Once upon a time, fame was a rare commodity, like gold or diamonds or a 1964 1/2 dark-red Mustang convertible in factory condition. Many people sought fame, of course, but since it was scarce, few people could get their hands on it. Fame was generally acquired only by the lucky, the talented or the hard working, with the emphasis on the lucky. And often it came only to those blessed with all three.
And that was OK. The situation seemed more or less in balance.
Then, sometime in the past decade or so, the economics of fame changed. The explosion of media outlets on cable and the Internet meant that there was a lot more air time to fill, more cable channels to program, more niche markets to satisfy, more eyeballs to glaze over and more tabloids to sell.
Suddenly, Madison Avenue and Hollywood faced a desperate, almost crippling shortage of famous people. They needed thousands, tens of thousands of famous people, and they needed them fast. They scavenged the past, bringing back the has-beens and the almost-weres, but all the Danny Bonaduces in the world weren’t enough to satisfy market demand.
So, in the greatest burst of American industrial capacity since the days of World War II, they fired up the famous factories and started to churn out celebrities. Boy did they come fast.
OK, the quality slipped a bit. No, it slipped a lot. The workmanship was shoddy and the final product less than impressive. If you made a sex tape, you were famous material. If you were willing to starve yourself on a desert island in front of a national TV audience, you could be famous. If you were willing to stuff 60 hotdogs down your gut in 10 minutes, famous. For the first time in history, merely wanting to be famous was enough to make it so.
Luck, talent and hard work didn’t matter. What mattered most of all — the absolute key to acquiring fame as fast and cheaply as possible — was the willingness to humiliate yourself. That was the new raw material from which fame could be forged most easily, which is kind of strange, if you stop to think about it. Fame, the ultimate ego stroke, could now be purchased at the cost of your self-respect.
But then, perhaps it was really that way all along? I suspect maybe so.
Anyway, every era, like every prom, needs its king and queen. I would like to place into nomination, as King and Queen of 2009, the symbol of modern America, the epitome of her secret wants and needs, the following adorable famous couple: