I’ve been thinking about celebrity. Actually I’ve been thinking about fame/ infamy, fifteen minutes, endorsements/ hawkings, shame/ successes/ scandals, and Hollywood/ Washington. Tis the season for celebrities—it is also the season about celebrities, those on the rise and those on the fall.
America is perhaps more keyed in on “the famous for being famous” than on those who really deserve the attention. During the holiday season, celebrity alone appears enough to close a sale.
You see, the celebrity spotlight does more than shine a light on, or focus attention to, someone who has done something truly remarkable. Celebrity status (and its media focus) upon certain personages rises and falls like the tides. Are any of us happy to be a simple being that pays their bills, is a devoted son or daughter, is a loyal friend, is a hard worker, and is a mentor/example to those around us? Or, do we secretly seek to be the one in the spotlight like some national politician or star—no, make that the superstar! We want to “be like ...,” and such a desire is used time and again to separate us from our money to buy a certain brand of hot dog, a special SUV, a pair of sneakers, etc, etc, etc. One football star in my lifetime was associated with a brand of pantyhose... HUH???
America is about marketing and selling. We buy not just what we actually need, but step up to the stores’ registers to achieve a certain fantasy image of ourselves in the process. There are goods. There are quality goods. There are designer goods. And, there are celebrity goods. We let our consumptive weaknesses define us if we follow the advertising campaigns that inundate us from dawn to dusk. Celebrities rent their names, images, reputations and superstar status to causes, candidates, and products of every genre imaginable. For this social consciousness, they are paid royally. The tolls transferred to the célèbre du jour may be in thousands, in millions, or tens (or hundreds) of millions a year. A name or a personage becomes, or enhances, a brand. All is well as long as they keep their noses clean—or does it? Fame is not infamy; infamy is not fame... or is it?
Nowadays it would not to be so much a matter of a good spotlight, or a bad spotlight. It is the spotlight itself that matters. We have no sense of shame or embarrassment any longer. It matters not that one’s celebrity comes from the impregnation of someone famous (or even borderline famous), from stashing a child in the attic while an “empty balloon” captures the cameras, or from the infidelities of a celebrity straying with some “friend” on the side—make that two, no three, no four, no seven friends on the side. Will any sudden surge of notoriety mean more sales? I fear that appears to be the case. I say shame on them, and shame on us for making it so.
Artist Andy Warhol said that eventually everyone will have the 15 minutes of fame. (I hope that my 15 minutes occurs while I'm sleeping!) For some, the clock will tick longer—lucky for them, I guess. This seems to be the case whether one is dealing with actors, musicians, sons-in-law, sports figures, or politicians. It didn’t always work that way—that is, until the estates of two well-known figures took on lives of their own and presently make more cash for their heirs after death than during life. (HINT: “Happy Birthday, Mr..... President...” and “thank you, thank you very much...”)
Initially, “being famous for being famous” applied to a special group of party-goers and party-givers. These maybe had minor careers in something and had married well, but divorced better. They made the circuit of guest spots on night time talk shows—a fame by association, if you will. Now... reality TV has created a new subspecies of celebrity. The more outrageous the behavior, the greater the celebrity desires of the celebrity wannabes. When their star begins to wane, watch out... for there will come the “tasteful” spreads in the most popular of skin mags. It is as if we don’t already have enough information about them displayed before us.
I will admit that I’ve been out of the loop for a few months because of my heart surgeries and near-fatal infection. Still... I am in awe by the number of stars, megastars, superstars, and OMG celebrities who have captured the stories on PAGE ONE. (I don’t even have a clue who they are!) I guess a lot can happen in a month or two.
I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story was published on December 7, 2009.