We have YouTube, “reality” TV, Facebook, anyone (obviously) can start their own blog or website. And if you live in a trailer park in the deep South and a tornado blows through, they will put you on prime-time television, no matter how backwards or illiterate you are. If you are inarticulate enough, they may even give you your own syndicated show (see “Swamp People”). Is that fame? How would you define fame? Maybe we need another word for “famous.”
Take the Backstreet Boys. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like them, but they were, at one time, indisputably popular, probably no matter what your definition. This weekend, they were performing downtown at the Sprint Center with none other than The New Kids on the Block. My secretary went, and she said cheap seats were $98. Apparently, there were busloads of women in their mid- to late 30s screaming and fainting and clawing at each other to get a peek at…whatever their names were. As Backstreet Boys names go, I am kind of at a loss. As famous as they were, I don’t think I ever knew any of them. Except, I guess Nick. And that’s only because he dated Paris Hilton. Wait a second…
Is fame equal to notoriety? Infamy? Everyone knows who Paris Hilton is because of how much money she, or rather, her parents have. You take that exact same girl, same looks, same personality, same “talents” and plant her with blue-collar parents in Iowa, no one would have the slightest clue who she was. And maybe we would all be better off.
And some names last and some names don’t. You could take several of the most famous rock band names from the 70s and 80s, and most of them probably wouldn’t even ring familiar. But everybody knows who Al Capone was. And Jack the Ripper. And John Wayne Bobbitt. Why is that?
Bill Gates is famous. Is it because he brought us Microsoft, or because he is a gazillionaire?
What makes someone world-famous? Like Mother Teresa? Or Michael Jackson? And are we all really going to get our 15 minutes?