What we call Fame is nothing but the sum of all mistakes circulating about one individual.
Porcelain by Jeff Koons: Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988)
Celebrity is a mask that cuts into the face. As soon as one is aware of being “somebody,” to be watched and listened to with extra interest, input ceases, and the performer goes blind and deaf in his overanimation. One can either see or be seen.
Painting by Gerard Fromanger: Existe (1976)
Celebrities are not appendages of our society anymore; they are the basis of our communal lives. Literature and architecture, art and politics, are at most sidelights—small, ancient alleyways down which fewer and fewer minds wander. Pop culture has long since left the word culture behind to become the primary way we understand the world. Just before she died, the film critic Pauline Kael told a friend, “When we championed trash culture, we had no idea it would become the only culture,” and she was right. The average American household now watches eight hours and twenty-one minutes of television a day. If we want to understand ourselves, if we want to understand the civilization to which we belong, we have to understand celebrities, because the modern world of freedom and loneliness has produced them as the primary communal experience. (I know more about Tom Cruise’s sexual history than I do about my cousins’.) We confront the mysteries and the terrors of life through them.
Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy
To those who woo her with too slavish knees,
But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy,
And dotes the more upon a heart at ease;
She is a gypsy, will not speak to those
Who have not learnt to be content without her;
A jilt, whose ear was never whispered close,
Who thinks they scandal her who talk about her;
A very gypsy is she, Nilus-born,
Sister-in-law to jealous Potiphar;
Ye love-sick bards, repay her scorn for scorn,
Ye artists lovelorn, madmen that ye are!
Make your best bow to her and bid adieu,
Then, if she likes it, she will follow you.
Photo: Brian’s followers, from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
Fame will go by and, so long, I’ve had you, fame. If it goes by, I’ve always known it was fickle. So at least it’s something I experienced, but that’s not where I live.
Marilyn Monroe, 1962
Photo: Elizabeth Taylor (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011), age twelve (1944)