ANCHORAGE, Alaska — "Tell me when strangers start recognizing you," I whispered to Levi Johnston in the noisy foyer of Glacier BrewHouse last week. He lifted his chin and let it fall in agreement but didn't make eye contact.
"Most of the time," he said, "they just stare."
Levi was dressed up for dinner with me, photographer Marc Lester, and his advisers, criminal defense attorney Rex Butler and private investigator Tank Jones. He had on nice leather shoes, slacks and a designer T-shirt under a gray North Face jacket. Up close under the restaurant lights, I could see that his facial hair was patchy and his cheeks were round and soft. He's only 19, but that's easy to forget.
Of all the story lines in the Palin family soap opera, I have a soft spot for Levi's. Part of it is because he's so familiar. He could be my brother or my cousin or a thousand other Alaska hockey boys winding their way through adolescence right now with their frayed ball-cap brims and muddy pickup trucks and Copenhagen back-pocket rings.
It's a twisted, Wasilla-style Cinderella story. A regular kid, dealt an unlikely hand, becomes a celebrity.
First he and the governor's daughter got pregnant. Then the governor became a vice presidential candidate and he found himself in a suit for the first time on stage at the Republican National Convention. Then his mom happened to be charged in a very high-profile prescription drug case. And then he and Bristol Palin broke up and it made international news. Now paparazzi stalk him, and teenage girls scream after him in airports and it seems the world can't get enough of his relationship with the Palins, his Tiger Beat looks and all the things he might be thinking but doesn't say.
And he's taking full advantage of it.
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