But, two posts by one of my favorite bloggers, Rob Asghar, have prompted a reflection on the effects of fame on the famous which I originally wrote as a comment on Rob's excellent site, Dimestore Guru. The links to Rob's two posts are here and here.
Here is my reflection on fame:
Fame, particularly that gained at an early age, can be pretty damaging to
personhood, relationships, and everything else.
It undoubtedly messed with Elvis, made John Lennon insufferable, and in
spite of his being one of my favorite musicians, turned Paul McCartney into a
Someone said after George Harrison died that he'd always
wanted to be successful without being famous. That's a hard thing to do in our
fame-driven world. You have to applaud Harrison for having such an
Some celebrities suffer from what can only be described as "Morgana
Syndrome." Morgana, you'll remember, was the busty woman who made a pest of
herself kissing celebs, especially athletes, in a bid to achieve nothing other
than "fame." "I want to be famous," she would tell reporters, "and I can just
feel that I'm getting more famous all the time."
Of course, Morgana's pathetic and shallow ambition was essentially benign.
There is, however, a truly horrible turn that the hunger for fame without
success can take.
I remember, years ago, reading Jim
Bishop's hour-by-hour account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and of the
conspiracy that led to it. At one point, in explanation of John Wilkes
Booth's personality and his decision to murder Lincoln, Bishop took an excursus
into the childhood of the assassin. Bishop cited the testimony of a Booth
boyhood friend who recalled a conversation from their young days. In it, Booth,
the son of an acting family, explained that the whole point of his life was to
do something that all the world would notice, whether it was a good or evil
thing. His friend expressed surprise at Booth's amorality. But Booth was intent
on fame, even if it took the form of infamy.
Fame, especially when accompanied by financial and popular success as
Michael Jackson has experienced, is addictive, I'm certain. Those granted such
success often view it as their due and find it difficult or impossible to accept
their lots in life once the cheering and the royalties stop.
In Jackson's case, it seems that he's so accustomed (and so addicted) to
fame that he has little notion of limits. No
wonder Jesus said that it's harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for a wealthy person to enter God's Kingdom. People who enter God's
Kingdom are acquainted with a fundamental fact of the universe, the foundational
fact that drives them to God for forgiveness, mercy, and hope: God
is God and we're not. Fame achieved early in life can delude the
famous into thinking that they're insulated from the pedestrian realities that
the rest of the human race must acknowledge.
Like you, Rob, I have no idea if Michael Jackson is innocent or guilty of
the charges against him. But I do know that he doesn't help himself by seeming
to arrogantly disregard his accountability to the court or the jurors who stand
in judgment of his case.