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Fame! I Want to Live Forever!

Published: November 9, 2007
Section: Opinions


Kobe Bryant went to my high school. They retired his jersey on the wall of our gym, so when you were standing around and pretending to play badminton, youd look up and see a plaque commemorating the fact that he scored 5,000 points in a game or whatever. Kobe was something of a hometown hero, but when he got hit with rape charges during my sophomore year, the jersey came discreetly down. My brain-dead English teacher used him to explain the concept of hubris when we read Oedipus Rex. After the media storm around the trail calmed, he came and visited, and my friend took a picture of him for the school newspaper. That was my first run-in with celebrity.

Now I dont want to sound like one of those dribbly Spin magazine critics ruminating about Sid Vicious, but famous people seem different than regular people. They do the same things normal people do, but in a more interesting wayonce I saw Stephen Malkmus (the lead singer of Pavement, my favorite band!) in a bookstore in Portland, Oregon, and it was great. I felt giddy the rest of the day. And, this other time, I asked Lance Bass from Nsync for directions. He was really nice, but the second I said, Hey, arent you, he high-tailed it out of there. I also saw the dude from the Counting Crows outside a hotel once. Surprisingly, he has a lot of charisma.

Stories about famous people have the ability to draw an intense reaction out of your audience, even if its someone no one actually cares about, like the dude from the Counting Crows. That kind of power is hard to come by, and the more I screw up my life, the more I think Id like to be famous myself. I guess youre supposed to get over the desire for fame by the time youre twelve: with puberty comes the realization that you arent going to be a movie star. But as the opportunities for me to actually do something constructive with my life dwindle, the more appealing fame sounds. In psychoanalytic terms, the desire for celebrity is the desire to dominatepeople can ignore how intelligent or moral or interesting you are, but they cant ignore you when youre all over the place. I personally can think of no better way to show up my detractors (and I have a lot, seriously) than to be overwhelmingly, obnoxiously, unavoidably famous. Im totally ready for the ensuing fallout, tooI will slide into a decadent old age wearing a leopard-print turban and answering fake fan mail that my butler sends me. I will be no fair-weather celebrity.

But the urge to dominatemuch like the urge to take a class that involves a lot of courseworkis fleeting. I remember the time I was walking through the Lower East Side of New York with my friend when we walked past Thurston Moore (lead singer of Sonic Youth, my other favorite band!). Thurston had his hair in his face and was walking with two men in suits. I tried to get in contact with him, Thurston was saying, I have his e-mail number. I was so unimpressed I didnt even point him out to my friend. Isnt that exactly what you expect an indie rock superstar to be doing? Walking through the Lower East Side and pretending not to know that its e-mail address? I mean, come on. You have an audience, Thurston.