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Monday, August 27, 2007

Wish upon a falling star: To be someone ...

If you make any attempt to keep up with what passes for news these days, you're sure to come across a story about celebrities gone bad. The mainstream media is obsessed with star-crossed gossip, and it's open to debate whether they are merely spoon feeding the public what it wants or creating an appetite in exceptionally suggestive minds.

My friends and I gathered around the idiot box last week to watch an admittedly meaningless exhibition game between the hometown Bears and the Indy Colts, as we football junkies must have our fix. If the diversion of full padded violence wasn't bad enough, we discovered that the action on the field was mere backdrop to a continously looped soundtrack of updates on the salacious story of Michael Vick, the NFL's latest PR nightmare.

Vick's dog fighting vice is just one example of the current frenzied side show of ill fame. Headlines of star and starlet drug binges, car crashes, and relationship woes seem to push their way closer to the front page with each passing day. They make much more interesting reading than the various real social crises unfolding around the globe; and fanaticism of all stripes is more in vogue than ever, so why not worship a while at the cult of celebrity.

Like moths to the flame many are lured to the spotlight, and just as those fire-obsessed insects usually end up crispy critters, the lucky few who win stardom often find themselves burned by the constant attention.

We live in a lottery society that promotes exceptionalism by myth-making the one-in-a-million stories of those who strike it rich and famous. Unfortunately, it's also very unforgiving when these idols don't live up to their newly gifted status. As Icarus learned, the higher you climb, the further you have to fall. (The image above is adapted from a woodcut of Icarus by Jorg Breu as found in Andrea Alciato's Book of Emblems)

The Jam sang about this up-down ride of stardom in the track To be someone (check out a YouTube clip of it here). If as Andy Warhol predicted we each get our 15 minutes of fame, I wonder if we'll also get 15 minutes of ill-repute.

To be someone (Didn't we have a nice time)
by The Jam

To be someone must be a wonderful thing
A famous footballer, a rock singer
Or a big film star, yes I think I would like that
To be rich and have lots of fans
Have lots of girls to prove that I'm a man
And be no. 1 ... and liked by everyone

Getting drugged up with my trendy friends
They really dig me and I dig them
And the bread I spend - is like my fame - it's quickly diminished

And there's no more swimming in a guitar shaped pool
No more reporters at my beck and call
No more cocaine - now it's only ground chalk
No more taxis - now well have to walk

But didn't we have a nice time
Didn't we have a nice time
Oh wasn't it such a fine time

I realize I should have stuck to my guns
Instead shit out to be one of the bastard sons
And lose myself - I know it was wrong - but it's cost me a lot

There's no more drinking when the club shuts down,
I'm out on me arse with the rest of the clowns
It's really frightening without a bodyguard
So I stay confined to my lonely room

But didn't we have a nice time
Didn't we have a nice time
Oh wasn't it such a fine time
To be someone must be a wonderful thing ...
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