Monday, September 23, 2019

You Can't Ever Be Famous

I ran into an old friend who's a bit famous now and appears to desperately crave more fame. Unable to control myself, I offered a provocative observation.

"You can't ever be famous."

Of course, he received this in the least thoughtful way, and began to explain how, dude, he's already famous.

"Which part of you is famous, though? Your elbows? Your ear lobes? Are your armpits famous?"

He thought it over, and replied "All of me!"

"No. Not all of you. Hardly even part of you. All that can be famous is your name. The label. And you're not the label. You're a three-dimensional person with an inner life and complex backstory. You're not your nametag (weren't you you before you had a name?), and only your name can be famous."

"My name is famous because of who I am and what I've done!"

"Are you sure of that? Let me ask you something. Are you a film fan?"

"No, not really."

"Good! You've heard of Ingmar Bergman, of course."


"Have you seen any of his filmes?"


"Good! Ok, say you're at a dinner part and Ingmar Bergman turned out to be sitting next to you. Would you be excited?"

"Sure! He's a major figure!"

"So without ever having seen his work or knowing anything about him, you'd nonetheless feel eager and appreciative?"

"Lots of people who do know his work love him, I know that."

"But are you sure they do? Maybe they caught a film in college, years ago, and have utterly forgotten it...mostly remembering the mere act of remembering it. Maybe they hollowly mention his name to make themselves seem savvy. And of those who've made a serious study of Bergman, how many have really keyed in and gotten him - fully appreciating not just the movies as movies but his unique personal contribution in any deep way? Maybe a few hundred, max. And of them, how many know the actual man, beyond interviews and such? How many know what he likes for breakfast?"

"You're being ridiculous!"

"Am I? Back in the Chowhound days, I met a slew of people who recognized my name, got slightly breathless (embarrassing me at first, when I still assumed it had something to do with actual me), and then began chatting me up about, like, trendy restaurants, making it clear they had no idea of me or my work. Just the name. And the name's enough, because that's where the fame hangs; on the name.

Even those with actual familiarity rarely/never showed deep recognition beyond a sense of my voice and vibe. 99% of fame attaches to a name tag, and the remainder - the best case scenario! - recognizes an overarching vibe; an aroma. And that obviously is not who we are. That's why I say a person can't be famous."

"Well, I don't need complete appreciation. I'm happy just to have my name out there!"

"Great! But, then, I have a suggestion: Buy yourself a dozen parakeets, and train them to speak your name. You'll hear it ringing out unceasingly."
I know several mothers who trained their toddlers, early on, to rotely utter "I love you, Mommy," encouraging this behavior via standard psychological feedback actions (none was so gauche as to hand out cookies, like rewarding a dog for heeling, but they all came awfully close). The parakeet thing is not so far-fetched.

See also:
"Obama's Way (and the Dissociation of Fame)"
"Explaining Salinger"

1 comment:

Display Name said...

running out to the pet store for parakeets. Hmm lAfrican Greys live a lot longer and are better talkers. I won't mention the red love amazon parrot I had named Wally who was a spontaneous learner. I am not kidding that bird eavesdropped while I was having sex with my SO and we would hear a random moan once in awhile from that smart ass birdie. /blush But my real point in commenting (u knew I had one right?) is that OLAF IS MY MUSE. I was cutting out his pic on the pumpkin kringle package to tape up some where when I saw the words "fresh baked" don't feel obligated of course but how about that instead of the self-depricating totally overthinking it? Huh? huh? :)

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