F is for Fame

I was reading some news aggregator one morning late last year, probably MSNBC, when there was a tease about “pre-fame Courtney Stodden pictures.” Naturally, I said to myself, “Self, I have no idea what a Courtney Stodden is.” As it turned out, though, I had heard in passing about the event that provided her greatest notoriety. She is the now 17-year-old would-be singer/model who married actor Doug Hutchison, best known for his appearance on the X-Files, who was 50 at the time of their marriage in May 2011.

So Courtney Stodden is “famous”? I don’t THINK so.

Famous is, to steal a phrase from the lyrics from the CHEERS TV theme, “where everybody knows your name.” Or at least most people. The President of the United States, by virtue of his title, is famous. Muhammad Ali is famous. Paul McCartney is famous, although Who Is Paul McCartney was trending on Twitter last week after the Grammys. Tiger Woods was famous before he became infamous. Certainly in the United States, Oprah Winfrey. Elizabeth Taylor (pictured) was surely famous. This has less to do with whether you LIKE a person, and more about if most people can identify them.

Some entertainers go through an arc, where only a handful of people know them, then – if they are lucky – lots of people know them, but if they are around long enough, they may recede in fame. I saw the recent Muppet movie, and I wondered how many people recognized Mickey Rooney, an octogenarian actor, and knew who he was.

Back in 1992, I used to read PEOPLE magazine. 20 years ago, the number of potentially famous people seemed fairly manageable. But with the explosion of cable programming and the deluge of reality television, all sorts of people are vying for my attention. As a result, I know far fewer “celebrities”, percentagewise, than I once did. This is neither a complaint nor a boast, just fact.

So Michael Jackson was famous, but not sister Latoya (from The Apprentice). Sylvester Stallone may be fairly famous, but his brother Frank? Not so much.

I’d never seen a picture of Khloe Kardashian (was she REALLY her father’s daughter? don’t care) until 2012. I seriously don’t know/don’t care/can’t keep track of which Kardashian is, or is not married to which sports star. (And if you don’t know what a Kardashian is, don’t worry about it. Really.) This not to say that if you DO care, you oughtn’t to; it’s just that it’s beyond MY understanding.

Of course, repeated exposure will make someone famous, or sat least noteworthy, whether you want to care or not. I remember taking the JEOPARDY! test back in 1998 and getting a clue about some young woman who married some old guy. I could not come up with the name of Anna Nicole Smith. But eventually, her constant exposure (so to speak) drilled her presence into my mind.

The impressive skill about Lady Gaga is, whether you’ve heard her music or not, there’s a fairly good chance that you’ve heard of HER. She is great at self-promotion.

I’ll end with the obvious, FAME by David Bowie, who turned 65 last month and is fairly famous, still.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

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33 thoughts on “F is for Fame

  1. I suspect that not recognising ‘famous’ people or knowing who they are is a sign of ageing. That is certainly true in my case, especially when watching tv with my kids.

    Surely the true test of fame is when you’re recognised even when you’ve stopped doing whatever it was you were famous for. Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali and Paul McCartney are prime examples!

  2. Interesting observation: “20 years ago, the number of potentially famous people seemed fairly manageable… As a result, I know far fewer “celebrities”, percentagewise, than I once did.”

    I always glance at the “Today’s Birthdays” on the comic page of the dead tree local paper. They put the birthdays (except the first one, the most notable birthday) in descending order of age.

    I eventually noticed that I recognized most or all celebrities that were my age or older. But the younger they were than me, the less likely I would recognize them. Most of the youngest were either unrecognizable or just names that I’d heard.

    I felt bad about that. I felt like an out of touch old fart. But now you’ve given me something to think about. Has the nature of celebrity changed with the newer technology? Such as these newfangled computers.

    BTW, starting in January of this year, “Today’s Birthdays” cut back the number of younger people that they show! Now they only put in one or at most two names under 40. I guess the “Today’s Birthdays” compilers realize that only old farts read dead tree papers anymore and they don’t want to upset us.

  3. I know one thing, Roger! You are certainly famous in our ABC Wednesday Team! But you can only become infamous if you have been famous first. All the other bad guys are notorious. Have a great week!
    Wil, ABC Wednesday Team.

  4. I’ve a strict criteria for people who should be famous – that they’ve done something worthy of it. In other words, fame as a bi-product of brilliance. Celebrity for celebrity’s sake, on the other hand, I hate.
    Now, Bowie is well deserved of HIS Fame.

  5. Facts: I don’t know who the Kardashians are.
    Frank Stallone certainly looks like Sly’s brother.
    If I have ever heard Lady G, I didn’t realize it, and wouldn’t recognize her voice if I heard it again.
    I’d recognize Frank Sinatra’s voice anywhere.
    David Bowie and I are the same age.
    I really admire famous people, however. I was one of six people being interviewed online by a nitpicking newspaper reporter for the past TWO WEEKS. She’s lucky she isn’t anywhere nearby, because I wanted to throttle her before she was halfway through. If famous people have to put up with this sort of thing all the time, they have my undying admiration. And appreciation, as in “better them than me”.
    K

  6. I knew that Sylvester Stallone had a brother who wrote some fairly famous songs but I didn’t remember that his first name was Frank. I had to look it up to find out that Frank Stallone was indeed the song writer who wrote a song that was nominated for a number of awards. It is an interesting point though whether fame consists of remembering someone’s name or what they did. In math and science there are people whose theories are famous but unless their names are attached to the theory I don’t know who they were, for the most part. Carver, ABC Wednesday Team

  7. What a great read. I love that David Bowie song! I too am mystified by all the interest in the Kardashian family and am not up to speed on current celebs at all. It makes me feel old to think that anyone might ask who Paul McCartney is!

  8. Yesterday I saw an eighteen wheeler going down the Highway, an on the side was a picture of Kim Kardashian. Looks like she is in some kind of business, it surprised me. Like you, I don’t know one Kardashian from another, and don’t really care to know anything about them.

  9. Fame and Fortune sometimes go hand in hand. But let’s not misunderstand…just because one if famous, doesn’t mean they are respected. I’ll take respect over being (in)famous every day of the week.

  10. I read all of the comments and have to agree with them all.Fame is so fleeting and most of the time doesn’t have much respect attached to it.
    Just the other night my Husband and I were watching TV and everyone was in a thither over someone. We turned to each other and said who is that? I guess we live in a hole some where…

  11. Well, I think fame is partly a generational thing, too. There are so many people my children consider ‘famous’ but I just look blank when their names are mentioned!! Living in a different world, I guess….

  12. Fabulous, Roger! I agree that as I’ve become older (wiser?) I don’t recognize these so-called “famous” celebrities. I used to be able to do the TV Guide/TV Week crossword puzzles no problem, but now…not so easy!

    Leslie
    abcw team

  13. Interesting post as usual, Roger. Well, I of course, recognized Elizabeth Taylor’s picture when your blog opened and I wondered if your post was about her! I do not know who Courtney Stodden is; but I would know Mickey Rooney anywhere. I do know the Kardashians (not interested in their family like I was in June Cleaver’s family), I know Lady Gaga( oh gosh the clothing) , and David Bowie. And I also think you are pretty well known with the ABC bloggers…

  14. I’m getting annoyed at this Kardashian thing splashed across yahoo and whatevers. Someone compared that wedding of theirs to Will and Kate’s. Sorry but the gall! Guests to the real royals’ wedding had human tasters at the reception. They should go figure who’s famous.

  15. Maybe the reason that the sheer number of people considered famous is so hard to keep track of because so many of them are, seemingly, simply famous for being famous. Seems to me that most of them don’t “deserve” fame, but it doesn’t bother me that they have it. Like you, I can just tune out.

  16. Hello Rog.
    I actually knew some of the people in the list. Reality TV sucks & I really don’t watch it or care for it. Give me a good First 48 or Investigation Discovery or even an old time romantic movie like they show on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) & I’m happy.
    I haven’t been a part of ABC Wednesday as long as some of those here, but I’m well-aware of your notoriety (smile).
    Thanks for another informative post. I appreciate you taking the time to visit too.
    Enjoy the rest of the week/weekend & I’ll see you next week!

    A Flower In My Mirror

  17. My Dad, died 2006 at 84, told me, Elizabeth Taylor is the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world. I was surprised, him, being a Chinaman. She must have attracted all the men that generation.

  18. Kardashians, I need to get this name off my chest, all of a sudden, I hear this Kardashians. It as a Rachel ray’s show that Kardashians were like goddesses. Out of curiousity I read up on them. To me, they are Fake!

  19. I distinctly remember the moment that I found myself on the other side of the generation divide–when Kurt Cobain died. I had no idea who he was and had never heard of Nirvana. I don’t know how it happened, but I found myself disconnected from youth culture. His fame seemed unrelated to my generation. I found this to be a little unsettling, so now I half-heartedly try to keep up by reading People magazine if I’m at the nail salon. Shrug.

  20. Saying “never heard of them” is a bit of a joke in our house. Trouble is being famous nowadays does always mean you have actually achieved anything beyond that fact.

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