Posts Tagged ‘fame’
Our so-called obsession with celebrities is as old as the cult of saints. But the adoration of flimsy celebrity effigies is now facing a stark reality check, thanks to the revelations of Operation Yew Tree.
I am appalled yet weirdly hypnotised by the carousel of failing celebrities. Disgraced household icons, once the essential popular entertainers of a generation, are now nothing more than rotten old television symbols reduced to dust; broken beings, who now have to be purged from the public eye.
A couple of years ago I took part in a documentary for US TV on the price of fame. For anybody familiar with my writing on the sticky web of notoriety, you will know that history indicates that celebrity often comes with a very high price.
For the documentary I was asked to meet two young fame hungry wanna-bes. Their claim to a parabolic trajectory was a simple conceit, they were identical twins. Blood brothers with the will to do whatever it took for the riches and frenzy of renown.
Ironically both were bright lads: one a budding mosaic artist, the other studying to be an architect. However, the long haul through university and arts school held no allure. During a challenging hour of filming, my dismal attempts to diffuse their misplaced adoration of the god of fame failed to cut through. They wanted it now and at any cost because the perceived lifestyle was far too delicious to disregard. The life plan was set in marble.
The late great fame merchant Jay Bernstein generously gave me a huge amount of his time when I was researching my book,The Fame Formula. He had a thing or two to opine regarding the human lust for notoriety .
I arrived on his lavish Beverly Hills doorstep to seek the detail of his alchemy; few knew more about fame mungering. Philosophically he positioned the view that fame was a curse. He was in the winter of his life and perhaps his age encouraged greater honesty. He thought fame was not worth the price. He proffered a view that the success holds a putrid underbelly, which the entertainment industry hides.
“Few managed to deal with the downside which often crept up to extinguish the fierce lifestyle. We allowed stars to get away with it, behave badly because they were who they were. We allowed them their peccadillos, for God sake they were box office. Hell, why would we want to lose a client. The studios handed down the instructions to indulge the hedonism and would pay for the cover up”.
The falling star will not put off the wannabe seeking the trappings of fame. The idealistic tradition might have deteriorated, ecstatic worship has indeed dissipated, but the recognition of the toxicity of fame has only temporarily dulled.
But it’s time to recognise the value of more meaningful existences less glamorous yet more worthy for society’s benefit. Yes, there is a primordial desire for acclaim, however the ego must find a way to be supported, to sit more comfortably alongside other, less destructive impulses.
Those who have allowed the criminal indulgences of a generation should take responsibility for remaining silent. The “untouchable” talent has in the past bred the concept of “too valuable to lose”. Entertainment history has covered up the power stars who didn’t abide by the same rules. Obfuscating and shifting focus away from the monstrosity of fame does nothing to challenge its future trajectory. The frenzy of renown will morph, then find a new value. Perhaps those who are in the engine room should consider its value and purpose before it suffocates the real joy of human endeavour.
As for the twins, I’ve no idea what happened to them, and Google offers up no clues. I guess they never achieved their dream of international stardom. They are probably all the better for it.
Call me a cynic, but something rankles with me in this Greg Smith resignation furore. What’s unquestionable is that this man, formerly at the top of his profession (at least outwardly) has now rendered himself unemployable. The publication of his article and the resultant storm of comment combined in a perfect storm of PR disasters which led to the firm’s shares dropping by 3.4% yesterday.
We must ask two questions about his actions. The first: did he know? Is it conceivable that he thought, by printing an article in the New York Times, he would be hailed as courageous, his points would be intelligently and calmly digested and discussed, and then he could wander off to another firm more secure in its ‘culture’? Possibly, but there’s few who’d argue this point with any gusto. Choosing the NYT seems pretty calculated- its audience of switched-on liberals could be relied upon to raise the requisite moral uproar, and its much-touted online success near-guaranteed a significant reaction on twitter.
Ever since Tom Paine’s book Fame: From the Bronze Age to Britney came out, I have been looking more and more at the way celebrity and myth intersect – and now the news, and Katie Price specifically, has presented another killer analogy.
In Celtic mythology, the Year King would be feted and loved and cherished for one full cycle, drawn into the circle of the Earth goddess and made great. Then, to ensure the crops kept growing, he’d be destroyed.
So Katie Price, in her vengeful aspect of the goddess, has struck again Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s Great Lives on Radio 4 is a look at the life of the great rock and roll swindler, Malcolm McLaren, who died earlier this year. He was nominated for the programme by me. Here’s the blurb from the BBC website.
“‘I’ve been called many things,; McLaren wrote as advance publicity for his one man show, ‘a charlatan, a con man, or the culprit responsible for turning popular culture into nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick. This is my chance to prove these accusations are true.’
“The man behind the Sex Pistols and Duck Rock is nominated by public relations expert Mark Borkowski, author of The Fame Formula, and a man who knew him well. What intrigues Borkowski is not just the success, but the myths that have evolved around this highly manipulative man. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s weird to consider the forthcoming global PR implications for the Chilean miners. It’s all too clear that this will be the biggest story in the world come Wednesday assuming that the men are released from the mine. It can’t be ignored – every news gathering organisation is surrounding the escape route as it nears completion; the three ring satellite truck circus is there for all to see.
It may sound crazy to say it now, but in the days to come I think that the Chilean miners, trapped below the earth for so long, will come to regard their accidental prison as a haven of freedom. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been travelling around California for the last 10 days, taking in the sights and sounds and meeting people on a research trip for a book on the ways that sexuality has been used to create fame. Hollywood is a spawning ground for media whores, after all. I thought I’d be taking time out of blogging, but there are three celebrity stories subsuming the news in the USA at the moment and I could not let them pass as, even by my own standards of morbid interest, the American news coverage of Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson and Rachel Uchitel’s latest shenanigans is overkill.
Mel Gibson’s everywhere, in stories relating to the tapes that are allegedly of him violently, angrily haranguing the mother of his youngest child, Oksana Grigorieva, in racist, sexist and vulgar terms. It smacks of a put-up job to me, but it’s a story that will run and run.
Lindsay Lohan, in case you missed it, is also in trouble, serving ninety days in jail for drink-driving offences. If you were judging by the amount of comment and analysis the story’s getting, you’d expect her to have been found guilty of triggering an unprovoked nuclear attack on the Falkland Islands or something similar. Not that Lohan will serve her time – the latest reports suggest that she could serve as little as nine days “because of overcrowding”. Read the rest of this entry »
I took part in the Cambridge Union debate last night, arguing for the proposition ‘This House Believes that Reality TV Represents Everything Wretched about Britain Today’. I underestimated the space, at how steeped in grandeur it is, and found myself more than a little nervous.
The debate was well attended; over two thirds full. Joining me to argue for the proposition were Max Clifford and the retiring Union president, Jonathan Laurence. Opposing the motion were Times journalist Hugo Rifkind, showbiz writer Zoe Griffin and James McQuillan, who appeared on The Apprentice.
The other speakers last night went for a comic interpretation of the motion. My technique was more serious-minded, more Old Testament – Quentin Tarantino fans might have deduced I was trying to mimic Samuel L Jackson’s famous biblical Pulp Fiction speech. Read the rest of this entry »
Jedward may finally be gone from the X Factor, but that’s no reason to expect that they have automatically dipped straight off the fame radar. For all of you wondering why and how they lasted so long on the X Factor, I contributed to a couple of articles in the Independent and the Telegraph looking into the phenomenon, the manipulation and the plundering of the Jedward brand.
It seems that there is a total sense of humour failure endemic throughout the world when it comes to stunts like the ‘Balloon Boy’ incident, as the ongoing trial of the parents proves – they apparently pleaded guilty only after the wife, who is Japanese, was threatened with deportation.
Certainly, the need to think about wider concerns makes outlandish and outrageous stunts a more difficult prospect in this health and safety and desperately money-conscious world. Some years ago, a band wanted me to help them arrange to completely stop traffic in Piccadilly Circus so they could play a gig from a flat bed truck – I had to hold a hand up and say “what are we going to do if an ambulance comes through with a heart attack victim on board?” The need to stand back and question all possible outcomes is even more imperative nowadays.
As much as the Rupert Pupkinish hedonistic approach is appealing, for its ability to grab headlines and for the sheer thrill of pulling something extraordinary and outrageous off, the parents of ‘Balloon Boy’ are proof positive that care has to be taken and that serious thought has to be applied if you don’t want an initially amused and fascinated public to turn on you if even the smallest thing goes wrong. Fame for the sake of it can be a costly business.
The more implausible elements of the ‘Balloon Boy’ story are deflating fast, but still people are hanging on in there, waiting to see what happens when the balloon crashes finally to earth.
Deprived of the possibility of an injured or dead child to fulminate over, the press are waiting to see what happens to the child’s father and making scathing noises about his “appalling” hoax. Legal action looms on the horizon and the life of a man desperate for attention looks likely to deflate even more drastically than the balloon he claimed had carried off his son.
But why is there all this fuss? The media are furious at being scammed and at appearing gullible, but they have scammed many times before and shrugged it off, admitting they’ve been kippered – such stories make for good entertainment.
Hoaxes have been a part of the American psyche for decades – just think of Orson Welles’ radio version of War of the Worlds in the 1930s. The flying saucer is one of the most recognisable tropes of the modern era of hoaxing; ‘balloon boy’s’ father was just – amateurishly – continuing a theme. On reflection, ‘Balloon Boy’ is one hoax that the media could and should have been able to see through, given that there was no realistic way that the balloon could have held a cat, let alone a six year old boy.
Why are the media so furious about a man who is so patently desperate for fame that he was prepared to try anything? Is it really because he pulled the wool over their eyes? It is the media’s fault that people are doing anything and everything they can to get noticed – all one need do is look at the reports of fabulous nobodies like Kerry Katona, Jordan and Pete and so on, who litter the newspapers daily at the expense of actual news, and at the thousands of wannabes who clutter up the tarmac at X Factor auditions. It’s seen as the last measure of job security, being famous, even if it often pays little.
The media needs to take a long hard look at what it is asking the public to buy into in future, if it is serious about turning on the people it has helped create.
When King of Comedy came out 26 years ago, the character of Rupert Pupkin was a grotesque, an inflated satire. Now that mindset is everywhere – the world is full of Rupert Pupkins, created by the press and public’s endless desire for the next sacrificial lamb in the servant’s quarters of fame. The press are largely culpable for this, using stories such as ‘Balloon Boy’ to bury bad news or carry people away on a soapy ride. To censure someone for trying to play the game by slightly different rules is simply hypocrisy.