Thinking in song titles as I do, the lyrics to Fame have a particular resonance these days.
Fame is such a peculiar phenomenon. We know it is fleeting, pathetically so. Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne- these men deserve to be remembered, yet even their fame is a distant memory to the next generation of movie-goers. In our fast-forward world, fame is especially quick. One hardly waits for the peak before the descent has already begun, and the public is ready to feed off a new instant celebrity.
Studies show that most people crave fame, crave it much more than we are willing to consciously admit. Why? Because who doesn’t want to be recognized at airports, be made to feel special amongst a roomful of strangers, sit at the best table at a restaurant, and have access to that special world of other famous people? Not to mention celebrity discounts at all the stores…
Rosie O’Donnell warns of the lure of fame in her short gem of a book, Celebrity Detox. She admits to loving all the perks, the attention, the money, the glorious specialness of it all. She is candid in describing fame as its own addiction, complete with cravings, and the need for the next fix, the feeling of being unsatisfied, discontent with the ordinary, needing more adulation, more affirmation, more and more- until finally, one day, she stops. She steps off the fame train, temporarily at least. Time for Detox, time to make time with her family.
I saw Priscilla Presley on Dancing with the Stars this week, for about 20 seconds, at the end of her performance, as she was being judged, looking tired, sweaty, and only just a little younger than her 64 years. (The neck was the giveaway). Why? I asked myself. Why does Priscilla Presley need to compete on a stage with 20 year olds- what is she trying to prove? And then it hit me- Priscilla Presley isn’t trying to prove anything- she simply needs to be in the spotlight. She misses it. She has been off the stage too long and craves the attention. All the money, the old press clippings, even the fame of her name are no longer good enough. Priscilla Presley misses the eyes, the attention, the applause. I get it. Rosie would get it.
I am ruminating on the nature of fame lately because of the ascendance of my sister Jill Zarin, who is enjoying the spotlight these days as the star of Bravo TV’s The Real Housewives of New York City. I was with her when she was stopped in New York and recognized. It was fun, it was dynamic, it was a little strange.
The peculiar thing about fame is that people believe they really know you, based upon what they know of you. As the host of a radio show, Live! with Lisa, I am candid on-air about my opinions, my likes and dislikes. One day I interviewed a specialist on compulsive overeating, and I was gabbing about my own insecurities regarding shopping for clothes. A woman called to scold me on the air, saying that she knew I was not a compulsive overeater and I wasn’t taking the subject seriously enough. How does she know that I’m not binging on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups every night and maybe throwing them up right afterwards??? hmmm. Not important. What was important was that she really believed she knew me, Lisa, personally.
My friend Virginia tells me there is a price for fame. Celebrity discounts, anyone?
You tell me, please.