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PE Question #18 ~ The Cult of Celebrity

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:49 am
by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
Pg. 410. “When word of the shooting hit the radio, hundreds of Chicagoans descended on the Biograph. Crowds thronged the alley’s entrance until nearly dawn…..The next morning a man showed up at the Bankers Building to offer Purvis cash for the shirt he had worn; it contained a drop of Dillinger’s blood.”

There has been a long standing legend that John Dillinger was not the man killed at the Biograph Theater. This seems to happen with many famous people, Elvis, Andy Kaufman, etc., or else conspiracy theories abound, Princess Diana or President Kennedy for example. What do you make of this cultural tendency?

People will pay large sums of money for a sweaty towel from an Elvis concert or the autograph of a celebrity. Why does this cultural phenomenon still occur today?

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 9:15 am
by Charlene
Well today, in one word, EBAY. Of course, then, there are people out there with "star OCD"....(and Dillinger was a star back then)...hmmmmm, do any of us know anyone with OCD?

Not sure that things would have been grabbed with the thought to sell back then....you could spill your own blood and who was to say it wasn't Dillinger's blood (who had heard of DNA testing?). I guess it was just bragging rights. Life was pretty boring...people just looking for their 15 min. of fame, even if it was just the Jones' next door.

Why does this cultural phenonenon occur today? You are asking US?? We, who stand out in freezing cold and broiling hot weather for a glimpse of a certain guy? ROTF

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 9:25 am
by Lucky13
I would have to agree with Charlene... people want some claim to famous icons, even if it is blood or sweat. :-/ We're willing to go great extremes to touch someones hand, get an autograph or even just catch a glimpse of someone "famous"...
can make us feel "wealthy" to have a piece of history !!

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:17 am
by Cindee
Being the fan of someone sometimes almost puts them on the level of being a deity. We adore and worship. We may not intend to raise them to such a level but it happens. When it happens, we crave anything that the object of our adoration touches. It may be blood, sweat or just ink on paper but in touching the item that they have touched we are touching our hero. And that gives us warm fuzzies. It gives us the chance to relive moments with them either real or imagined. People are funny creatures when you stop and think about it.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:36 am
by Sheri
Aside from the financial opportunists, I think it is largely about making a "connection" to the people we are interested in, to whatever degree. Everyone does it, even celebrities....they just pay more money for their "souvenirs"....does someone buying an author's raincoat sound familiar? ;-)

For those of us "little people", it's also a facination with celebrity in that it is an experience most people will never have. There is so much about their lives that are nothing like ours that we have trouble seeing them as people who have everyday lives and do normal things, too. Which is probably why so many are consumed with papp photos and any other media concerning their lives.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 1:14 pm
by Parlez
Several years ago I picked up a book entitled, Intimate Strangers: the Cult of Celebrity. The title says it all for me, and I agree with everything everyone has said on the subject so far. The media is enormously responsible for feeding the frenzy that surrounds famous people. It's dual purpose is to keep the famous person elevated and distanced from our everyday reality and at the same time make us feel said person is 'just like us', or, more succinctly, we are (or could be) just like them. There but for fortune go I... Plus, we have a uniquely human capacity (even need) for fantasy. Imagination is a powerful thing; it can make the ordinary seem extraordinary and give a lovely, complementary sparkle to objective reality. Where would we be without it, especially in times of distress and want? The people we choose to adore - musicians, movie stars, poets, painters, criminals - inhabit a world of the imagination that we are perfectly capable and willing to edify and embellish and take as our own (and extremely loath to let go of). All they do, really, is invite us in; the rest comes from our own rich fantasy-imaginary-visionary-dreaming mind. In that regard, a celebrity and his or her fans are truly a match made in heaven - one couldn't survive without the other.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 2:21 pm
by Liz
Cindee wrote:Being the fan of someone sometimes almost puts them on the level of being a deity. We adore and worship. We may not intend to raise them to such a level but it happens. When it happens, we crave anything that the object of our adoration touches. It may be blood, sweat or just ink on paper but in touching the item that they have touched we are touching our hero. And that gives us warm fuzzies. It gives us the chance to relive moments with them either real or imagined. People are funny creatures when you stop and think about it.

Yes, we humans are a funny bunch. It seems common to grab those little tokens of remembrance of someone you love or admire. One example (not from a famous person) is how some people wear the ashes of their loved ones around their necks. I guess that’s not a whole lot different than wanting to keep a drop of someone’s blood.

DITHOT asks:

There has been a long standing legend that John Dillinger was not the man killed at the Biograph Theater. This seems to happen with many famous people, Elvis, Andy Kaufman, etc., or else conspiracy theories abound, Princess Diana or President Kennedy for example. What do you make of this cultural tendency?

And Parlez writes:

the rest comes from our own rich fantasy-imaginary-visionary-dreaming mind. In that regard, a celebrity and his or her fans are truly a match made in heaven - one couldn't survive without the other.


I think DITHOT’s question is taking what Parlez says a step further. The fantasy world of the fan just can’t let the person go. So if there is any possible question that the person didn’t actually die, it gives them a way to continue to worship their idol as if he/she were still around. The conspiracy theories keep the idol alive also, in that he/she is still alive because he/she continues to be a hot topic.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:00 pm
by Parlez
Aye, that's just what I meant, Liz! Thanks! :cool:
People still put flowers on Jim Morrison's grave...on Marilyn Monroe's, Clark Gable's, James Dean's, Diana's, Dillinger's, you name it/them. The persistence of memory is another human quality that makes the here-and-now link back to the there-and-then. It helps keep our beloved alive, still with us, in his or her purest form.
It's a beautiful thing really. :heart:

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:51 pm
by nebraska
Good answers, everyone! :bounce:

I think also, if we meet a celebrity, have a piece of memorabilia, or a collection of some form (DVDs, magazine clippings, whatever) - feeling some sort of connection makes us feel somehow like "better" people. Meeting a celebrity who is gracious and poses for a photo can do wonders for ones self esteem, while other forms of "connection", even if it is just a stack of magazines, may simply give us joy. And I think somehow collections do make us feel closer to the celebrity we "love." There is a sort of unreality about it all, so the denial of the celebrity's death is a natural progression.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:20 pm
by stroch
That idea of wanting "something" from someone important to us has been around a long time. In medieval times, the trade in relics of saints was huge.

Relics were classified-- first class, a part of the person like a lock of hair; second class, something touched by the person, like an autograph, and third class, something touched by a first or second class relic, like a signature stamped photo.

I think it is in part an homage to the person, showing that you admire them enough to want a remembrance, and in part as others have said, a way to gain stature by having a part of someone more famous.

As for the conspiracy/not really dead ideas, it might stem from the fact that if these people are so important to us, their death diminishes us and reminds us of our own mortality. The idea that a huge personality could just up and die is terrifying, so something bigger and more planned has to be concocted.

What is weird is the random nature of the celebrities who people decide aren't really dead.

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 9:01 pm
by Liz
Youse guys have expressed yourselves especially eloquently today. :applause: Could it be that we can all relate? :grin:

Stroch, I am always extremely effected by the death of those celebrities I grew up watching, those I’ve extremely admired or those who are young or talented. And usually what goes through my mind at the time is my own mortality.


Re: PE Question #18 ~ The Cult of Celebrity

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2008 11:29 pm
by Lady Jill
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Pg. 410. “When word of the shooting hit the radio, hundreds of Chicagoans descended on the Biograph. Crowds thronged the alley’s entrance until nearly dawn…..The next morning a man showed up at the Bankers Building to offer Purvis cash for the shirt he had worn; it contained a drop of Dillinger’s blood.”

I love everyones answers/thoughts. This quote tells us perfectly about greed. Where do you suppose all the hankies with Dillinger's blood on them went? In a museum today??? I doubt it.

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:There has been a long standing legend that John Dillinger was not the man killed at the Biograph Theater. This seems to happen with many famous people, Elvis, Andy Kaufman, etc., or else conspiracy theories abound, Princess Diana or President Kennedy for example. What do you make of this cultural tendency?

First thought here was that today with DNA testing there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was Dillinger killed. But then, well, who knows. The theories probably kept selling newspapers for a long time, as well as the Dillinger well-wishes wanted to really think that he may in fact DID get away! Reminds me ( I'm dating myself here!!) of listening to a Gunsmoke episode on radio in the '50's when in fact the bank robbers DID get away. My family was all surprised about that one!

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:People will pay large sums of money for a sweaty towel from an Elvis concert or the autograph of a celebrity. Why does this cultural phenomenon still occur today?

Oh boy! This is a wide open one! Perhaps we can ask how many Johnny Depp "things" we each have! This goofy kid, at her age, still relishes my JD signature I got from him at the POC premier last year, and I never saw his face! Remember, glasses, hair and all. So I pull it out once in a while and look at it. Why? ( Don't know about Dillinger ) but JD has given me lessons for life. And I suspect people feel that ways about many celebrities.

Cajun Kitty

Whew! That was a lot of computer cut and paste for me. . .so many questions and thoughts! :-/

Re: PE Question #18 ~ The Cult of Celebrity

Posted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:34 am
by Liz
Lady Jill wrote:First thought here was that today with DNA testing there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was Dillinger killed.

I guess that phenomenon is a thing of the past.

Re: PE Question #18 ~ The Cult of Celebrity

Posted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:47 am
by Lady Jill
Liz wrote:
Lady Jill wrote:First thought here was that today with DNA testing there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was Dillinger killed.

I guess that phenomenon is a thing of the past.


So. . .you think they don't do DNA testing now?

Re: PE Question #18 ~ The Cult of Celebrity

Posted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:04 am
by Liz
Lady Jill wrote:
Liz wrote:
Lady Jill wrote:First thought here was that today with DNA testing there would be no doubt as to whether or not it was Dillinger killed.

I guess that phenomenon is a thing of the past.


So. . .you think they don't do DNA testing now?


No, I was being obtuse. I think they do. That is why the phenomenon of people believing that someone is alive is a thing of the past.....unless they think it is a cover-up....which is totally possible.