An alternative view of the Death of Celebrity: Roll on the funeral
When the talented Austrian architect, Adolf Loos, died in 1933, he did so knowing that if his Christian name would probably forever be associated with a terrible human being, at least his surname was safe.
Fast-forward 70 years and unfortuantely his whole name looks like a disaster because a new monster has monopolized it, in no small part thanks to the drooling tabloids of Britain, that presumably drop any item running the risk of resembling actual news. Many are not going to know who Adolf Loos is, and thanks to Rebecca/Hitler [good name] they will automatically file him under Slut/Monster [great job, if you can get it].
I'm not sure if this bothers me even a little bit, and I suspect it doesn't trouble Piers Morgan at all either. Unlike my colleague Clyde, I was not overly impressed with his effort, which had potential, but stopped far too short of the great purge I would have wanted. The first problem was the title: The Death of Celebrity. Well, wouldn't that be tragic? Piers Morgan seemed upset not just that various pieces of human excrement were getting attention, but that other celebrities, worthy ones in his book, were not.
And who are such celebrities? Piers doesn't seem to know, as the various strata of talent on display in today's world were all dovetailed into one hideous concoction. At the start he bemoaned that in the old days it took someone like Frank Sinatra to get the media excited. Later he showcases Martine McCutcheon, who these days is a theatre actress apparently. A spot is given to the Kaiser Chiefs, interspersed with him cackling along with Michael Winner and Anne Robinson. Are these the worthy celebrities? In my view this stinks.
Michael Winner and Anne Robinson are so obviously unfit to be in a position to see their achievements celebrated [basically Piers' definition] that they don't deserve much more mention. I suspect Piers doesn't have them in mind as bona fide celebrities, but he is content to sanctimoniously sneer with them at the pond life in our newspapers without ever questioning what makes them so special.
Martine McCutcheon may well be a great theatre actress. Her award apparently says so. Yet she has been content to do what Piers should also be decrying - cashing in on her original fame [as a bit-part player in Eastenders] to release insipid music records. Not that genuine bands are much better. The Kaiser Chiefs have barely been around. Is now the time to learn their names? Are they truly talented? Surely it's best to let them create a substantial body of work before lionizing them too much. If fame is what Piers wants them to have, then shouldn't they work for it first? And of course, while rock elitists look at the Pop Idol squits with justified disdain, some of the methods of attention-seeking employed by them are equally cringe worthy in their desperation.
As for Frank Sinatra, well, he is supposed to be a proper icon, someone worthy of his fame. I remember the curmudgeonly old git as the guy who wanted to rein in Elvis and all the great music that came after, that never wrote an actual song [and didn't have to, they all sounded the same, damn it] and consequently spent his life peddling weak toxic sludge. He had a good voice, but that is a gift more so than a talent. He was born with it and never set it to work on anything more challenging than a bit of witless crooning. Things have come full circle; his heirs are on Pop Idol every week. It is still considered sacrilegious to assail Frank, which makes me wonder what really has gone wrong. If the smug elitists like Piers Morgan sanction Sinatra's entitlement to such fame [and of course the money that comes with it] then it seems that lurking behind our tabloid/slut-happy-notalentrequired-filth society is an equally wretched bunch who yearn for good-old-days that never really were there and praise those with a glowing reputation without critically thinking about how they got it.
Piers' tolerance for Pop Idol types, who flog their existing gifts instead of developing talent, is seen at the end, when he invites a bunch of Z-listers to prove that they can do something special. This entirely missed the point. When he quite rightly approached that ridiculous Big-Brother pair and asked them if it bothers them that they have no talent, the silly woman who snapped back that she was an actress must have known full well that she is in the public eye for no such reason. When he later tries to test Big Brother contestants and Page 3 girls on their abilities to sing and act the same point applies. That’s not why they are famous. Becoming famous for no reason and then unveiling your skill is precisely the reverse of how things should work. Celebrity is not a title to be earned and retained, but a recognition that you can do something well, people notice you, and that in today’s world of mass media the attention feat gets will be multiplied. Nowhere in this formula should any allowance made for the celebrity's private life, likes and dislikes or opinions. They shouldn’t matter any more than the next man's. Frank Sinatra didn’t earn that status or that money, in fact it’s so out of balance with his actual input that he should been in a permanent state of embarrassment.
This applies even more to today's sportsmen, another group let of the hook by Piers. When David Beckham showed up in the list of the most pointless celebrities, people on the programme rallied to his defence. This legitimacy masks the point that David Beckham the talented, yet limited footballer has this hideous extension off the pitch that we should never ever need to care about because it really doesn’t come with his job. His job, incidentally, entails an easy life, extortionate pay, instant fame and the fact that he is doing what he enjoys, a lopsided combination when you consider all the little underlings being paid peanuts to allow him to continue to do so. Beckham and his ilk are in a different category from Jordan and Abi Titmus, but still cannot claim to deserve the riches they get.
The real message this show should have sent out was that a decent society can reward and respect all kinds of talent, sometimes the ones we take for granted. Why are some talents more worthy of media attention than others [i.e. the useful ones].There are all kinds of contradictions about fame and it’s hard to put them in order. Talent should surely be developed to allow you to achieve your goals, but fame should not be seen as a means to get it noticed, or as an end in itself. The people closest to you will see your talent, and they know you best, so surely their opinion of you should matter more than that of some sap reading The Sun. Plato [and he was talented, if a bit fascist] noted the human desire for recognition that exists within us. It has prompted some terrible atrocities [war, power struggles, Will Young] but on a small scale it is a wonderful motivator. Others may take notice and that’s great. If Sonic Youth were any more obscure I would never have the pleasure of hearing them, after all. But when the desire to maintain fame, as if it were some entitlement, like a Lifetime Achievement reward, comes into the equation it breeds a homogenous and unadventurous output and turns the celebrity into a caricature. The dumb star will do anything and everything to stay afloat until the fateful day comes when they get a negative repsonse to the plaintive: "Do you know who I am?If you assume celebrity needs to be saved then I would instead recommend that it needs to be revised. But if you want to really get things right in my book, the best idea is to sidestep the issue and acknowledge that it wouldn't matter if it was Janet Jackson, Rebecca Loos' or Hypaatia's breast on show at the Superbowl, there really are more important things going on in the world right now, and it is there that the press should be.
"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." - George W. Bush (March 24, 2004)