Time for a old man rant. I haven’t had one in a while and I’m feeling one bubbling just beneath the surface.
I grew up in a time when the term “Celebrity” meant much more than it does today. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines celebrity as “a famous or celebrated person“, but in my mind, bestowing the mantle of celebrity status on an individual also requires that they have achieved a high level of notoriety due to the significant individual accomplishments and contributions which are associated with them.
When I was just a pup, celebrities included people like John Wayne, undoubtably an American icon; Frank Sinatra, with a career spanning several decades; Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Hillary, Pablo Picasso, Jesse Owens, Winston Churchill, Jackie Robinson, and the list goes on and on.
Perhaps driven by Andy Warhol’s famous statement, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes” our culture, aided and abetted by media talking heads who are desperate to achieve their own notoriety, now grants celebrity status to the undeserving as fast as McDonald’s churns out Big Macs.
By the way, based on little more than that quote, a collection of really horrendous wigs, and a can Campbell’s soup, Warhol managed to achieve his own level of transient renown.
A quick review of a list of current “celebrities” including such notables as, Kim Kardashian, Michael Sorrentino (who?), Lindsay Lohan, Daniel Tosh, Snooki, Heidi Montag, Clay Aiken, and Pitbull; clearly demonstrates that the criteria for achieving celebrity status today requires little more than a willingness to engage in outrageous behavior, to embed large quantities of silicone in one’s body, to practice narcissism as if it were an art form, and/or to have “starred” on one of the innumerable reality television shows which plague our cable channels.
Pardon me, but I have to ask, is there anyone who has done less to achieve the designation of celebrity than Pitbull? Appearing on Budweiser beer commercials while rhythmically thrusting one’s right arm into the air doesn’t seem like much of a resume’ to me. But I digress.
No doubt, many of this generation of celebrities will soon be appearing on the Biography Channel’s “Celebrity Ghost Stories” series. Why wraiths, specters, and poltergeists would choose to initiate contact with so many once notable personages just as their careers seem to be coming to an end is an interesting phenomena. Perhaps it’s closer to the truth to suspect that the series provides an opportunity for these latter day Norma Desmond’s to see themselves on the tube one last time?
“You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”
“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”