The Power of Fame


Let’s talk about fame. I’d rather not, but it was a key factor in getting Donald Trump “electoraled” president. (The elected president, by a significant three million or so votes, is of course Hillary Clinton.)

I’ve long said that the most dangerous and addictive drug on the planet is fame. Trump says he has never had a drink or taken drugs. But to anyone with a brain and a smidgeon of enlightenment and ability to ascertain the truth can see that he is as high as the bastard stepchild of Bob Marley and Timothy Leary on celebrity and public attention.

As an entertainment journalist as well as working in the music business for the more than four decades, I’ve had many encounters with the famed and almost famous, celebrities galore that were in the public eye for more than 15 minutes. Fame no longer impresses me. There is nothing inherently meritorious about it, it in no way connotes that those who have it are any better than your average Joe.

As a kid who was fascinated by politics I got the autographs of Richard Nixon – after he was defeated by Kennedy and in the wilderness prior to becoming president – and Nelson Rockefeller when he was governor of New York. And lost both along my way in life and really don’t regret it ... though I suppose I could have made a few bucks selling them on eBay. After all, it’s the memories of encountering these historic figures that have real value for me.

I was once mistaken for a very minor rock star when hanging with some and had to sign the autograph books for some 25 or so Miss Teen Ohio pageant contestants before I could go have dinner. And I was really hungry. And thought, who in their right mind would ever want to go through this? Yeah, I like attention. But not when it gets in the way of living my life.

I can only see a very few advantages to fame. One, you can get a table at a crowded restaurant before everyone else. And, two, it’ll get you laid, because too many people want to get sprinkled with its fairy dust. Otherwise, seems like a big pain to me.

People have killed to get fame. And it has killed too many who got it. Yet the general public seems to miss such points.

What does impress me is what people do with their fame. One man whose influence was pivotal in my life, John Lennon, gave it up to bake bread and raise a child. That earned my esteem. Then he stepped back into the edge of the spotlight and some disturbed loser murdered him. I wonder how anyone can see fame in a good light after that.

Lennon’s bandmate Paul McCartney seems to have handled his fame with grace, by all accounts is a true gentleman, no attitude that he’s better than anyone else. Story is that their fellow Beatle Ringo Starr during the 1970s in Los Angeles paid for most everything by check ... because people would rarely cash them, preferring to have his autograph. So there’s that advantage too, I guess.

Poor Angelina Jolie has gone around the world doing good works for needy children. And is a damn fine actress and now quite talented director. Yet people can’t get enough dirt on her divorce. Is there an upside here?

The Kardashians are famous for no good reason at all. And they seem to love it, which tells you what soulless wastes of space on the planet they are.

The late David Bowie was thoroughly charming and forthcoming when I interviewed him; my esteem for him is near-boundless. Robin Williams was more or less like a regular guy when I spent an hour in his company, albeit very witty, and I loved that about him. My half-hour with Beach Boy Mike Love was a waste of my time talking to a miserably rude jerk. Again, it’s what you do with it, but how you handle it.

Donald Trump’s toxic lust for fame will likely ruin America, maybe the world. Perhaps we need to rethink this notion.

Populist Picks

CD: Legacy by David Bowie – Speaking of Bowie and “Fame,” this posthumous 40-song collection is a fine overview. And hopefully a starting place for digging deeper into the albums of a true musical visionary.

Book: How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly – I am in awe of this Australian singer-songwriter’s musical work, which is far underappreciated here. His book that weaves his life experiences through 100 songs show his gifts for pungent and engaging storytelling translates beautifully into prose. For those who don’t know his work, I offer that getting to know it offer years of sweet rewards.

CD: Epilepsy Blues by Chris Fullerton – A chance encounter with this young and largely unknown Texas country newcomer landed his album in my hands. And was wowed by how it strikes a powerful neo-traditional balance, sounding as if it could have been made in the early 1950s (yes, think Hank Williams), but then again like it’s so perfectly 2017 in how he takes what came before and filters it through his own originality to make something fresh and profound. Well worth seeking out if you want to be reminded as I was how much I love real country music.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2017

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