PE Question #18 ~ The Cult of Celebrity

by Bryan Burrough

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Lady Jill
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Re: PE Question #18 ~ The Cult of Celebrity

Unread postby Lady Jill » Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:23 am

Liz wrote:
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.


OK Got it! :lol:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Mar 01, 2008 12:13 am

I knew where to come to ask the experts on this question! ;-)

Sorry I've been AWOL, Noodlemantras. Between a trip out of town and catching up at a busy time at work after being out of town, real life has been comandeering my time lately. :banghead: I have been trying to get caught up tonight with all your answers which are excellent as always!
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Unread postby suec » Sat Mar 01, 2008 6:01 am

Like a lot of people here, I can relate to the idea of having mementoes and other items. I certainly have my collection of Johnny items, whether they be magazines, or items I've collected while on the road. When I went to the ST after party, there was quite a discussion over having to relinquish my ticket to get in. I was very reluctant! I made sure to retrieve one on the way out. These items are tangible reminders of experiences that might otherwise fade in time, confirmation that yes, I did do that. I even have mementoes of events that I didn't experience myself, thanks to the kind thoughts of people who have sent them to me. And I have my trinket that I had made that I carry about me always. :blush: I suppose it is because otherwise, I just carry him around with me in my head, and heart. These items make it concrete for me, in a way that it otherwise could never be.

But I think that is a diferent matter to responding to celebrities generally because they are famous. I feel no need whatsoever to seek autographs from anyone because they are famous. And how people respond to them in death, troubles me. I found the account of how people rushed to obtain souvenirs of Dillinger in death quite sickening. Time was, when a funeral procession passed by, folk would doff their hats and stand respectfully. Well, the ritual of it all still imposes that kind of formality to some extent. But not at the point of dying, it seems. Not if you're a celeb. I wonder what we have come to, when photographers take photos of a princess dying in a road traffic accident, or when people whip out their mobile phones to take pics when a celeb's body is carried out of a building, as happened recently. I don't understand what people gain from that.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Mar 01, 2008 12:13 pm

suec, I think the answer these days is money. As long as there is a market for such photos people will continue to try and capture them. :-/
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Unread postby Parlez » Sat Mar 01, 2008 1:28 pm

Well, it's a two-way street, innit, when it comes to the money angle. We've talked about this a thousand times - about how the paps, or marketers, or whoever would have no financial gain if there weren't people out there ready and willing to buy the stuff they have to sell. I remember after the Beatles made their first trip to NYC and stayed at the Plaza, some entreprenuerial staff member saved the sheets from the beds they slept in, cut them into 1-inch squares, and sold them to the fans. That, even to this die-hard Beatlemaniac, seemed a bit extreme. That's when I first began to wonder about the whole celebrity-devouring aspect of fandom. Rather macabre.
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Unread postby suec » Sat Mar 01, 2008 2:03 pm

That's what I mean. I can see why someone would want to sell an item if there's a market for it. It's the fact that there's a market for it that gets me.
Parlez, the "devouring aspect" is a good way of putting it.
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Unread postby teacher » Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:16 pm

Well, keeping mementos is keeping memories. It is not singularly connected to celebrities; we all keep brochures, little stones and whatnot from our holidays - they simply keep the moment alive.
Buying or stealing things that a celebrity had connects you to them in the same way things that belong to a person you know connects you to them. The obsession with celebrities is a wide and complicated topic, but a part of it lies in the allure of the alpha male (or female) and is, in that respect, as old as humanity. World wide celebrities are relatively new, but each town would have a popular someone and each school would have the quarterbeck and the cheerleader that would draw all the attention. And finally, it is a fact we all like to tell stories (in fact, we've created the whole PR industry on it) and having someone's trinkets ensures you'll get to tell a story about them.
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Unread postby nebraska » Sat Mar 01, 2008 9:49 pm

suec wrote:That's what I mean. I can see why someone would want to sell an item if there's a market for it. It's the fact that there's a market for it that gets me.
Parlez, the "devouring aspect" is a good way of putting it.


It probably depends on the person. That moment of horror can be overwhelming, "saving" that moment might be nothing more than saving an autograph or saving a photo of an encounter, if it is saved in the person's personal possessions. And yes, someone who sells it feeds a market for those of us who want to experience that moment of death or whatever, to share something so monumental with the object of our admiration. I have taken photos of loved ones at the funeral home, somethings can't be left to memory, especially when it is so emotional. If I had been at Diana's crash, I suppose I would have pulled out my camera. :blush: I don't think I would have sold pictures for any amount of money.

In Dillinger's day I don't think there was a cash market for such souvenirs.

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:22 am

suec wrote:That's what I mean. I can see why someone would want to sell an item if there's a market for it. It's the fact that there's a market for it that gets me.
Parlez, the "devouring aspect" is a good way of putting it.


Perfume comes to mind.
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Liz » Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:24 am

teacher wrote:Well, keeping mementos is keeping memories. It is not singularly connected to celebrities; we all keep brochures, little stones and whatnot from our holidays - they simply keep the moment alive.
Buying or stealing things that a celebrity had connects you to them in the same way things that belong to a person you know connects you to them. The obsession with celebrities is a wide and complicated topic, but a part of it lies in the allure of the alpha male (or female) and is, in that respect, as old as humanity. World wide celebrities are relatively new, but each town would have a popular someone and each school would have the quarterbeck and the cheerleader that would draw all the attention. And finally, it is a fact we all like to tell stories (in fact, we've created the whole PR industry on it) and having someone's trinkets ensures you'll get to tell a story about them.


Good points, teacher!
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Parlez » Sun Mar 02, 2008 9:35 am

I watched "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" last night (I wanted to see what all the buzz about Casey Affleck was about). I'm no fan of Brad Pitt, but he did an excellent job of portraying Jesse as a complete psychopath. Also of showing what happens when someone reaches celebrity status. We watch the kid (Casey-Robert) go from being Jesse's strongest fanboy (collecting books, newpaper clippings, mementoes, trinkets) to being the guy who decides to kill him. We see the shift, where the desire to take on his hero's life turns into the desire to simply take his hero's life. For his part, Jesse is aware of what's going on - and you get the sense this isn't the first time he's had to deal with idol-worshippers. Behind every one of his admirers is a certain malice; everyone who's within close proximity to him is his potential assassin; the people who adore him and wish him well are the people who are ready to kill him.

I couldn't help drawing parallels to Dillinger. I believe the gangsters of the 30's were following the same path and mentality set down by Jesse James and his gang back in the Wild West. I could picture Dillinger being the kind of guy who was just as unpredictable and jumpy and moody, volatile and potentially dangerous as Jesse James. I could also imagine that having made a name for himself as a criminal his fans were going to be of two minds about him - the 'outlaw' fan would want to ride shotgun with him; the 'law abiding' fan would jump at the chance to be the one to bring him in, dead or alive.

Kind of an impossible situation! :-/

Jesse James (according to the movie) finally just gave in/up; he allowed himself to be shot in the back by his fanboy: the Coward Robert Ford.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:01 am

I watched American Gangster last night and was drawing some parallels too, Parlez. Like how the people in the courtroom cheered when Frank Lucas appeared. They saw him as a champion even though his drugs were killing hundreds of people. He became a prisoner of his own making because of his chosen profession and later his fame.
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Unread postby nebraska » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:25 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I watched American Gangster last night and was drawing some parallels too, Parlez. Like how the people in the courtroom cheered when Frank Lucas appeared. They saw him as a champion even though his drugs were killing hundreds of people. He became a prisoner of his own making because of his chosen profession and later his fame.


George Jung comes to mind ....... how many of us were broken hearted in "Blow" when George's friends betrayed him and sent him back to prison where he was separated from his daughter! But the real George was not so sweet - - and his trafficking cocaine damaged or destroyed countless lives.

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Unread postby Parlez » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:35 pm

It almost makes you wonder if we don't produce these guys out of our collective unconscious. I mean, if it hadn't been Jesse James or John Dillinger, Frank Lucas or George Jung would it have been some other name? Because the 60's era was 'my' era, I especially think that's the case with George...the climate of the times made the arrival of cocaine in the US inevitable, IMO. If he hadn't been in the right place and the right time, so to speak, someone else would have been. We, as a culture and society, seem to breed these guys when we need 'em. But maybe I should have a look at the new topic (Myth vs Reality) before I comment further...
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:38 pm

Parlez wrote: I could also imagine that having made a name for himself as a criminal his fans were going to be of two minds about him - the 'outlaw' fan would want to ride shotgun with him; the 'law abiding' fan would jump at the chance to be the one to bring him in, dead or alive.

Kind of an impossible situation! :-/

Jesse James (according to the movie) finally just gave in/up; he allowed himself to be shot in the back by his fanboy: the Coward Robert Ford.

I have a hard time getting my head around this. It would seem that the fan was a bit psychopathic also.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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