Friday, February 13, 2009

The Cult of Celebrity

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am crazy about Johnny Depp. (To say that what I am is "obsessed" would be under-stating it somewhat.) But I am not crazy because of Johnny Depp. And there is, I think, a big difference. (The fact that my 91-year-old widowed father has often given tours of my basement craft room – also known as “The Depp Shrine” should not have any bearing on my feelings on wacked-out fans, okay?)

I really don’t know what it is about our culture, our society, that we are celebrity-crazy. I think of all those sighing women, swooning over the young Frank Sinatra; or the shrieking frenzy of Beatlemania; or the celeb stalkers, who really are VERY scary…and obviously not all there.

I’ve seen Johnny in person twice now. The first time was at the Disneyland Premiere for POTC: Dead Man’s Chest. Unfortunately it was all-too-brief…as he was being whisked past our location by his “handlers” because he’d spent too much time at the beginning of the line of fans and the movie was about to start. (DANG IT!!) The second opportunity (at the Disneyland Premiere of POTC: At World’s End) was “much more bettah”…because One, we were sitting most of the day on bleachers (the front row – what a coup!), and Two, he came over to us and signed autographs.

I actually got to touch him…whoa. (But did I get an autograph??? NO. I was too busy snuffling away, eyes leaking, and babbling, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” like a fourteen-year-old with a crush on Zac Efron…sheesh.) I don’t even remember the moment. I do remember vividly his approach, what he was wearing, the look on his face as he greeted fans. I remember seeing his arm, I remember the feel of it….*INSERT A BLANK SPACE IN TIME*…and then I remember him moving past our location, further along down the line of bleachers. ACKK!!! I blew it!!!

My friend, who was sitting next to me, told me that he’d looked down at my arm (which had a temporary Jack Sparrow tattoo on it – I told you I was obsessed!) and did a double-take and said, “wow” or “whoa” or something like that, with a huge smile on his face. I remember NOTHING…NOTHING of that moment. What a total doofus…

(Oh, and the photo? That was the moment right after my moment...)

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little off-track…but it’s just a small example of the insanity which is fandom.

I know a person who sends cards and letters to actors…evidently LOTS of actors. Who follows any sensational story and somehow mentally or emotionally inserts herself into the frenzy. Kidnappings, celebrity deaths, marriages between stars, personal appearances…it’s a little disconcerting to hear her latest “involvement” with whoever happens to be in the media spotlight at the moment.

I also know a person who, through her good intentioned works for charitable organizations, came into contact with an actor. He wasn’t particularly famous when she first “met” with him (on-line, through his website), but he had appeared in a popular TV series and had a bit part in a very successful movie, which turned into a mega-hit franchise. Through her, our little group was lucky enough to meet him in person, and do a little fundraising for his charity. He’s a nice guy and it was our pleasure to spend time with him and help his foundation.

But I’ve watched this woman change over the past three years as her relationship with the actor has continued. I suspect that she is hoping that through her connections with him she will someday get to meet Someone Else (for a hint see above).

I’ve heard that money changes people. Someone who inherits a fortune, or wins a fabulous multi-million dollar lottery, ends up not the same person he or she was before the windfall. I’ve decided that this is also true in some cases with celebrity “hounds,” as I call them. This woman’s dogged pursuit of her goal has absolutely changed her…and sadly, not for the better. She has walked over, cast aside and hurt people that loved her. She’s become vicious and manipulative and vindictive. She is not the person she used to be (or, even worse, she hid what she actually was under the layer of warmth and generosity that we all saw and believed was her true nature). It’s all very sad and disappointing.

Am I crazy about Johnny? Yes, of course. I admire him as a person, as a father, and as a consummate actor. I think he’s incredibly intelligent and respect the fact that he’s a self-taught intellectual, who rose above rough circumstances and his own self-destructive habits to become what he is today. What I am not, though, is crazy because of him. I don’t spend hours plotting how to get close to his associates, or try to make “connections” with anyone who ever knew him or had contact with him. I don’t follow him around to every premiere or every fundraiser or every film festival. And I haven’t, nor do I ever intend to, purchase a ticket to Plan de la Tour, France and stake out his villa. I’m content that I have, in just six years, achieved what one of my co-workers termed “the Mt. Everest of Johnny Depp-dom” by having a brief, euphoric encounter with him, and will be content to watch his movies and enjoy his celebrity from a distance.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I've Had it Up to HERE With Diversity!!

From August 2007...

Now, before you run for the telephone to call the ACLU...I wasn't referring to "ethnic diversity," or the "melting pot" that America has become (along with Canada, England, France, and a host of other countries).

No...I am talking about the daily deluge of decisions....the profusion of preferences...the superfluity of selections...TOO MANY CHOICES!!!!!

This concept hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday at the grocery store. Now normally I purchase my pantyhose in a clothing store, but since that requires a trip to the clothing store and requires a bit more money than the "discount" brands, I decided to pick some up along with the ground beef, veggies, cat food, and the rest of the list. First I had to find them. This wasn't as easy as it sounds. (I never did figure out where they keep the Wet Ones...but that's another story.) I finally located the pantyhose.

Now I haven't bought pantyhose in a grocery store for donkey's years but it used to be a fairly straight-forward process. Suntan (or tan - never nude or beige!), Queen sized (yes, I'm still a "Q" but on my way toward "Regular"), reinforced toe.

Simple, easy to remember...right? Wrong. There were "silky sheer," " all-day energizing," "control top," "sheer to the waist," "nude toe" in every combination possible. Unfortunately, amid this veritable plethora of choices I could not, for the life of me, find SUNTAN REINFORCED TOE IN SIZE "Q"...!!!

I literally stood in front of the display for fifteen minutes. It didn't help that the store employees didn't keep things neat and tidy, there seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to how they were placed...or else customers spent lots of quality time re-arranging things. (I actually suspect it's both.)

I finally found two pair that worked, and tossed them into the shopping cart. But it got me thinking. I've asserted for years that MacDonalds has really blown it. I used to like MacDonalds. MacDonalds was easy. Hamburger. Cheeseburger. Filet-O-Fish. Fries. Cokes. Milkshakes. Apple Pie. Simple. Easy to remember.

Now they've got salads, parfaits, chicken, riblets, Quarter Pounders, Big Macs, chicken MacNuggets....and don't even get me started on breakfast.

Oh yes, it sounds wonderful on the surface. So many choices. You can eat there every day, every meal, for a month and probably never have the exact same meal twice. But what they've sacrificed is speed and quality. (Okay, they were never considered a four-star eating establishment...but you see where I'm going with this, don't you?)

The phrase "Jack of all trades, master at none" springs to mind. It's trite, perhaps well-worn. But it's well-worn because it works and it's true.

And you can say the same thing for Burger King and Wendy's and any other formerly "fast food" restaurant you want. Same thing.

When I was a little girl there used to be three channels. (Only THREE, you gasp?) Yep. ABC, NBC and CBS. Now they have at least three hundred (I can't get them all because I can't afford the deluxe ComCast package.) But even so, I do have access to at least a hundred. And how many times a month do I surf through the channels, using the handy little on-line guide and discover...there's nothing on TV??? Too many times to count, sadly.

It seems today, that when we diversify too much, we lose the focus that creates the quality.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Easy Way Out

Okay, I've been experiencing Blogger's Block. I get these great ideas...but never when I can even jot down the thought, much less outline something. So, as a total cop-out, I'm copying some older blogs from a certain "social networking" site... they're actually pretty good if I do say so myself.

From January 2006:

Dads & Daughters

I'm 54 and I live at home. Now before anyone gets that look on their face and their mind starts wandering down all sorts of snide and condescending paths, I will clarify. I am living with (and trying to care for) my elderly father, who is 88.

Through the years, Dad and I have had our moments. He was pretty cool when I was very little (he tried taking flying lessons which came to an abrupt halt when his pilot/instructor landed (nose down) in a field outside of town. After that Mom kind of laid down the law). And for a short while he owned a motorcycle, which I used to crawl all over (and consequently was always burning my bare little legs on the engine casing - it had that kind of edgy-striped metal covering, and most of the summer my inner thighs looked like grilled salmon steaks). He was pretty good to my brother and me, he was endlessly patient about setting up the little swimming pool in the backyard and filling it with water, he would walk me around the neighborhood helping me look for the bike that I’d left somewhere, while in the unfocused throes of play, he bought us ice cream cones and let us have cats, parakeets, horned toads, frogs and a tarantula (that was NOT my choice, by the way!).

He worked hard and was in sales, so he was gone a lot, which was hard on Mom. And he never really enjoyed good health. His appendix ruptured when he was 13, giving him a nasty case of peritonitis and nearly killing him, and providing a three-month stay in the hospital (and rural Idaho hospitals in the 30's resembled Frankenstein’s laboratory more than hospitals). And in the Army Air Corps overseas in WWII he contracted malaria which, I understand, never really goes away. He had stomach surgery in '65 (that was when butchers..oops...surgeons hacked large chunks out of your digestive tract for ulcers, instead of changing your diet and working on reducing stress). So there were lots of planned trips that were cancelled at the last moment because Dad got sick. I got used to that (never liked it much, but became resigned to it eventually. I mean, the man couldn’t really help it, could he?).

But the "Daddy-and-His-Little-Princess" relationship changed, seemingly overnight, when the "princess" went into puberty and got a best friend who decided to try every drug (and every boy) within a 200 mile radius. She got me to do things I never, ever thought I would find myself doing, and she made it seem either very logical, or like the most fun we would ever have in our young, and soon-to-be-ended-by-infanticide lives.

So, suddenly the daddy-daughter relationship become, to say the least, adversarial. And not very fun. I confess I did what I could to push the edge of the envelope, he did what he could to control it. You know those true-life adventure movies that Disney was so fond of producing? The bighorn sheep that would back up three or four hundred yards, put their heads down and then charge each other? Remember that huge *THWACK* reverberating down the scenic mountainside when they came together, butting heads? Well, that just about describes every confrontation with my Dad during my teenaged years (and, in effect, the entire decade of the Sixties).

We managed to get through it somehow (amazingly enough), because things weren't much better in college, where I was your typical Gifted Underachiever. School was great - lots of fun. Dorms? More fun. Class? Well, that wasn't so fun, especially when one is stupid enough to schedule morning classes but decides to do most of one's "living" between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. The administration was nice, friendly, helpful. They really did their best to work with me, and they gave me several second chances - but to no avail. I'd not learned to study, nor did I possess an ounce of self-discipline, and administrations, unlike fathers, do not have an unlimited supply of patience. And so I was politely told to leave. Which was rather awkward because I was, at the time, working full-time for the university. They thought about it and allowed me to stay at my job, where I made almost enough money to pay the rent and buy gas for my car.

My Dad couldn't fathom that I'd blown my opportunity at an education. My mother taught elementary school. Her favorite pastime was taking classes (even if it meant driving fifty miles to the nearest college.) My Dad never had an opportunity past high school because he got his secondary education from Uncle Sam in the South Pacific. Education was very important to both of them. It was a pity that their children (neither of them) did not feel the same.

Eventually my Dad and I came full circle to that fairly comfortable and accepting place that most grown children and their parents exist in. A lot of it occurred because Dad's health did not improve. After two heart attacks he ended up having quintuple by-pass surgery, and somehow his mortality became quite important to me, and I overlooked a lot of what I thought were his lesser qualities. I spent a lot of time in hospitals, holding his hand, supporting my Mom and logged a lot of miles (both air and land) traveling from my life back home to be with them at such times. And I suppose, during those vigils, there was that little glimpse at what eventually would come to pass when he became unable to care for himself at the end of his life. (He's not quite there yet, thank goodness.)

I have grown more patient (mostly).

When my mother passed away eight years ago, I was left to take over with Dad. The first couple of years were actually easier, because he was so sad and lost, and so was I. We were kinder to each other, more considerate, more giving - trying to ease each other's grief a little. My impatience does surface now and then, because honestly! He is, after all a man, and age seems to exacerbate that condition exponentially - in fact, it is almost as though a reversal has occurred. I now feel like I'm living with, and running herd on, a child. And never having been "blessed" with a husband and children, the experience is not one that I'm enjoying overmuch. But you do what you have to do. I remember all the times that he was there for me, when I needed guidance, counsel (or money) desperately. How can I do less for him, now that he needs me?