I found this quote on the front of a book recently while looking for the definition of the word "fame". Obviously, this is not an actual definition, but it does give you a clear understanding of what fame can do for a person. To paraphrase, fame gives you special things that an average person wouldn't have, because you are really good at something.
I find it interesting when I mention a famous actor to a friend, and they have no idea who I am talking about. Imagine mentioning someone like Tom Hanks to a buddy, and they don't know who he is. Does that make Tom Hanks less famous, or is my friend just ignorant? I say neither. I came to the conclusion that fame, like most other concepts of value, is relative to the perceiver. Since that is true, then why are people ever considered famous in the first place?
I want to share with you what I have been calling "The Tawny Kitaen Effect". For those of you who are not familiar with Tawny Kitaen, I will share this music video with you.
Let me give you a quick synopsis of her life so far. She was a rather poor actress/model wannabe, who was conveniently dating a soon-to-be rock star in high school. She eventually hooked up with yet another rock star, who whored her out to the hungry eyes of the 80s prepubescent male population through the wonders of MTV. Her career slowly dissolved into pathetic variety shows, failed remakes, and eventually she was arrested for drug posession. Now where is she? On a reality show hosted by Dr. Drew called "Celebrity Rehab".
She was, by far, one of the most attractive girls in the 80s... amazing legs and a smile that could light up a room. I'm sure many a tissue was sacrificed in her name by thousands of pimple-faced worshippers. But now, she is a pathetic shell of her former self, and has resorted to airing her dirty laundry, just for a paycheck.
What's wrong with that? Some might say, "Well, that is just the price you pay when you are famous." or "I'm sure she's had such an amazing life and that it was all worth it." Huh?
How can anyone rationalize her current status by simply canceling it out by her previous success? I never understood the concept of "Live Fast, Die Young". Billy Joel wrote a song about it, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and a few dozen others actually lived it. We hold these people as idols of eternal youth, forever young and forever famous. Why? Because they all died before they could become the disasterous messes they all were destined to become.
Tawny has the unfortunate experience of having lived beyond her fame. Had she died at 27, we would look back at her with fond memories of that flowing white dress, and doing the splits on the hoods of cars. But she didn't die. She just slowly destroyed herself. Let's consider the alternative to her fame. She was a pretty girl. She might have had some natural talents in other areas of life, such as cooking or writing. She might have been able to meet a nice boy, settle down, raise a family, and live the middle class dream. She may have been able to have a long productive life with many personal accomplishments and a feeling of personal accomplishment that many of us strive for. But... she didn't. She found value in the concept of fame, and traded the chance of a normal life for the appeal of notoriety and the lime light. I wonder if someone had shown her the outcome of her choices if she would make the same choices.
Let's bring the lottery into the equation. Recently, there was an absurd lottery amount of several hundred million dollars. Why would anyone want that? Imagine having so much money that you don't know what to do with it. I'm sure that most of you have it all planned out. Travel the world, build a huge mansion, feed the hungry, whatever. While it's fun to dream about that alternate reality, consider the consequences to that amount of money. Would your children ever appreciate the value of a day's work? Would you friends and family be able to interact with you without picturing a huge dollar sign above your head? What about gifts from others? How do you buy a gift for someone who already can buy anything they want? And the worst part, everyone would KNOW that you have that money. The level of fame, whether good or bad, would prevent you from having any level of privacy. Imagine not being able to go to the mall or a movie without people approaching you constantly with their hands outstretched, or a camera scrutinizing your every move.
Tawny exemplifies the problem with fame, but there are plenty of others out there that are slowly and inevitably approaching the same fate. Paris Hilton and the Kardashians are just modern day Tawny Kitaens. They are famous for no reason at all, and the world allows it. Why? Because we love to watch the mighty fall. We artificially inflate their fame, simply to watch them destroy themselves. There are television shows on right now whose sole purpose is to show us how much fame has destroyed these peoples' lives. Pathetic.
Andy Warhol introduced us to the concept of "15 Minutes of Fame". I wonder if he was being cynical or sincere when he said that. Today, as a result of the internet, everyone has the opportunity to be heard by the whole world at once. The idea that this article could be read by millions of people is a very real possibility... or not. As a result of my own personal internet endeavours, I have gained a small level of notoriety in certain circles. Am I famous? No. I do not produce my internet content to raise myself up in the publics' eyes. I do it to benefit the communities that I belong to, and for a sense of personal accomplishment. I do not want fame. I am not special.
It's unfortunate, but the world does not see how fame can destroy lives. Just like the story of "The Monkey's Paw", there is going to be consequences to disturbing fate. Nobody on this planet is meant to be more important than anyone else. I don't care if you are the Pope, a life saving doctor, the president of a bankrupt country, or a soldier standing at the front line of an impossible war... all lives should be valued equally. Every person should see value in themselves and should not need validation by others. I wrote this, not to be published, not to become famous, but to share my views of the world. That is good enough for me.
But if someone DOES want to publish this, call me. We'll do lunch.