misterprankster asked: What are your thoughts on fame?
Great question, and I do have some thoughts. I think it’s a matter of a few things, no matter what you’re doing or how talented you are; you need to put in a lot of hard work, have a lot of personality and or stubbornness, and luck.
But I don’t know what the ratio is anymore. I used to think you just had to be in the right place at the right time, doing what you were doing, and you’d make it. You know, pay your dues, keep on keepin’ on. Then I thought you had to really, really give it your all, make it your life, give up yourself and your interests and absolutely focus your time and you’d achieve something, but that didn’t feel much like living.
The older I get, so do my idols. I think about famous people I’d like to meet or if there are any out there that I would absolutely lose my mind if I met. David Bowie, for example, comes to mind because of that song he wrote with John Lennon called “Fame.” But even now, I think that meeting Bowie would be cool, because I’m at the age, and I think he’s at the age, and certainly at the point of his career where it might not mean that much. Fame, puts you there where things are hollow.
I think about other celebrities that have transitioned their lives through super-stardom, but still seem cool, like George Clooney or Leonard Cohen. It impresses me that they appear to have dignity. But I don’t know how much of that is real or the act that they’ve perfected, because I don’t know them. I like the way Tom Waits looks at fame. He seems to be in on the joke. He knows it’s probably meaningless, empty and hollow. He’s given in to his persona. Of course, if you listen to his latest live album, Glitter and Doom, especially the second disc, Tom Waits comes across as the old man in the TV show Wings who kept asking weird questions and was obsessed with finding his brother in Las Cruces. And when he finally gets there, he punches the guy who may or may not be his brother in the face, and jumps back on the plane.
Then I think about those who have fame for doing nothing, and it really causes me to blow my stack. Think Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, or anyone on Jersey Shore. What are they offering? Are they making our culture a better place? Are they social vacuums? Is their fame causing us as people to do anything real to reciprocate their good fortune, other than allowing them to walk through this world, having everything thrown at them, wanting for nothing, while the rest of us sweat and save? That’s a maddening aspect of fame.
Look, I have a good friend who used to tell me to imagine what our idols were doing at any given point in the day. I remember him asking if I thought Loni Anderson was taking a shit right now. I liked Loni Anderson as much as the next prepubescent boy, but I tended to wonder if Michael Jackson ever took a shit. Can you defecate in a hyperbaric chamber? I doubted it. Michael Jackson looked like no foul thing ever touched him. He came across that way, on purpose, I think, as totally immaculate and unreal and untouchable. I thought, wow, when he dies, it’s going to be completely mind-blowing and unimaginable, like when Elvis died. And Michael Jackson, owner of all The Beatles songs, married Elvis’ daughter. Talk about your royal family. Strange. Fascinating. The lifestyles of the rich and famous.
When he did kick off, it was a dull roar. I found out on Facebook. It was odd, but not really the world-altering thump I thought I’d feel. I was much more affected when Michael Hutchence died. I found it unfathomable that he was here one second, and gone the next. There’s not a trace of his body left in this world. But there are recordings of his voice, his music, his image. He left a huge impression. And, to tie it back to my original thought, he once said he wanted to mature into Leonard Cohen, because it could be done with quiet dignity and grace. And he went out tongue lolling and naked, either by autoerotic asphyxiation or suicide, whatever you want to believe, hanging behind a closet door. So much for your idols.
I’d also like to say that fame is probably a lot like Andy Warhol said, we all get our fifteen minutes. Why? Because we all chase it. And there’s not enough time for everyone to be famous. I also like what David Byrne said in the song “Finite=Alright”… “Only one record in this whole wide world, where Jimi Hendrix sings House Burning Down. Another Elvis will not come along, he got wasted, but it’s alright, and everything is finite.”
So fame, it’s probably nice work if you can get it. You’re just exchanging the problems you have for a whole different set of problems. They’re problems that we the common people may never know, like paparazzi attacks and the public microscope, but guess what? You’re still gonna have to take a shit.