Monday, February 28, 2011

The Vagaries of Fame

It's hard to be famous. The constant demands on your time and money, the tax headaches for all that income and all those residences in all those different states, and keeping your oeuvre straight with all the fans. Let's face it: if hundreds of people are screaming and cheering at a regular jerk like you or I, the exact reason will probably be obvious. We just made a half-court shot during halftime of an NBA game. We just rescued a small girl child from a well (nobody really cares when bad things happen to boys). This doesn't happen every day for us. But for a legitimate celebrity, who the hell knows? If somebody's cheering at Tom Cruise, how's he to know what the dude is thinking? Did he love Days of Thunder or is he just applauding the hard work Mr. Cruise does to promote the acceptance of crazy people in decent society?

I'd imagine the problems are amplified by events like last night's Oscars ceremony. Outside the theater are fans you who love you because of your work and media workers who love you for the money you make them. Inside, it's just an orgy of LA onanism as you celebrate, along with your industry, the members of your industry that you've chosen to celebrate. Not only that--the self-congratulation is broadcast on national television to the millions of fans who couldn't be waiting right outside the theater to see you walk into it. It's not all bad--during the portion of the show that's not broadcast on TV, they hand out technical awards to all kinds of hard-working non-famous people. Also, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won for composing the music to The Social Network. "Tony, there was no goddamned music in that movie. Just people talking nonstop." It was so subtle you barely noticed it! Whatever, Trent Reznor won an Oscar and that's awesome. If you're going to complain about something in that film, how about the fact that they gave the single worst line to foxy Rasheeda Jones? Timberlake should have taken the bullet on that one.

During the show, I was actually at a Chinese seafood buffet eating myself sick. Not from the volume, from the accumulated heavy minerals I absorbed from eating all that cheap shellfish. There were a lot of strange dreams that night. Anyway, all this got me thinking about what celebrities are famous for, as opposed to what they should be famous for. I've touched on this idea in the past in the context of Jon Malkovich's performance in Mutant Chronicles. I called it Celebrity Conversation Starters; this isn't quite the same thing, but it should be obvious that you'd ideally lead a conversation with the "should be famous for" items. You want to talk to Malkovich about Being Jon Malkovich? What an asshole you are or would be.

Dan Marino
Is famous for:Being the statistically greatest NFL QB in history until Brett Favre took his records. Probably the greatest pure passer ever. Greatest QB to never win a Super Bowl. Lots of commercials. Being dumb as a bag of hammers.

Should be famous for: His role in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," where he played himself in a handful of scenes despite being the focal point of the film's climax. Brett Favre tried to copy him here as well, being a major plot element in "There's Something About Mary" but mercifully only appearing at the end. Marino KILLS this role, especially the shot where they're both driving to the stadium with their heads out the window. Best question you'd ask in person: "Did Jim Carrey ever give you any bubble gum when the cameras were off?"

Malcolm McDowell
Is famous for: A prolific career stretching forty years. Narrating "The Compleat Beatles." Starring in Kubrick's classic "A Clockwork Orange." Voice acting in a host of cartoons and video games. Crazy eyes.

Should be famous for:
His role in "Doomsday," as a mad scientist turned medieval king. I'll admit, he could put a little more energy into the role, but the guy's old! And he gets to spit contempt at somebody during his only scene with any real dialogue, which is really McDowell's specialty. Best question to ask in person: "Hey, I know you weren't in that scene, but how did all those hooligans in broken-down shitwagons catch up to Rhona Mitra in a Bentley?"

Christopher Walken
Is famous for: Prolific decades-spanning acting career. Being intensely weird in almost every performance. Possibly being really weird in person, but it's hard to tell because HE ALWAYS TALKS LIKE THAT. His fantastic performance in "Catch Me If You Can." His ability to nail every single performance essentially just by being himself. Having an AMAZING fake Twitter account until The Man took it down (it's not like the real actor has an account!).

Should be famous for: His appearance in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, as The Headless Horseman. He has a head (with a face on it!) in a handful of scenes, and those are all Walken. YOU CANNOT REMOVE YOUR EYES FROM HIM. He doesn't even get a line in the script, making it pretty apparent that Tim Burton did this just because it's awesome. Walken wears hilarious fake sharp teeth and all he does is yell GRAAAAAHHH and chop people's heads off and bite the villain's face at the end. His hair is crazy, his makeup is crazy, everything about the dude is nuts in that movie. And he doesn't even get to use his ridiculous speaking cadence! Best question in person: "Will you please please please smoke pot with me and then record my phone's voice mail?" Final thing: this picture is a young Walken in 1955 sporting clown make-up. If he re-enacted that photo today, it would be the single most terrifying image ever committed to film.

Charlie Sheen
Is famous for: "Platoon," a modern classic. "Two and a Half Men," the show proving nobody is better at creating the television equivalent of empty fast food calories than Chuck Lorre THE EVIL JEW. Charlie's been especially topical lately, doubling down on crazy by calling Alex Jones and anyone else who will agree to put him on the air to rant about how he's a space fighter with laser cannons who bangs seven-gram rocks all night long (and porn stars for brief spells when he can achieve an erection). Muammar Qaddafi's been the craziest motherfucker on the planet for the last couple weeks, but the former Carlos Estevez is really tearing away at the chains of reality.

Should be famous for: His role in "Hot Shots!" as Topper Harley, who's Tom Cruise in "Top Gun" but actually tall enough to realistically land that hottie. Though I'm not sure she'd be down to share with two coke-dusted hookers named Powder and Donut. Guess which one does anal. Yeah, you're right, both do anal. Anyway, "Hot Shots!" is basically that generation's Wayans Brothers Topical Comedy Shit Casserole. But it's directed by Jim Abrahams of "Airplane!" fame, so it's actually funny. Best part of the movie: how the character of Goose is basically unchanged from the original. That character was so ridiculous in "Top Gun" that he didn't need to be altered for comedy. Best question in person: "Hey, I'm from a porn company. We're gonna send some girls by later. Can I hang out with you for now?" I guarantee two hours later, he's convinced you're his friend and you're in the Sheen Zone for at least the next couple days until you OD or get mauled by a syphilis bacterium the size of a Labrador. Because unlike Charlie, you do not have tiger blood.

My take on the dude's latest issues: I think he finally woke up. Think of him like Kobe on the Lakers before they were handed Pau Gasol for nothing: he was destined to be one of the greatest ever, but he'd never be the greatest. He sulked away and pined for a trade, like Charlie when he tried to give the marriage-and-kids thing a go. He even found a nice girl (Denise Richards) who LOOKS like a porn star. Anyway, one day Kobe/Charlie woke up and realized he had a chance to be The Greatest all along. Kobe got Pau and went back to winning titles (during one year where KG was hurt and another where Perkins ACL blew up in Game 6 of the Finals FUCK YOU). Charlie realized if he could just SURVIVE his binges, he could make a run for Most Depraved of All Time, right at Caligula--the MJ of ridiculous excess (and played by Malcolm McDowell in the famous film!). So he split from Denise, shot himself up with tiger blood, and went to work. Remember, he kept working on his terrible show for a LONG time to make sure he'd have enough money to pull it off. He explicitly wanted to have a retirement where he did drugs and hung out with a gaggle of porn stars all day and night. So I can't really take him to task for it, the same way nobody could criticize Kobe for wanting to supplant MJ. This is what he really wants, and he's got some truly historic goals in sight. I say let him go for it.

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