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‘Celebrity’ – a matter of opinion

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor
Who was the first famous person you met?
I remember my first encounter with a celebrity. My mom brought me to see Capt. Kangaroo at Mountain Park. I recall standing in line and seeing him. My mom thought he was a bit rude because he didn’t spend much time with each kid.
I suspect he was pretty tired of us urchins.
I don’t recall being nervous. I think I was stunned to see the guy who was on a TV show. Of course, I was easily impressed as a kid. I was agog when I received my Wicky Wacky Cloud Club membership card.
We’ve always had people whose fame has come and gone in a fleeting moment. Today’s front page story is tomorrow’s “what ever is happening to so and so” feature piece.
It used to be that a person had to actually do something to warrant fame. Whether someone was a politician, a soldier, an author, a scientist or an athlete, a person had to earn his or her fame — or notoriety — through actions.
Today, it seems to take far less to get on TV or in the newspapers.
Take for example, the “Octomom.”
You may have not known it, but “Octomom” was in Springfield last week as the star of a “celebrity” boxing match.
I’m sure you’re wondering if I watched her “fight.” No, I didn’t. I spent the time in Holyoke watching professional wrestling, a much more honest endeavor.
A friend of mine who admitted she doesn’t watch much television had only vaguely heard of her and asked me to fill her in on Nadya Suleman.
She was pretty astonished that someone would attempt to engineer — and in this case succeed — in a large multiple birth. And that she would seek to profit from those births.
I couldn’t help but think about the nature of celebrity. In the media, we help create someone who is famous, seek them out and sometimes help destroy them.
Today’s generation probably has never heard of the Dionne quintuplets — go ahead and head over to your computer. They were five healthy babies, the first such birth in which all of the children survived their infancy in modern history.
Born in 1934 in rural Canada, these kids were literally sold as a tourist attraction and had lives that had a freak show quality.
The country doctor who delivered them became a celebrity who gave endorsements to patent medicines. The quints appeared in four Hollywood films.
They were born out of biological chance and that roll of the dice didn’t come out too well for them. Their lives were full of challenges, despite the fame they had and the fortune they made for others.
They didn’t ask to be famous, but Suleman clearly craved it and sought it out in a way that I feel is criminal.
I feel sorry for her 14 kids, but I’m sure some of them might be keeping a diary just in case when the first of them turns 18 there is a book deal in the offing.
Today, thanks to the advent of reality television, the celebrity machine is cranking at full gear producing “celebrities.” Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Billy the Exterminator, the little people who rescue pit bulls, various repo agents, two of Hugh Hefner’s ex-girls friends: Are these actually “stars?”
What have they done to deserve my attention?
Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler, has offered Casey Anthony, the controversial woman acquitted of her daughter’s death, $500,000 to pose nude in his magazine. Is she really worth that kind of freak show money? Of course, Flynt is the Barnum of the porn industry and he received a lot of publicity for this offer, whether it was sincere or not.
One thing is for sure, if you are thrust into the limelight by either your own actions or by some other intervention, for goodness sake, save the dough you make. It’s clear to see by some of the wrecks left by the side of the celebrity highway, you may truly only get 15 minutes of fame and no more.
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The gold rush is starting! Now with the real possibility of three casinos licenses tempting developers, we have people suddenly interested in Springfield and Chicopee locations.
As a Springfield resident, I can’t imagine what traffic would be like if there was a casino at the former Westinghouse plant on Page Boulevard. Yikes!
Do you want a casino in your community? Let me know.
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.
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