One of the painful aspects of American culture is our inability to distinguish celebrity from notoriety. Being famous is paramount-the reasons for the fame remain unexamined (for the most part). When I was a kid growing up we had Monty Rock IV who was a fixture, of sorts, on the interview couches of TV talks shows like Merv Griffin. It took me years to mature enough (and see enough of the world) to realize Monty was 'flamboyant' which was code in the late sixties/early seventies for homosexual. As for what he did to warrant a space on the couch, no chance and no clue.
No one said the H-word aloud, about Monte or Liberace, for that matter, and he was another one, as a small child watching TV, that you just knew wasn't ringing true. Liberace, however, could really play the piano. The bookend to Monty, back then (and when she shows up in the GEICO TV ad now she creeps me out), was Charo. I actually thought, as a kid, Charo might have been a guy dressed up as she was so over the top. I think she still is (over the top) but after all these years, she doesn't set off alarm bells anymore.
I mention Monty and Charo because they have descendants to this day...Nicole Ritchie, Paris Hilton and that sad sack on VH-1 Flava Flav-people who are famous, basically, for being famous. Notice I'm not talking about the Celluloid Heroes (did pick up Ray Davies' new album over the weekend and just started listening to it. The trouble with a career of four plus decades is after awhile, something new will sound like something old and Ray was always very good at recycling his own material) the stars and starlets who shoot across the Hollywood firmament and through the pages of the scandal rags.
Some become roadkill with hair on the human highway, insert a Heath Ledger anecdote here, and others crash and burn in simple splendor (Hello, Britney Spears!) and I find myself hoping they crawl off someplace, out of the glare of pulsing strobes and either die or grow up (not that I have the photo skills to be a paparazzi, but how do you know at what point to STOP following people, because the story is played out? Do the editors tell you 'we're not buying any more pictures of So-and-So?). I saw a story last week that Lindsay Lohan posing for Vanity Fair with a smile and not much else was her mom's idea. How sad is your life when a parent pimps you out?
And I wonder in a larger context, if a poptart spews her/his insides all over their limo and there's no one with a motor zoom to lens it, did it really happen? And when you've done Vanity Fair-how do you choose a follow-up? Mechanix Illustrated or Popular Science?