The Gargantuan Penis Model Of Celebrity
I've been watching the launch of Nick Denton's latest rag, Valleywag, with a mixture of envy, fascination, horror, and disgust.
The cult of celebrity is almost as repulsive as it is fascinating. Hot babes. Salacious gossip. And the thrill of seeing Valley folks treated with the same awe and contempt as "normal" Hollywood or DC celebrities.
What makes celebrity such a double-edged sword is its arbitrariness. In Hollywood, you become famous when you're part of a hit...and you're only as good as your last movie. Just ask one-time high-rollers who can't get arrested these days, like Heather Graham. Was it just 5 years ago that she was an A-list actress? Now she can't even keep a show on television. Hey at least she got to do voiceovers for EverQuest II...but I digress.
The problem is that everyone, Heather Graham included, probably had a sneaking suspicion that she didn't really deserve all the attention and Lenny Kravitz videos. That's where the envy and contempt come in.
We long for the spotlight and adulation, and part of what gives that longing its razor sharp edge is the sense that yes, it can happen to me, even if I don't deserve it. Yet that same longing fills us with hatred and contempt for the lucky sods who don't really deserve the spotlight.
You can see these feelings at work in America's reaction to reality television stars--they illustrate this principal to the utmost: Because they are so unworthy, their stars burn out even more quickly than Warhol could have imagined.
Yet we Valley folk shouldn't feel superior to our shallow El Lay cousins. After all, don't we do exactly the same thing? For every Heather Graham, there is a Marc Andreesen whom we simultaneously delight in building up and tearing down.
One minute, Jonathan Abrams is a genius for launching the social networking revolution, the next minute, TechCrunch is reporting that Friendster got its last round of financing at a $3 million pre-money. Jonathan is a very smart and savvy guy. But the hype machine chewed him up and spit him out.
Ah, but you're still wondering how I'm going to work in enormous genitalia. Be patient.
Ultimately, I think the healthiest attitude towards celebrity comes from the world of adult entertainment. I was watching a reality show, "The Surreal Life," when I realized that the sanest member of the "cast" was famed ugly hairy porn star Ron Jeremy.
Now Ron is a pretty grounded dude. He realizes that the reason he is famous is that he has a grotesquely large male member. He also realizes that regardless of anything else, all that means is that he needs an extra-large athletic supporter.
You see, fame and wealth are like having an overgrown trouser snake. Ron Jeremy's mammoth manhood may help him get various things...invitations to various awards shows...appearances in over 2,000 films...sex with over 4,000 women...but Ron doesn't suddenly start thinking that possessing a whale-like willie means he's a super-genius, or that anyone cares about his thoughts on global warming or debt forgiveness.
The fact that a person started a company and made a lot of money, or appeared on a lot of magazine covers simply means that he or she has a lot of money, or is well known. A famous person is still a person, and still has to deal with most of the things you or I have to deal with, like showering, putting on clothes, brushing teeth, and so on.
Money and press clippings don't make you omniscient or omnipotent.
So enjoy the latest gossip if you want, but be aware of what's behind your feelings. And the next time you read about Larry or Sergey, just imagine them with preposterously priapic penises. It may help you keep your perspective.
Plus they paid me $1 million to write that last paragraph.