Friday, February 29, 2008

'Why won't they just stop photographing me!'

Chris Cuomo, earlier today, teasing for Good Morning America's upcoming chat with actress Reese Witherspoon:

"And Reese Witherspoon will be here to tell us how she keeps the paparazzi away from her kids." This is said over shots of Witherspoon mugging for the cameras in one of those sprayed-on d├ęcolletage dresses actresses wear for their preening Red Carpet photo ops. (Let me be clear: The woman shown is not Witherspoon.)

I understand that we don't want to expose children to harassment, whatever its source and nature. In recent months, watching the Britney Spears debacle, we've gotten a pretty clear idea of just how out-of-bounds things can get. At the same time, when I hear remarks like Cuomo's—spoken so plainly and unself-consciously, as if there is not a whit of irony to be found—I can't help thinking about the schizophrenic relationship that so many of today's Hollywood types expect to have with the media. They want the media there, minicams rolling, when they need the buzz. Generally speaking, they want the (respectable) supermarket magazines and entertainment segments of news shows littered with their likeness. They want and need those GMA interviews to hype their next film. Yet they also want to be able to just shut all that off, no questions asked, when it suits them. I'm not sure it works that way—no more than a candidate running for president can dictate precisely what gets reported about his or her campaign. Though I know there has to be a happy medium—a better way of doing all this than we're doing now—I'm not sure it's the celebrity herself who gets to make such calls.

And I find it sorta funny that Cuomo puts this implied dichotomous distance between himself and the paparazzi. They're predatory and annoying...whereas he, being the legitimate stand-up journalist that he is, and GMA, being the beacon of daily enlightenment that it is, are perfectly entitled to trade in Witherspoon's celebrity cleavage. Makes me laugh sometimes.

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I wanted to take just a moment to acknowledge the passing, this Wednesday, of intellectual right-winger* and Renaissance man William F. Buckley, Jr., age 82. It is largely because of Buckley that I write. (So I guess I could thank him or curse him.) Widely known in political circles as "WFB," Buckley was my father's favorite columnist, and I think it's safe to say I might have been the only kid in Brooklyn of that era who grew up watching Firing Line instead of Captain Kangaroo. If you have any knowledge of Buckley at all, this also explains why I spent so much time up in my room, leafing through the dictionary and encyclopedia. Later I would anticipate each month's copy of the magazine he founded, National Review, as avidly as most of today's young people anticipated the next book in the Harry Potter series.

As Buckley's son, the novelist Christopher Buckley (Thank You for Smoking), tells it, his dad died at his writing desk, hunched over the manuscript for his new book; it would've been his 56th. I guess, for a writer, that's the only way to go.

And one more thing I guess I gotta say, since it only happens every fourth year: Happy Birthday Tony Robbins. He's 48.

* Young folk need to realize: It is only since the ascendancy of George W. Bush that that phrase sounds like an oxymoron.

16 comments:

ourfriendben said...

Maybe I'm the only one who finds actors' private lives irrelevant, but I think we'd all be a lot better off if the only time they did get photographed was when they were hyping a film or receiving an award. Then perhaps we'd find something better to do with our time than standing in grocery lines gawking at the National Enquirer.

Carl said...

Good one Steve, though I think you're going to catch some hell from women on this one, for some reason I get that feeling! It makes me crazy when you hear these high paid actors and actresses whine about the way they have to live in a fishbowl. Who put them there?? Same thing with ballplayers. They should be damn grateful for what they're making and that the public has enough interest in them and what they're doing to allow them to make the obscene money they make!

Speaking of hearing from women on this, what happened to Alyssa?

Steve Salerno said...

Carl: People come and go, on the blog. It's the nature of the beast.

Elizabeth said...

You know how to get people's attention, Steve, I give you that.;)

Speaking from my theory that sex and death are the two topics that grab our eyes and ears most, I see that you managed to include both in one post. And Tony Robbins. The trifecta. Very smart.

Anonymous said...

Steve, did Jolly Green Giant Robbins send you a birthday e-mail? Did he tell you how happy he would be if he could make you happy by spending some moola on one of his programs? I am just thinking of his marketing possibilities with this.

Steve Salerno said...

Elizabeth: Yes. I'd considered writing a post about dying while having sex with Tony Robbins, but I figured....

Elizabeth said...

But you figured what, that it would be too good to be true? "The Secret" folks would say that if you dream it, you can achieve it...

Steven Sashen said...

Knowing a number of semi- and actually-famous people I can tell you two things:

1) They know that some loss of privacy comes with the territory

2) They have NO IDEA what it will really be like and are STUNNED by the reality of it

And, if you think, "Well, they should know better, because they can see what it's like with other famous people as well as we can," then let me point you to "Stumbling on Happiness," which has a great section on how, no matter how many times we see certain results for OTHER people, we can't imagine that it'll be like that for US.

And to put that idea to the test, ask yourself this: Knowing that you've never heard of one person say, "Getting more money made me MUCH happier and I now have no stress in my life," do you still believe that getting more money will make YOU happier? ;-)

Steve Salerno said...

They're good points, Steven, as always. I still say, some of this is "it goes with the territory"-type stuff. I guess I just don't see how people can take a clearly manipulative attitude towards media coverage: It damn well better be there when I want it, but if I don't want it, I can just wish it away.

As for money, I've actually had two points in my life where I came into sizable sums of it. The most notable was when I sold a movie to Warner Bros-Television (and that flick still shows up on Lifetime now and then, which may explain my fascination with the network). Though we're talking at a much smaller order of magnitude, my story is a lot like Stallone's tale of selling Rocky. I had about $6 to my name (probably more like $5.20) when the deal went through, and then I suddenly had in my hands a check for more money than I'd ever personally seen in one place at one time. I can honestly say that because of the stark juxtaposition of poverty and prosperity, I was on Cloud 9. I no longer knew the meaning of stress or worry. I laughed spontaneously in libraries or in sleep, which actually is something I'd used to do when I was a boy (thus endearing myself to my teachers), but I'd forgotten about in the intervening years. More money HAD, indeed, made me happier. It had made me delirious. Of course, I wasn't living alone, and my wife, bless her soul, is the kind of person who, if we got a check tomorrow for seven figures, would say something like, "OK, but what do we do when the money runs out?" She says it's something about the Irish genes.

So in the end, you're right, it wasn't a panacea. (Even though that wasn't your main point.)

Cal said...

In those who can comment on it (because I can't), where would Buckley be placed in relation to Mailer on the list of the 20th century literati?

Steve Salerno said...

That's hard to say, Cal. He certainly never became a darling of the literati crowd, who said--publicly--that his fiction skills were a bit "downmarket" compared to the likes of Mailer, Didion (whom he helped bring to prominence), Bellow, etc. And it's true that in his novelistic work, WFB for the most part embraced a totally different writing voice (but who doesn't, really, when switching genres like that?), and even wrote what some might call "potboilers." However, you can't tell me that WFB's political views had nothing to do with it. Could it be coincidence that virtually all of the "great writers" of the 20th Century espoused politics somewhere between Barack Obama and Mao Tse-Dung? It's a cozy little fraternity, and I have to believe that many of the so-called literati truly believed that if you weren't "with them" philosophically, you simply could not be brilliant, by definition.

The Crack Emcee said...

I never read any of WFB's non-fiction, so I can't say anything about it, but, generally, why are we talking about Mailer?

The Crack Emcee said...

BTW, I would've LOVED to seen WFB in that dress!

Steve Salerno said...

Crack, I'm pretty sure Giuliani has dibs on it....

roger o'keeffe from nyc said...

I'm sure you'd prefer that I say I keep returning to this page to soak up the sheer depth of your intellectuality, but in fact it's the dress. Wow. This, from a man who is reasonably sedate and happily married and not normally given to such rapture, as I think you can tell from my previous comments.

(The blog is pretty damn good too, though, Steve.)

Where do you find your art? I have to say, it's often letter-perfect for the day's remarks. You wrote that column about copyright not long ago so I assume you're not just pirating it online.

Steve Salerno said...

Roger, thanks for noticing the art. I do try hard to get the interplay between art and text just right, time permitting.

Speaking of permitting, I always obtain permission to use the art if I'm not certain it's already public-domain or otherwise not-copyrightable. In very rare cases I'll have to pony up a few bucks for a one-time use, but far more often--given that the blog is not really a money-maker, syndication notwithstanding--if I can't get permission "free," I'll just sub in different art.