of my heart
and I don’t know what to do. Natalie’s still there,
below the cockles, in the subcockle area, but everywhere I turn
— Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett scored double Best Actress
Golden Globe nominations and sat there politely clapping, looking
as cute as can be as others — some would call them the
“winners” — walked to the stage. Natalie’s
latest, “Cold Mountain,” had a heap of nominations that
night as well, but her petite eight minutes of screen-time meant no
Nat in the drunken audience.

Scarlett’s hounding me everywhere I turn and despite some
charming, late-night show appearances, Natalie isn’t doing
very much to keep me wearing my Official NP Fanclub ring

Am I now “Waiting for Scarlett”?

Scarlett came out of nowhere. The first time I heard her name
was when Natalie dropped out of “The Horse Whisperer”
to do Broadway, and guess who took her place?

Ms. Johansson really asked to be noticed with her back-to-back
performances in “Ghost World” and “The Man Who
Wasn’t There.” Both films, while not stressing the
physical beauty of the New York native, supplanted her as an
up-and-coming talent in the indie film world at the age of 16.

Then, after a very quiet 2002, Scarlett exploded —
thankfully not literally. Scarlett was handed leading roles in
“Lost in Translation” and “Girl with a Pearl
Earring” respectively, both parts demanding Johansson to play
not the dialogue-heavy, emotionally erratic teenagers most girls
her age play, but instead a 25-year-old wife in crisis and a
17th-century housemaid with a silent courteousness. Much like Ms.
Portman, it is Johansson’s talent that makes her the most
attractive.

Now, almost everyone’s screaming Scarlett’s name.
According to the trades, she’s the hottest young woman in
Hollywood not named Keira or Paris. Whether she’s as
intelligent off the screen as she seems on it is anyone’s
guess, but it’s very likely Scarlett is now getting offered
the roles Natalie once was up for.

Scarlett’s new hotness demands you to adore her. And I
want to … but I won’t.

Natalie’s a few months younger and a — I swoon and
faint — Ivy League graduate. She was also born in Israel and
her real last name is Hershlag. A Jewish mother’s dream,
Natalie is. My dream as well.

Around the time “Heat” and “Beautiful
Girls” were hitting theaters, I was hitting the Internet for
the first time, and after getting over the immediate rush of AOL
wav downloads and chat rooms I found Pher’s Nat Server, the
Natalie Portman Project and the America’s Queen Natalie
Portman page all before
“http://www.natalieportman.com”>www.natalieportman.com even
existed.

It was definitely an obsession as I went through magazines most
boys don’t normally scroll through (YM, 17, Vanity Fair) for
the smallest picture to put on my wall. And remember that 1997
appearance Portman made on Broadway in “The Diary of Anne
Frank” that I mentioned earlier. I was there for a show,
front row, with a class from my Hebrew school. I even nearly cried
when I thought I’d lost my cast-signed poster from the show
— alright, I did cry, but I was only 16 at the time and
that’s normal according to my mom.

The passion eventually subsided for me, at a time when it sank
for many of the original Nat-lovers, sometime around the
announcement of Natalie’s casting in the new “Star
Wars” prequels. New faces showed up on the messages boards
and it just wasn’t the same. Natalie would always would my
first love, but I had to move on.

And next came Kirsten Dunst … just kidding.

But now, as I look back on my history of worldwide dorkiness, I
find that moving on to Scarlett just is not an option.
Today’s society is on a constant “what have you done
for me lately” kick? We trade in celeb for celeb every 15
minutes. Where have you gone Wes Bentley? Nobody knows and most
people don’t even care. You might just be Ricky Fitts from
“American Beauty” forever, but I haven’t given up
on you.

And no one should give up on Natalie Portman. The
Lucas-inflicted bad acting in “Star Wars” preyed on
almost everyone in the new trilogy, including Samuel Jackson.
Natalie also lost some roles as she focused on her studies at
Harvard. Still, Natalie was the most-talked-about actor in the
most-talked-about movie at last month’s Sundance,
“Garden State.”

So don’t call it a comeback, Nat’s been here for
years.

— Once again, Todd wants to stress (to his girlfriend)
that celebrity crushes are healthy and natural. They mean nothing,
girl. The Portman-obsessed can reach Todd at
“mailto:tweiser@umich.edu”>tweiser@umich.edu

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