You may have noticed that this blog is not a rich source of celebrity gossip. There are a couple of reasons for that: one is that there are approximately four million other blogs that will update you if your favorite singer is feeling a little gassy. They all scoop me on that sort of news. Another is that I no longer understand the rules; I don’t know what one has to have done to achieve celebrity status. What is the benchmark for fame?
Sold-out concerts around the country used to be a reliable indicator, or a best-selling novel, or political prominence, or a featured role in a hit movie. Having accomplished something no longer seems to be a requirement, however. People now become famous just because some other people say they are, apparently.
I’d be willing to bet that if you queried fifty citizens at random, a much higher percentage would recognize the name Paris Hilton than Ban Ki-moon. That might even be the case if you conducted the survey in the lobby of the United Nations building. Of course, if the next question was, “And Paris Hilton is famous for — ?”, you’d probably get a lot of blank stares.
I don’t mean to pick on her; for all I know Paris is a lovely person, and I certainly admire the city in France that was named after her. But you see my point, I hope. Who are all these “stars” on Dancing With The Stars? Some once achieved a measure of fame, but many are less well-known than their professional dance partners have become. Why is every performer in so-called adult films referred to as a porn star — are there no porn character actors?
My skepticism about celebrity standards began when my wife started being mistakenly “recognized”. I should mention that she does not engage in any typical celebrity behavior: she has never done drugs, never uttered a racial slur, never tried to punch a cop. On the other hand, Sally has sung in Carnegie Hall and at a number of weddings. Her most notable television appearance was as a contestant in the milk-chugging Red Light! Green Light! competition on the Engineer Bill Show when she was ten. Somehow it seems unlikely that any of those accomplishments merit the attention she gets from strangers.
It has happened on a number of occasions: in restaurants, airports, and tourist attractions people notice her, pointing her out to each other. Sometimes they’ll sidle over to have their picture taken with her. One time a grinning man came up and asked, “Are you who I think you are?” Sally smiled graciously and replied, “Yes, I am.” (She kept moving, not giving him the chance to ask for her autograph.)
In Istanbul a number of years ago, we were in an ancient basilica called Hagia Sophia. A large group of local schoolchildren was on a field trip there, and it didn’t take long before they spotted Sally. They rushed over, surrounding us and chattering excitedly in Turkish. One boy shouted something that caused our guide to laugh. I asked Gönül what the kid had said, and she translated, “I’m your biggest fan!” A few of the children wanted to have their picture taken with Sally; I obliged them (see photo).
In hindsight, I regret not having our guide ask the kids who they thought Sally was, but then, why spoil their brush with a “star”? After all, it seems that if enough people want to believe you’re a celebrity — you are. Perhaps I should contact the casting director at Dancing With The Stars and let them know that Sally is available.