Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fame: It's Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

Fame, makes a man take things over
Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, puts you there where things are hollow

Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane

As you walk through the hallways of the Hilton and Las Vegas Convention Center you will see countless photos revealing our culture's affection for celebritydom. (Affection or affliction?) Here is a photo of the Rat Pack, and there The Beatles getting off a plane at McCarron Airport. Here's Lucy, and a little further down the hall there's Marilyn. And naturally a whole lot of Elvis, since the Hilton was his home away from home when in Vegas, which he bellowed should live forever.

I don't know about you, but because of the ways they died many of these famous people do not bring the warm fuzzy feelings these images seem intended to inspire. For so many the lasting impression I have is of the persons concealed inside this straitjacket of fame and the often pathetic ways in they lived their last days.

Read Bob Woodward's Wired and see John Belushi's demise. Marilyn Monroe's whole life was splattered with tragic. Elvis, whose ghost still haunts the Hilton, became a fat, bloated, impotent who had difficulty remembering the lyrics to his own hits and ultimately was too ashamed to let his fans see what he had become.

The elevator ride to the top is sweet for those whose charm and talents open that door, but then where do you go?

The bad behavior and rumors of bad behavior that celebs get into are what make the cash machines ring. And why all these insane, self-destructive escapades in the first place? Janis Joplin sang, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..." before she lost her life.

Jimi's gone. Jim Morrison is gone. Curt Cobain's gone. Brian Jones, Keith Moon, Michael Jackson... the list is long.

The excessive drug abuse combined with the pressure to perform can lead to a strange brew of consequences. Maybe fame itself is like a drug. I have heard it said that LSD doesn't make people insane, it only reveals the insanity that is already there. Maybe fame has the same effect. Not every famous person becomes a cokehead (Drew Barrymore, Whitney Houston), heroin addict (Courtney Love, Keith Richards), philanderer (too numerous to name)...

Anyhow, these are some thoughts that were rattling through my head as I prepare for leaving Las Vegas tomorrow. The images everywhere are of smiling faces, but all I can see is the inner pain.

Fame, what you like is in the limo
Fame, what you get is no tomorrow
Fame, what you need you have to borrow

Fame, "Nein! It's mine!" is just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to, crime

* David Bowie, Fame

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