Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Fame Monster

Do you want to be famous?

It’s not a rhetorical question, though I suspect that some people would think it is. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to be famous? Isn’t part of the reason that I write this blog is that someone will take note of it and say they read it and like it? Well, maybe, but if no one read this blog (and very few people do as it is), then I’d still be writing it, if only for the therapeutic reasons I’ve discussed in the past.

Yet, I know that some people out there have blogs or websites if only because they think it will make them famous or get them noticed.

But fame is very fickle, and you can go from being famous to being infamous in a matter of minutes. Take the case of one Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, for example.

For those of you out there who are unaware of who Ms. Polizzi is, she is one of the cast members (and I use that term loosely) of a reality show on MTV called "Jersey Shore". It follows the lives of a bunch of twenty-somethings (mostly of Italian descent) spending their summer in a house on the Jersey shore. Now, I’ve never seen the show, and if I have my way, I’ll never see it. My belief is that your IQ will drop if you watch the show and that you immediately have to turn on PBS or Discovery Channel before the loss of intelligence becomes permanent. But that’s beside the point and another blog for another time.

The show has become a big hit for MTV and is now in its second season. Consequently, some of the people who are on the show have gained a degree of notoriety, notably Snooki and Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino (really? The Situation? What kind of douche bag has that for a nickname? I guess a guy whose mantra is "Gym. Tan. Laundry," but I digress.). Well, as I pointed out earlier, the line between famous and infamous is a thin one. Just ask Snooki.

Last Friday, a drunken and disorderly Snooki was arrested in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, for basically making an ass out of herself. Snooki was allegedly harassing beach-goers in the middle of the afternoon (reports say she was stumbling around, being loud and obnoxious and was really, really hammered). Upon being arrested by the cops and thrown in the slammer, she (allegedly) proceeded to try to get out of her incarceration by loudly saying, “Do you know who I am? I’m f@#$%^g Snooki!” When I read this in the New York Post over the weekend, I laughed my ass off for a couple of reasons.

First of all, was anyone out there surprised by this (outside of the people who actually thought Brett Favre was going to actually retire this time)? This little twit is in the midst of her 15 minutes of fame and thinks that just because she’s on some godawful reality show on MTV that she’s suddenly all that and then some. The only thing that surprises me is that it took this long to happen.

Secondly, my readers out there who are regular listeners of “The Tony Kornheiser Show” on ESPN 980 out of Washington, D.C., know that a running gag on the show is an audio clip of Robert DeNiro shouting “Do you know who I am?” This is in reference to a passage in a book written by noted author and windbag John “Junior” Feinstein that depicted Mr. Tony loudly saying that very quote to a hotel clerk, and though Kornheiser has continually denied ever saying anything like that, it’s become a running joke on the show because Mr. Tony can come off like that.

But what does being famous get you in the long run? Okay, yeah, more often than not it gets you a lot of money and a lot of perks. I certainly don’t have anything against money and perks (I could use some more of both myself), but it’s painfully obvious that some people cannot handle the burden of being famous, whether it’s on a national or local level.

Look at Lindsay Lohan. She was a promising young actress with a potentially nice career ahead of her. But once she grew up and started to become famous, she couldn’t handle it – booze, DUI, jail time, rehab, etc. I know that she was under a microscope being a somewhat famous movie star and that the tabloids and paparazzi were seemingly following her everywhere. I get that; I do. But plenty of celebrities past and present have also had to deal with the so-called pressure of being a celebrity and have reacted just fine. Some people just can’t handle it, though and end up making the same mistakes over and over again (see: Sheen, Charlie).

Being famous also feeds your ego. Take LeBron James, for example. He’s arguably the most famous basketball player in the world, and he still needed to have his ego fed by having a one hour special on ESPN announcing what NBA team he’d be playing for this coming season. He needed to have the attention. He needed to have a legion of sycophants around him telling him how awesome he is. Fame can go to people’s heads in a hurry.

Anyway, back to Snooki. I can all but guarantee that she or one of her castmembers will end up on "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" both because of a desperate need to remain in the spotlight and because they’re so totally effed up that they need to be in rehab.

And to make matters worse, people can fawn all over celebs that it just makes matters worse. People get so caught up in their worship of celebrities (including our own President) that they cannot or will not see the faults of their so-called idols. When you’re surrounded by people who continually tell you just how awesome and infallible you are, it can go to your head and make you think that you’re awesome and can do no wrong (see: Obama, Barack).

I’m not saying it’s easy to be a celebrity, but I’m also not buying that it’s as difficult as some people make it out to be. There’s an old saying, “Act like you’ve been there before.” It applies to a variety of people in a variety of situations, notably entertainers and athletes. If you go ballistic every time a photog sticks his camera in your face, you’re going to gain a reputation, meaning that where there were once one or two photogs hounding you, now there are ten. But if you act like it doesn’t bother you (even if it pisses you off to no end), they’ll eventually get bored with you and move on. In this situation, being boring and uninteresting is a good thing. But if you yell at them and flip them off and act like it’s such a burden to have your picture taken in public, well, then you know what’s going to happen.

Part of being a celebrity is having to deal with the fame that comes along with it. You can’t be famous and still expect to have the privacy you did when you were just some jabronie no one cared about. And part of it is also not acting like a total jackass in public (see Roethlisburger, Ben).

Here in Pittsburgh, people leave celebs alone for the most part. In my travails in and around the city over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of pro athletes out in public. I pay them the courtesy of a) not pointing them out to everyone else and b) not bothering them. I think this holds true for most people here. A lot of movies are being made in Pittsburgh these days, and pretty much every celeb who has come through here has said how surprised they were about how much they weren’t bothered by people. You can’t get that in New York or L.A. I think that also might be a reason why so many athletes not from Pittsburgh have settled here, even after only playing in town for a year or two.

So what’s the point of this blog (outside of ripping on "Jersey Shore" and idiot celebrities)? It’s to point out that being rich and famous ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. So, for all of you out there who would give up your first born to be famous, be careful what you wish for because you could be the next Snooki or The Situation, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.



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