The Joke

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Joke

On the very night after one of music’s most gifted voices was found forever silenced in a Beverly Hills hotel room, a remarkable performance pulled the jaded corporate audience up out of their seats in a whooping, hollering ovation at the Grammy awards across town. It was a performance that needed no desperate theatrics to obscure a paper-thin talent. No tumblers nor levitators, no marching gladiators, no fire. The singer did not wear a dress made of meat, nor did she swing from a rope in a cowboy hat. She simply stood on the stage in a fetching black dress and a swath of red lipstick, and sang. Such is the powerhouse talent of the British songstress, Adele. The world is now at her feet. May God protect her.

It was especially difficult not to consider the comparison between this fresh faced, naturally charming girl and the one whose meteoric rise and tragic descent hung like a blue mist over the festivities of that night. The lusciousness of the smiling Adele contrasted painfully with the memory of the ravaged Whitney Houston of latter days. Both had been blessed with an undeniable gift; a gift that, despite all the hoopla and hype of the music business, comes along only rarely. I sat watching Adele drink in the well-deserved adulation of the audience on Sunday, saw her grinning with glee at it all, and I prayed fervently that she has people around her now who will tell her the truth, people who will help her get the joke. For make no mistake, fame is nothing more than a joke. A cruel joke usually played on the very young when they are so certain it’s the one thing in life they desire above all others. Little do they realize, it is a bell that cannot be unrung, a present that cannot be returned when the recipient finds it frighteningly unwelcome. It is incredibly meaningless, yet it has the power to change people in ways they would never have dreamed possible prior to its arrival at their door.
Only the most self-aware amongst us dare shake its hand.

Due to The Songwriter’s occupation, I have seen a bit of fame up close. I have stood beside heart throbs who are oddly shorter that their photographs suggest. I have taken note of the ones who look you in the eye when they speak to you and the ones whose eyes roam the room in search of someone more important. I have learned how to spot those who get the joke of fame, and sadly, those who do not.
I myself have never wished to be famous. When I went to the movies as a little girl, I wanted to be Guinevere, not Vanessa Redgrave - Mary Poppins, not Julie Andrews. It was the characters the actors portrayed that caught my imagination, not the actors themselves. I adored The Beatles, still do, but I would never wish to be one of them. The notion of being hit with flashbulbs on exiting a restaurant fills me with absolute horror and I loathe being photographed the way some loathe a trip to the dentist. However I fear I’m in the minority, for so often today it seems being famous is the ultimate goal. Famous for what? No matter... that doesn’t seem to figure into the fantasy. As long as one can score magazine covers and a few paparazzi, one has hold of the brass ring. Modern television has shown us that merely by sacrificing one’s dignity and grace, fame is actually quite easy to attain and it seems there are many willing to try. Fame doesn’t care if one merits its attention or not, it is more than capable of damaging the one with true talent as it is the one famous for nothing.

There is every reason in the world to be hopeful for Adele, despite her newly colossal fame. She is one of the rare ones who appear to own both a witty intelligence and the ability to revel in the happy ridiculousness of this media comet she is now astride. Her interviews are delightfully self-deprecating and candid, and she seems to know her own mind which can only help her stand firm when she needs to. And she will need to. She has just announced that she intends to take five years off to concentrate on enjoying her life, a decision that will seriously displease some suits in the industry. As much as I love her music, this delights me no end.
Give her a good thought, and wish her well.
I am.

“Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”
Erma Bombeck

“I won’t be happy till I’m as famous as God”.