"I don't know why anyone would want to be a celebrity! Sure, there's mansions and piles of money, but then you have to deal with lots of people being mean to you, and no privacy, and tons of stalkers with knives!" -- Mr13, on fame, 5/17/11

This statement from my son came today as he and I sat for a few moments enjoying some sun outside our suburban Barnes & Noble. He was feeling rather loquacious today, and we had a nicely-rambling conversation which touched on Mexican drug cartels, homophobia, free speech, civil rights, the universal nature of corruptibility, the Disney Channel, and fame. I agreed with his above assessment on the last topic, and we both concurred that peace of mind and privacy were priceless commodities that no amount of attention and money could ever replace once lost.

Yet we live in a world where the acquisition of fame and the power that goes along with it seems to be more admired and more desired than at any other time. Moreover, it doesn't seem to matter what you become famous for -- writing a brilliant novel would be great, but sleazing out your preschool daughter on a reality kiddie beauty pageant show will totally do, too. there is no validation of your personal worth that is meaningful unless it comes with the cover of People magazine and someone rooting through your trash for souvenirs. Sigh. Why that is may be too big a topic to cover here and now, but it feels like there must be a whole lot of people that have been raised solely by TV, and the false promises the sucking glow-box provides.

Coincidentally, I came across an article today written by comedienne/writer Roseanne Barr for New York magazine which speaks at length about the nasty reality check she received as a female in the Hollywood fame game. It's well-written, often humorous, and contains some interesting insights, delivered with the candor she is known for. She is as equally hard on herself as her backstabbing professional cronies, although seems to miss a few connections that a reader may make: she bemoans the "culture" that makes and worships Charlie Sheen, then in the next paragraph congratulates herself and her Roseanne character for changing the culture. Hmm. I liked Roseanne, at least for the first few years until it got lost in plot overreaches and manipulative pathos. Her characters were far from the first on TV that showed plain-spoken working class folk ("All In The Family" and its spin-offs were monumentally ground-breaking in the '70s), albeit Roseanne was more in-your-face, feminist, and upfront about all kinds of sexual issues. It was a very funny show. The downside was that the show could also be crass and sensationalistic...precisely the things today's "culture" seems to insatiably lap up. Pros and cons...pros and cons.

So what do you do if, as Roseanne felt with her TV show, you have a strong and important message that you want to deliver to the widest audience possible? Where does your motivation come from: a need to improve the world, or to improve your chances of getting a table at the Palm restaurant...or some of both? All I do know is that those who pursue fame itself should be gifted with an elephant's hide and a fox's character. You'll go far, mutant Elefox, you'll go far.