Monday, April 28, 2008

TODAY'S CULTURE OF CELEBRITY . . . AND ALL THAT CRAP . . .

"I've always thought there are two kinds of celebrities. There are people who really want to be celebrities. There are other people who want to be good at their craft. The ones who want to be famous are the ones who you hear about all the time. The ones who are studying and honing their craft have to do that out of the spotlight. You can't learn anything when you're out (in the spotlight) all the time."
Johnny Mathis (The Charlotte Observer, April 25, 2008)

Outside of the Old School Mix, I really didn't tell a lot of people about my recent television appearance. Make no mistake, I told those who didn't already know about the book (After The Dance) and shared with them all of the details about the two signings I had scheduled while in Memphis. But the TV and radio stuff, I left to others, like my proud hubby who called up just about everybody and their mama's (LOL).

Those who know me well understand that I'm fully content being in the background. I have no real desire to be in front of the somebody's camera or even behind somebody's mike (my dream of being a DJ fizzled a long time ago). I'm more than willing to step aside and leave the place on the stage marked as "the center of attention" to the more spotlight hungry.

Ain't it funny how those things you enjoy the least, often seem hell-bent on chasing you down? When I worked at the public library in Memphis, seemed like somebody was always sticking a camera in my face: on one occasion, I had to do an impromptu TV promo for the library's Magazines/Newspapers department and on another, I had to do a televised spot for an African American film festival I'd helped coordinate.

Shortly after my son learned that I was going to be on television, he struck up a loud chant of, "Mama's gonna be famous! Mama's gonna be famous!" Every couple of hours, he'd break into another round and finally I asked him, "Are you still gonna love Ole Moms even if she isn't famous?" Of course, being a good son, who loves regular meals, clean clothes and on-call chauffering, his answer was a resounding, "Yes!" (LOL)

I suppose, among other things, the point I'm trying to make is, I love writing and certainly, I love it all the more when folks find what I write entertaining and enjoybable. But I've never had a desire to be thought of as famous or a celebrity. I've never set as my goal "getting rich" from my work. Now, I would love to see some of my work on the big screen, but the satisfaction I would derive from doing so doesn't necessarily have a dollar sign or a certain number of zeroes attached to it. Sorry, if that disappoints, but I'm just simple like that (pun intended *smile*).

A lot of what I despise about today's arts scene (whether literary, theatrical, musical or otherwise) is the whole "15 minutes of fame" and "everybody's entitled or dang well oughta wanna be a star" notion. Bump that. Rather than doing some of everything (whether legal or illegal; moral or immoral; outrageous or just outright dumb) in order to draw attention to themselves, I really wish more folks (both artists and non-artists) would follow the advice shared in the quote above. Obviously, it's worked well for the 72-year-old crooner, known as Johnny Mathis. He's been in the game for fifty-two years and he's still going strong. Not only does he still perform, he can still draw a decent size crowd.

Think about some of today's more popular singers, writes, musicians, actors and the like. Who, among them, will still have a viable career, be in their right minds or even drawing a breath in the land of the living ten to fifteen years from now? Of course, nothing's promised and anyone of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Moreover, a lot of today's youngsters wouldn't know Johnny M. or likely be at all impressed by him, even if he turned up butt-naked on their favorite reality show, but I'm just saying . . .

5 comments:

Malcolm said...

That's a very astute quote by Mr. Mathis. Too many celebs are all about "being seen", be it some party or a movie premiere.

I also think that because many in our society are fixated on finding "the next big thing", it's hard for some artists to have staying power. I was reading an interview with one of the members of Boyz II Men a couple of years ago and he was lamenting the "here today, gone today" aspect of today's music scene. He said that he overheard a young lady talking about music. When someone brought up the name 50 Cent, she said he was played out. At that time, his latest album hadn't even been out that long!

Michelle said...

Thanks for answering the question my DH and I debated as we passed the sign advertising the one and only Johnny Mathis and the CSO's appearance in Charlotte this weekend...I thought he was a bit older than 72, but at any age, he's a classic and a class act.

In my opinion, that's what's missing from many of the "acts" these days: class. The notion that today's "stars" do what's popular, no matter how raunchy and inappropriate just to get noticed shows they don't operate from a place of innate confidence and class.

pjazzypar said...

If you burn your light too long or too brightly it eventually burns out. Longevity is much more rewarding than the fleeting flash in the pan notoriety that comes with the notable fifteen minutes of fame. Good post.

Lori said...

@Malcolm
Good point about all of the emphasis on the "next big thing."

@Michelle
"Innate confidence and class." Well said, but you're right, oh so hard to find these days.

@PJazzy
Love that imagery. A little light will go a long way, won't it? (smile)

MR said...

I'm behind in my Old School Mix reading. Just saw this post today. I really feel this one. Excellent comments.

I just picked up a book today by my “new” discovery (thanks to you), Ted Kooser. It’s called “The Poetry Home Repair Manual”. Chapter 1 is called “A Poet’s Job Description”. In it, he writes, “There’s an essential difference between being a poet and writing poetry. There are, in a sense, two poets, the one alone writing a poem and the one in the black turtleneck and beret, trying to look sexy...At the beginning, too often it’s the idea of being a poet that matters most. It’s the attention you want...”

Substitute the words poetry/poet/poem for the related words from any other creative discipline. Sadly, too often, it's the attention that's wanted. Sadly, too often, the attention is given. Then you get into the 'excellence ignored/mediocrity rewarded' "syndrome".

Anyway, I thought this post and what I read today by Mr. Kooser seemed related and wanted to share.

By the way, I'm so glad you introduced me to Ted Kooser. I like him more and more!