December 15, 2010

America approaches its celebrities in weird and contradictory ways. They either revere them like royalty and buy magazines depicting them walking out of Starbucks in sweatpants, or they resent them for being so popular and are constantly trying to take them down a peg. It’s either “€œYou”€™re really great”€ or “€œYou”€™re not so great”€ hundreds of times a day. How annoying.

I don”€™t understand choosing to be famous. You are at the nation’s disposal, and anyone who wants a minute of your time feels they have the right to it. Celebrities even have their own privacy laws. If you publish a picture of the average American mom in her house, you”€™re looking at some pretty serious litigation. Do the same to a movie star, and the case is likely to get laughed out of court. I guess I understand how someone would want to pursue a career in acting, but when the job comes with an iron mask that says, “€œBother Me”€ on the front, I don”€™t get it. Reality stars are particularly confusing factors in the rich-and-famous equation, as they opt out of the money part and focus exclusively on being well-known.

Fame is the burdensome downside of being famous. Scots vilified Billy Connolly (the man behind the quote, “€œFame is being asked to sign your autograph on the back of a cigarette packet”€) for leaving Scotland but, as he said in an A&E documentary (I”€™m paraphrasing), “€œI really had no choice. I couldn”€™t go to pubs or do anything in Glasgow because when you”€™re famous, everyone wants a piece of you.”€ Connolly then explained that his LA compound is like a little Vatican where he can live a relatively normal life away from the clawing public. He said all celebrities make a little sanctuary for themselves. Pablo Escobar lived in a beautiful jail, too. He hated it. 

In Being Mick, a yawn-fest of a documentary Mick Jagger did about Mick Jagger’s life and what it’s like for Mick Jagger to be Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend is sitting in Mick’s living room trying to convince him to take the train to Heathrow because cars take three times as long. “€œYes, you”€™re subjected to boring conversations,”€ Pete admits, “€œbut they”€™re incredibly short boring conversations.”€ Mick and Pete made a lot of great music and scored some fine pieces of tail in the process, but now they can”€™t go to a restaurant without causing a riot. Bernie Madoff could go to a restaurant in public. Rock stars don”€™t have an unusually tough life, only an unusually unusual life.

I don”€™t know Will Ferrell, but I went to a Yankees game with him because I”€™m friendly with his manager, Jimmy Miller. Ferrell’s level of celebrity means going from the limo to a special line through a back room and over to the seats behind the umpire. At our seats, we were surrounded by professional athletes and aristocrats, but the irritating Fame Bummer was no less intense than at the remote upstate bar with David Cross.

After Will signed autographs for a line of eager kids, we heard half-a-dozen “€œHEY, WILL!”€s from the seat immediately behind us. We all finally turned around to see an incredibly rich douchebag in a tailor-made pinstripe shirt rolled up to his elbows with a hot dog in his hand. “€œHey,”€ he said, ecstatic that he got the movie star’s attention, “€œhow come you got seats down there and I”€™m up here?”€ As if we were supposed to care, his friend told us he was one of Wall Street’s most successful bankers. As we turned back around to watch the game, a friend of Will’s told me not to engage with our rich-but-not-famous antagonist because “€œit just drags it out.”€ Nobody seemed as annoyed by the banker as I was. In fact, they seemed to think it was kind of funny.

Later, Ferrell and Miller spotted Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon in the dugout next to us. “€œMADDON!”€ they yelled in unison, hoping he”€™d turn around. “€œMADDON!”€ they screamed again. Maddon was smart enough not to turn around and allowed them to holler until security came and told them to cut it out. Maddon knows that turning around only encourages people like that.


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