Monday, November 19, 2007

You're a Celebrity Here... You Know?

Nothing succeeds like success; that’s something we’ve heard and we get the impression that it must be true. Unless you live in a cave somewhere like the long dead Bin Laden- who doesn’t actually live in a cave since he is, in fact, long gone; dead if you prefer that term... but let’s say you did live in a cave but weren’t dead, or gone like Bin Laden and didn’t have TV and/or internet then, you might not be on the receiving end of a relentless carpet bombing of celebrity comings and goings. Otherwise, you’re aware of the glitter and fairy dust that rains down upon those in the limelight.

Celebrity is a curious thing. There are no fixed rules concerning the possession of it. It comes and goes. Like Lady Luck it enters the casino on the arm of one man and goes out on the arm of another. There is no fidelity involved, just degrees of time. Once you’ve spent the evening with her you could spend a much longer period looking for her again. If you do run across her she might do no more than blow you a kiss to keep your interest. She seems to like some people more than others but no matter how she might appear to like you for a period of time, it makes what she’s inevitably going to do to you at some point, all that much harder to bear. Ah cruel world (grin).

Anyone can have celebrity. You can get it from wearing a too short skirt while boarding an airline and wind up with an agent before you disembark. Then you wind up in the covered dish at the back of the icebox a few days later wondering what happened. It seems like only a moment ago that you were talking with Geraldo. Now you can’t even appear at a supermarket opening unless you’re going after groceries.

You can get celebrity from being born with a whole pot full of money, even if you have no talent at all- which has been amply demonstrated- and if you possess no shame or sense of self you can arrange for the release of a sex video and via the efforts of a first class publicity firm and, once again, a whole lot of money, you can be a star in the eyes of troglodytes everywhere.

You can be born the son or daughter of a director or an actor or any influential person and move through the chutes of public awareness like a greased pig. You can actually possess some amount of talent but that’s incidental most of the time.

You can be pleasant to look upon in the eyes of some particular demographic but you’ve generally got a sell by date which can be put off only so long and then the surgeons and cosmeticians turn you into a horror movie.

One thing about celebrity, sooner or later you wind up on Larry King or lesser venues talking about the thrill of it all; the triumph and agony of bringing your special gift to the world. I watch people toiling in the trenches of celebrity; in newspapers and magazines, in the blogsphere, in trendy clubs I’ve passed through, at pricey watering holes and resorts, on television, street corners and public parks. There are more levels to celebrity than there are in the most complex video games. There’s notoriety and fame and it’s difficult to tell the difference sometimes. There’s star-power and then there’s the more difficult art of becoming a legend.

When you’re celebrated it seems that everyone wants a piece of you. It must be some kind of a rush. You’re surrounded by friends and supporters on all sides until you screw up or run out of gas and then some cosmic Houdini turns the whole thing upside down in a twinkling. Then you’ve got to work like mad for redemption or some new angle. Screwing up as a celebrity is not like screwing up as an ordinary Joe. Even when you are not screwing up you are followed by a cloud of flies and mosquitoes that make it seem like you live in a tropical murk at the very worst season of the year. It takes a special kind of person to endure it. You have to want it so bad that nothing and no one is more important than to be celebrated. Gangway...

Meanwhile there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of celebrities. All of them have their lights on like the windows of an enormous apartment complex. All of them are dancing in the window with the shades up. All of them imagine that the world is looking only at them. It’s fascinating. Robert Burns would be so pleased.

Sometimes I muse on the condition of famous authors and musicians; on accomplished artists of every stripe. I think about how there are thousands of famous authors and musicians... all the venues... and how everything that they’ve done was already done and often better done before they ever got here. I think about musicians in front of large audiences and how it must seem to some of them as if the whole world is watching. I think about the money and the sex and power; all the accoutrements and trappings of the moth in the candle flame. Then I think about their lives apart from all the noise; if there even is such a place. I think about all of the demands made upon them and the difficulty they experience in dealing with all of the character defects that attend us- regardless of our status- as we negotiate the pressures and broken promises through which we pass.

Then I walk out of my door and stand in the meadow in front of my house and there’s nothing there but the wind in the trees and my dogs chasing each other; the sun is shining down and there’s no one around. Sometimes the wind in the trees sounds very much like applause. The sun feels like a spotlight, so does the moon. Sometimes if feels like all of creation is listening and watching though a one way mirror. I can walk with my guitar and sing for the birds (who often join in) and clouds; let the wind carry my voice across the world and someone will hear it the way something said in Los Angeles today might be repeated in Cairo next week. I think about the way a stone thrown into a still lake will eventually ripple across the entirety of it.

Every master has a life of secret shame. No matter what sublime state they have arrived at, behind them is many a mis-adventure and ignominious failure. It always struck me how remarkably humble they are. Here are the true celebrities with real accomplishments and they are just so self-effacing, shy and retiring. They must know something. Perhaps they are in the presence of something so much greater than themselves and they are constantly reminded of it so that there is no option besides humility and the most cautious and economical grace of movement; “wary as a man crossing an icy stream.” as someone once said.

I cannot help but cringe when I see people with some one trick pony thing that they have got going... what a roller coaster of uncertainty... cut to the Sunday morning panels of experts shouting each other down... preening at their introductions; seething at the competition for limited time and space... I wonder what difference there is between the monkeys and birds in the jungle trees and all the people talking on the radio.

Now and then Nature takes it upon herself to set a laurel wreath on someone’s head. Sometimes she does it after they are gone. Sometimes one rose or another may be “born to blush unseen” ...better that than that more than your immediate company should know what a fool you are. Should that laurel arrive, I suspect the greatest art is in handling the affair; not in the further production of works.

If Nature, for reasons of her own, wants to point you out to the greater assembly then that’s probably the best kind of celebrity and your opportunity not to behave like a celebrity is probably the greatest joy and challenge you will have. There’s something satisfying about that. Otherwise... the sheer joy of doing what you do for the sheer joy of doing it should be payment enough. It stands to reason that in a universe as vast as this that there are no doubt audiences unseen that are far greater in number than the population of this Earth. It’s a trick of the mind to realize what a grand stage awaits in every moment. I am always amused at the idea people have that no one is watching.

As I’ve occasionally said; just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there and just because you can doesn’t mean it is. Help yourself to the potage.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

My measurement of celebrity Les is Tiny Tim.
The celebrity exists purely for the extension of the fan; the 'self' of the fan.
Oh! So-and-So must be a particular type of person, they like James Brown.
Watch out for What's-'is-Name, he's into heavy metal.
Then I apply my Nan’s observation that 99.9% of people do not advance, mentally, past the age of 6.
Tony

Morpheus Awakes said...

Les, you are a tonic. Celebrating ones own talent, which appears to me to be a gift from beyond, is the most nauseating, ignorant, masturbatory human activity and is too often encountered amongst those 'celebrities'who should know better.