Saturday, November 27, 2010

Passing on Fame

by Jo Robertson

It’s such an illusive quality.

Who determines when a person achieves it?

Is notoriety fame? If so, the headlines that screech about Paris and Britney would be blasting the fame of those dubious divas.
This past March Paul Scofield died at the ripe old age of eighty-six. He’s best known for his portrayal of Sir Thomas More, the historical cleric who defied Henry VIII in the classic A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS based on Robert Bolt's play.
Ah, what wonderful lines Scofield had! And Robert Shaw as Henry wasn’t half bad.

My point is that Scofield was offered knighthood as the Brits are wont to do to acknowledge stage and music stars – witness Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Paul McCartney.

But Scofield turned down knighthood. Wow, not sure I’d be able to resist such an enticement. His comment? “If you want a title, what’s wrong with Mr.?”

Indeed. What’s wrong with Mr.? Or Ms.?

In 1973 Sacheen Littlefeather refused Marlon Brando’s best actor award at the Academy Awards. Brando boycotted the ceremony and refused the award referring to Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans.

Fame. Not sure I’d have passed up a chance to place an Oscar on my mantle either.

But then, I’m of the generation that collected movie magazines and sent off for signed autographed pictures of said idols. As a teenager, I decorated my walls with those black and white photos.


Writers want fame, don't they? Or at least recognition of their writing. What writer doesn’t want to attain NY Times Best Seller status?

So what makes a person famous?

I may feel differently on another day, but right now here’s my list of the four most famous people alive today:

1. Michelle Obama – because she has these amazingly toned arms -- and I like how she bosses the President around sometimes.

2. George Clooney – because he’s the nicest guy in Hollywood – ever!

3. Oprah Winfrey – not only because she owns more shoes than Imelda Marcos, but because she’s likely the most influential woman in the world.

4. Seamus Heaney – one of today’s greatest poets and winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for his "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”

What about you? What do you think makes a person "famous"? Would you ever want international fame? Why?
If you ever became famous, what would you like it to be for?

Who are your top three or four most famous people alive today?
I feel like giving away a gift today -- my "famous" Amazon gift certificate for $10 to the most "interesting" answer. Dr. Big will choose!


Helen said...

Is he coming to my place

have Fun

Nancy said...

Helen, congrats on the bird! Have fun with him.

Jo, "fame" has always held a connotation of merit for me. A "famous" person has done something noteworthy, not something notorious or stupid or self-indulgent or just loud. I realize much of the world sees things differently, of course.

I don't think I'd want international fame. I like having bit chunks of my life to myself.

Helen said...

Well it is really hot here today the air con is on and we are watching the cricket on TV while reading of course and I went shopping today so there are Tim Tams LOL

Very good post, I think fame should as Nancy has said go hand in hand with something good that people have done whether it be writing a great book staring in a great movie or saving the planet. I think that we relate to people for different reasons and some people become famous for the wrong reasons as well.

I am not sure whether I would like to be in the limelight but if I was I would like to be acknowledged for doing something good or caring.

I am going to have to think on who my favourite famous people are at the moment.

Have Fun

barb said...

Well done Helen ... I will be up to join you get the tim tams out

I don't think I would like fame except fot the money to travel more... I think people years ago would have been scandalous doing things like Paris etc do today.
Everybody knows Oprah Winfrey... she is bringing a plane load of people to Australia next month

Daz said...

Hey Helen, it's a hot day for the chook, isn't it? We've got the AC on too. 1st time today this season.

Jo, great post. To be honest, I don't think of fame much. I do think about recognition though, which probably is some variation of fame.

For me it's more of an acknowledgement of achievement and appreciation. When it gets into adoration, adulation, worship, etc., it gets a bit beyond my grasp.

Don't get me wrong, I had those posters up on my wall when I was growing up too - teenage crushes and all that, but actual fame - screaming fans, no privacy ... not so much, though the gobs and gobs of money wouldn't hurt. LOL.

Even then, I think that breeds a sense of restlessness and ambivalence that unless you're a completely driven person, tends to set in and your sense of reality and what's normal just gets totally warped. Temptation sets in too because there's just so much set before you that becomes harder and harder to resist because its placed in front of you, all day, every day, over and over again.

I guess I don't have a very positive view of fame. It could just be that I've been exposed to so much of the negative and extreme sides of it that I'm a little turned off by it. You just never know what lurks under the hidden depths of man.

Look at Tiger Woods and what fame did to him. He's probably not the first and he won't be the last. There are probably lots and lots of people who are not him that go through the same thing that we will never know about because they are not famous, frankly, I'd rather not know about it.

I'd like to be able to have a few more positive examples of famous people that pop straight into my head, but I don't.

The ones you've listed are great ones. I don't know much about Michelle Obama, though as First Lady, I expect she exerts her own level of influence. Oprah Winfrey is incredibly influential, you're correct. Can even begin to comprehend the number of people who are daily influenced by her - what to buy, what to watch, what to read.

I guess I wouldn't really want to be that famous. I'm comfortable being known, loved and appreciated within my own circle of family and friends.

Daz said...

Hmmm ... okay, that was a bit of a rant, wasn't it? Sorry! *sheepish grin*

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey Jo -

I wouldn't mind fame - as long as it came after I'm dead LOL.

I remember when I was little reading a story by Edgar Allen Poe who is buried in Baltimore, MD. That's where I'm from. I remember walking home from school thinking that I'd like to do something famous that people would remember when I was gone. At the time I thought I might be a famous artist - after all I got good grades in art (grin).

So on one level I'd like to be famous. I'd like the validation of being good at something. I'd like to leave a mark, to be remembered.

But I wouldn't want the craziness that would come with fame. I prefer having my private, ordinary life.

So maybe fame after I'm dead...but let's not make that too soon - okay?

Minna said...

What do you think makes a person "famous"? It seems that going to one of those awful reality shows is enough to earn you at least your 15 minutes of fame these days. But I think in order to be truly famous -even long after your dead- you actually have to do something to earn it.


Sheree said...

For many people, fame and fortune are something desirable - to be acknowledged for something and paid well for it. Now, with the Paris Hiltons of the world, it's more "infamy" than "fame" as they are known for something that isn't exactly laudable (at least Britney could sing, or at least entertain, and Lindsay Lohan can act; Paris is just rich).

I'd like fame to be restricted to people who accomplish laudable things, like Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton or Oprah Winfrey. People who have a net positive effect on others than negative. Life, though, isn't quite as linear and no one is a saint (such as Lindsay Lohan and Tiger Woods who have gifts and abilities but who made glaring mistakes in their personal lives).

As for me, I'd like to be known for something scientific and lasting, not necessarily for something faddish and fleeting. Still, should I make generations of students suffer while trying to pronounce my name (not unlike the Polish geologist Przhevalsky/Przewalski)? It's probably better just to have the fortune without the fame. ;)


Minna said...

Would you ever want international fame? No. Too many downsides, the way I see it: the paparazzi, you could never go anywhere without having someone to recognize you, the crap the papaers and magazines would write about you, whether it was true or not...

Jane said...

Hi Jo,
I remember seeing Paul Scofield on PBS in a TV adaptation of Martin Chuzzlewit. I'm sure many of us think of what it'll be like to be famous and adored by many fans, but not many can handle the pressure that goes with all that fame. I don't mind if a person is recognized for their talent or contribution to society, but now people are famous for being famous. We know their name because they're friends or related to somebody who's famous. I pretty much agree with your list. I think Oprah is definitely number one. She's made a brand for herself, but she's also a generous person.

Blodeuedd said...

I would like to be famous in my one sphere so to say, not mega famous so that everyone knows but perhaps cos I wrote a really good book ;)

Maureen said...

That's an interesting post. I think there's the good side to fame, the praise and moneys part, and a bad side, gossips looking for read or made up gossip. Here are some people that I thought of:
1. William and Kate - They are everywhere on the news but it is for something positive which I always appreciate when watching the news.
2. JK Rowling - Since I read a lot I'm thinking of authors and her story is such an amazing one.
3. Bill and Melinda Gates - They are giving away the majority of their money to help others.

Teresa Thomas Bohannon said...

Actually I could not care less about fame--I'm an introvert at heart.... My friends tease that I don't "do" weekends because I park my car in my driveway on Friday night and do not leave until Monday morning unless someone forces me to leave. However, having said that, I've had to flex for both my job work and in my own I've gotten used to it even if I'm still not entirely comfortable with it.

Fame definitely has it's downside--especially for women--who traditionally have not been the ones who got to write the history. I actually wrote a blog post yesterday over at LadySilk.Net on this very topic concerning Lady Emma Hamilton, who was the supermodel, bad girl media magnet of her day. She was dead nearly 100 years before society was able to forgive her sins--actual or perceived--and allow her some good press.

So for my vote, fame would not be worth the hassle--security however is worth "almost" any price you have to pay to achieve it.


jo robertson said...

Whoa, Helen, good on you for taking the rooster back across the ocean! I imagine he weighs a ton with all the turkey stuffed in him!

jo robertson said...

Nancy said, "I don't think I'd want international fame. I like having bit chunks of my life to myself."

I agree! Every time I see a "celebrity" in the news followed by skads of people, I think how exhausting it must be to live your life in a public venue.

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Helen. What a sweet comment!

I envy your air conditioning a bit. We're having very cold weather here!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Barb. What's Opray going to do in Austrialia? I haven't followed her in the news as much as I used to.

jo robertson said...

Daz said, "I guess I wouldn't really want to be that famous. I'm comfortable being known, loved and appreciated within my own circle of family and friends."

That's really what's important, isn't it?

I think lots of young "famous" people get caught up in the glamor and glitz of notoriety and lose their way. The headlines are filled with their stories.

jo robertson said...

Hey, Daz, no rant! Those were very thought-provoking words. I always watch for new actors or singers, like Justin Bieber. I think if there isn't someone very strong watching out for them, they get lost very easily. He's so sweet-looking I hope that doesn't happen to him.

Cath's Chatter said...

Firstly, Justin Bieber = BLAH!!!!
(his album has been hashed to death by my 8 & 12 yr old girls)

(personal peeve moment here)
I think that if you go into any form of entertainment (and make it BIG TIME) you cant then turn around and complain all the time about the paps, the tabloid lies, and no privacy and be all 'woe is me' wanted the fame, the fortune, the adoration of fans, the house etc, etc, THE FANS gave it to you by buying your song/movie/book/product therefore you need to be humble and show that appreciation from time to time, not complain about it!!!! (stay true to yourself and dont believe your own hype)

Sorry about the rant but some 'stars' just get my back up

Cybercliper said...

I would absolutely hate fame! I'm a huge loner and would hate people poking and prying into my life, strangers asking me questions, and God forbid, somebody touching me - ack!!!

Funny, DH and I was just talking about the 'Sir' title last week. We were wondering what the Knighted who swore loyalty, bowed their heads giving their lives and sword to a King and country - those that shed blood, lost limb and life, their lands and family - what would they think about the knighthood being bestowed upon the likes of Elton John and Paul McCartney. While talented and deserving as indicated by the honor, it seems different...

Louisa Cornell said...

Yay Helen! He got cold over here or maybe it was just all that talk about roasted birds!!

Thought-provoking post, Jo, and it hits on one of my pet peeves.

The great majority of "famous" people today don't deserve a moments attention, let alone all of this attention the press gives them.

Fame for real talent, pure talent is worthy and perfectly acceptable to me. However, these days there are so few truly talented people in the public eye I have become a bit jaded about the whole thing.

Like the old Cher song, most of the famous people in the news today are - Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves!

I don't want fame. I would dearly love to have acknowledgment - for writing a moving or sweeping or funny or simply fabulous historical romance novel.

I would like to be known as a talented wordsmith who lives a fairly circumspect life, knows how to have fun and takes joy when and where it happens as the gift it is. I would like to be known as an advocate for animals. I'm no angel nor am I a saint. I am flawed human being who has made my share and then some of mistakes. I would prefer not to be remembered for the worst things I've ever done, but for the things I managed to accomplish in spite of those things. I don't want to be known for who I was when I began the journey, but who I became along the way - a good writer, a good friend, a good pet mama and a good person. That's enough for me.

traveler said...

I saw Paul Scofield perform at Stratford, On. m any years ago and he was captivating. Memorable as well. Fame is elusive and I would shy away from it. Who deserves it, heroes and all military.

petite said...

An interesting post to ponder. What makes an individual worthy of fame. Their contributions mostly whether they are in the arts or sciences. I believe that any scientist, doctor or inventor who is helping people, curing people and being devoted to their cause deserves this honor.

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh and my famous people ?

J.K. Rowling - for getting millions of kids to pick up a book when the world seems hellbent on having them pick up a game controller for the rest of their lives.

Steven Spielberg - for Schindler's List, Indiana Jones and all of the movies he's made that enlighten, amuse and provide something Hollywood seems to have forgotten - ENTERTAINMENT.

Prince William of England - for trying his best to be the man his mother always dreamed he would be. I wish him and his lovely Kate all the very best.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah - For providing a place of healing, comfort and sometimes forever solace to the thousands of animals that pass through their doors. They were instrumental in the rehabilitation of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's version of hell. They were on the ground in New Orleans after Katrina and are still helping out there.

Nora Roberts - for proving that tenacity means as much if not more than talent when it comes to getting published and staying there. Anyone who missed her speech at Nationals missed a treat.

Minna said...

Speaking of George Clooney: he's in a movie called The American with a Finnish actor, Irina Björklund.

Lois said...

Well, sure wouldn't want to be famous... just seems like it is more trouble than it's worth. Although some do seem to be able to hold onto a fair amount of privacy.

Hmm, three people... well, Steven Hawking, number one. Sean Connery for my hollywood type... and Bill Gates as a fellow nerd. :)

catslady said...

Add me to the list of people who wouldn't want fame. Seems like most of them can't handle it.

Minna said...

Who are your top three or four most famous people alive today?
Hmm. Well, our former president Martti Ahtisaari, who is these days doing international peace work.
Sir David Attenborough, who still seems to be working. I look forward to First Life and Frozen Planet.
Jane Goodall.

Minna said...

And speaking of nerds: the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

I think a lot of the people we think of as famous are actually infamous. Lots of people who take up too much airtime and print space are, in my opinion, not worth it. To be truly famous, I think a person needs to be contributing positively to society, to fellow humans and within their chosen field(s).

And I really admire people who may become famous for one reason (like being a movie star) and use that fame for further good (like Leonardo DiCaprio to environmental causes or loads of stars who helped out in the wake of Hurricane Katrina).

jo robertson said...

Donna said, "So maybe fame after I'm dead...but let's not make that too soon - okay?"

No way, you've got way too much life left in you!

I've always thought I'd be really lucky if I were fondly and well-remembered by friends and family after I'm gone. That's the best kind of fame. Although I DO understand about wanting to leave a legacy outside that circle.

I wonder if I have students who still say, "Wonder what ever happened to Mrs. Robertson?" LOL

jo robertson said...

LOL, Minna, I'm sure those reality show folks aren't remembered more than a few weeks. Until someone new takes their place.

Everyone's supposed to have his 15 minuties of fame, right?

jo robertson said...

Sheree said, "I'd like fame to be restricted to people who accomplish laudable things"

Isn't it a shame that we often remember people who are outrageously notorious and LOUD rather than those who go quietly about their daily business helping others and doing good deeds?

OMG, that IS a mouthful of a name. My given name is Benita, but I got so tired of having no one in the southeast where I grew up being able to pronounce it that I started using my middle name (Jo) when I went to college. Much easier to handle, although I do have people ask me lots of times what it's short for.

jo robertson said...

Sheree, I think it'd be so cool to invent something or discover something and have it named after you. I like the idea of having created something simple, but small that makes our lives easier.

Like velcro -- I think velcro is the universe's gifts to moms.

jo robertson said...

Minna, I'd hate someone saying a blatant lie about me. I'd want to march around protesting about it, which would just make it worse.

Good thing I'm not famous. OTOH, lots of well-known people become sort of invisible when they're out in public. At least I hear them say that on TV, that they never get recognized.

jo robertson said...

Jane said, "but not many can handle the pressure that goes with all that fame"

I think it would be very stressful. I have seven children and 16 grandchildren and if I were famous, I imagine the press would have a field day with all their antics. It seems very unfair to have private family issues blown up for the whole world to scrutinize.

I guess I'm pretty glad I'm a little known person LOL.

jo robertson said...

Blodeuedd said, "I would like to be famous in my one sphere so to say, not mega famous so that everyone knows but perhaps cos I wrote a really good book"

Hi, Blodeuedd! Please tell us how to pronounce your name. I think it's lovely, but I always stumble over it in my mind LOL.

Yes, sister, I'm with you on the one really good book. I'd like to be another Harper Lee .

jo robertson said...

Hi, Maureen. It'll be interesting to see how William and his bride to be handle all the press attention. I bet they'll do well; after all, he's been through a lot in his young life. They look so young and happy, don't they? I wish them a long, rewarding relationship.

The Gateses are a great example of people who have shared their wealth philanthropically. They've done so much good in the world, as has Opry who someone else mentioned.

Rowling's story is such an inspiration to me as a writer. She's truly brilliant, I think.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Teresa, don't do weekends! That's hilarious.

I'm a bit of a burrowe, too. I love staying home, writing, reading, watching a bit of telly. Sometimes I don't leave my house for three days at a time and drive out just to say I've been outside LOL.

I'll have to pop over and read about Lady Hamilton, sounds intriguing.

jo robertson said...

Cath said, "Justin Bieber = BLAH!!!!"

ROTFLOL! But he has such a sweet little face :-D. I'd go nuts too if I had to listen over and over and over to the same music. Ah, I remember those days well.

I agree that you have to take the good with the bad as far as fame goes. I hope if I ever best a best-selling writer (LOL) and if I complain about fans, that someone will smack me upside the head.

I hope I'll recognize where my so called "fame" came from.

You can write a brilliant book, but if no one buys/likes it . . . I'm just saying.

jo robertson said...

Cybercliper said, "We were wondering what the Knighted who swore loyalty, bowed their heads giving their lives and sword to a King and country - those that shed blood, lost limb and life, their lands and family - what would they think about the knighthood being bestowed upon the likes of Elton John and Paul McCartney."

That's very interesting. I never thought much about it. Many of the original knights (pre-middle ages) were a rowdy, brawling sort. Some were honorable, some not so much.

jo robertson said...

Louisa said, "The great majority of "famous" people today don't deserve a moments attention, let alone all of this attention the press gives them."

If nobody paid attention to them, they wouldn't be famous, either. The public's crazy need for more and more bizarre doings fuels the press.

jo robertson said...

Louisa, what beautiful sentiments. Wonderfully expressed.

Reminds me of Steinbeck's quote -- "It seems to me that if you and I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure in the world."

Makes me weepy :-D.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Traveler, what did you see Scofield perform at Stratford? I would've loved to see him on the stage.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Petite! I agree. Our lives should have some meaning, make some contribution to the greater good. So many people sacrificed so much (Traveler mentioned soldiers) for the rest of us.

jo robertson said...

Super list, Louisa! Thanks for sharing.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Lois, are you a computer nerd like Bill Gates?? I'm amazed at people whose brains can comprehend tech-speak. I'm such a dweeb at that kind of thing.

jo robertson said...

Minna said, "Speaking of George Clooney: he's in a movie called The American with a Finnish actor, Irina Björklund."

I saw that movie. I thought it was great, but some of my friends found it boring. Did you see it? The Finnish girl was quite good.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Catslady! I'm not sure I could've handled fame when I was younger, but age gives us a kind of maturity that makes handling all that hullabaloo easier.

jo robertson said...

Jane Goodall is an excellent choice, Minna. I think we forget about her because her work wasn't with "homo sapiens" LOL. She was a pretty amazing person.

jo robertson said...

Trish said, "To be truly famous, I think a person needs to be contributing positively to society, to fellow humans and within their chosen field(s)"

Well said, Trish. I think the more wealth, fame, influence, talent, etc., a person has, the more he/she should contribute back to society. It seems an ethical obligation to me.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Chiming in late today to say, wonderful and thought provoking post, Jo!

I'll deviate from the norm and say YES! I want to be famous, but I want it to be of the same variety as Seamus Heaney, whom I would have never recognized from his picture, but of course I know who he is. I would LOVE to have my work remembered long after I'm gone, and having it on the best-seller lists right now wouldn't be such a bad thing either. I'm old and crotchety, I can handle it. :-P


Suzanne Ferrell said...

Not sure I want to be famous. Just rather well known! hehehe

1. J.K. Rowling. The woman reawakened young and old to reading. Trust me when I say she has great influence in the world today!

2. Micro Soft and Apple. Okay, they're not people, but they truly influence our lives. Maybe more than we want!

3. Prince William. He's about to marry his long time sweetheart, carry on the tradition of royal weddings and family. Someday he'll inherit the kingdom. Yep, pretty influential and famous young man.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Suz, thanks for stopping by. I know you've been very busy with Thanksgiving festivities. Good choices.

I too think Rowling has changed the course of reading, especially for young male readers.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Cindy, so glad you made it by and glad your sweet doggie Autumn is on the mend. I know you've been up to your elbows in drama, as well as company.

Isn't Seamus Heaney's poetry great? I do love it.

jo robertson said...

Thanks to everyone for taking a break from your holiday (or weekend) to stop by today.

Be sure to check the blog in the next few days for the winner of the $10 Amazon gift certificate!