Thoughts on celebrity

The spectacle of crowd behavior is a terrible thing to watch, especially when the rich and famous are involved. The passion of a few ignites a firestorm, with each successive person claiming an oddly personal connection to the legends of our time.

Where were you when you heard the news? That's the question most often asked of people in my generation about the murder of John Kennedy in Dallas 50 years ago. Compelled by instinct to recall the experience or fit in with a growing chorus of mourners, we search our memory banks as though the thing that matters most is where we were or weren't. I might have been in eighth grade shop class. I might have been at the dentist. Whatever.

Kennedy was either a great president, a good president, or a crappy president. It depends on whom you ask. His death cemented his place in history, not his life. Today's semi-centennial frenzy is one part reality and ten parts fantasy, a loosely crafted remembrance of someone none of us knew in any meaningful way.

Our obsession with cults of personality is one of the things I like least about the human race in general, and perhaps about Americans in particular. Especially in politics, where dynasties like the Kennedy's, Bush's and Cheney's have the tendency to run amok. This is why I find Berger Junior's campaign for Congress in the 6th district so utterly offensive. The same for Art Pope. Two hapless souls who have risen to power solely on the strength of their inheritance.

What propels our huddled masses to revel in celebrity and self-identify with even small-time famous people? I honestly don't know. There's almost no one in the world I'd cross the street to meet. Maybe the Dalai Lama. Maybe Jimmy Carter. But even with them, I'm not sure why. I certainly admire them, but what's the point of meeting them except to say I did?

Who have you met that made an impression on you?


I met Hootie

Darius Rucker, that is, of Hootie and the Blowfish. I used to hang out in the Lighthouse in Elon, which had live bands performing nearly every night. One night at about 7:30 I was sitting at the bar watching an ACC basketball game and this black guy sat down next to me. We proceeded to drink beer and tell jokes for a couple of hours while watching the game, and then he said, "Well, time to go to work."

It was a few years later when they made it big, but they still stopped by to hang out with us from time to time. It may surprise some readers, but they used to be really good. ;)