News Article

The Year it Really Sucked to be Famous

Why it's good not to be in the limelight like Beyonce, Paul McCartney, and Vanessa Hudgens

Being famous isn't always fun

Eight years ago, Sam Seaborn, The West Wing's fictional deputy communications director, made a prediction: ''The next two decades are gonna be [about] privacy. I'm talking about the Internet, talking about cell phones, talking about...who's gay and who's not.'' He was, in short, talking about one's inalienable right to keep one's personal junk personal. Looking back from the vantage point of 2007, though, he seemed to be offering a chilling, spot-on prophecy of everything now going wrong with the lifestyles of our rich and famous.

Sam's concern about the Peeping Tom 2000s predated YouTube and TMZ and the commercial availability of camera phones, and yet it spoke directly to their perils. (Crap, I guess I must've missed the episode where he also recommended an early buy into Google.) ''That's the thing about fame,'' Rosie O'Donnell writes in Celebrity Detox, her post-View recollection from earlier this year. ''It is a dangerous game.''

We once cared that Paul McCartney was a Beatle, the musical genius behind ''Hey Jude'' and ''Yesterday''; we now care that he's possibly dating a woman who starred alongside Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. David Hasselhoff was a beloved slice of pop culture cheese, starring on hugely popular shows alongside talking cars and jiggly lifeguards; in the video, he is a sad, broken man who drunkenly struggles to eat a hamburger. Beyoncé literally made one teeny misstep while performing, tumbling down a flight of stage stairs; she was quickly reduced from lauded pop queen to klutzy diva. Shia LaBeouf's brouhaha at Walgreens, Vanessa Hudgens' nude photo, Lindsay Lohan's snapshot with a knife, Amy Winehouse's weepy, half-naked predawn stroll... Public displays of loneliness, poor judgment, and injury — all caught easily by strangers, neighbors, family, and ''friends'' — these were the things fame was made of in 2007.

When asked recently how she feels about the hoopla surrounding the current crop of starlets, Julia Roberts, the megastar who prefers the anonymity of Taos, N.M., to Tinseltown, said this: ''I think it's grotesque. It's like a circus sideshow. I don't know why anybody would even want to go into show business these days.'' This coming from an enormously famous woman, who has made $20 million a picture. Julia, in effect, puts a figure on how much it's worth not to be famous. Under today's rules, being a celebrity means having every example of your human fallibility — no matter how tragic or humiliating — laid bare. Reason enough, I think, to be thankful that we're not.

Originally posted Dec 21, 2007 Published in issue #971-972 Dec 28, 2007 Order article reprints
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