Okay, so, I avoid the news, mostly because the news isn't so much news any more, and I get kind of irritated when I see something that looks like news but turns out to be a commercial. That said, I happenstance(d?) on a list of possible news and gossip articles and read the head line hook: "stars that haven't figured out they are no longer famous" and I was immediately curious, not in the list, but does 'fame' have an expiration date?
Serendipitously, I was having conversation about Danny Kaye. Raise your hand if you know Danny Kaye. Okay, well, that was useless, I can't see your hands, so go ahead and lower your hands. Oh, and speaking of hands down, have you ever wondered about that expression 'hands down'? Yeah, working around me is like working with Remington Steele, and we solve today's mystery by recalling an old movie.
I suspect, if I show you photo of Danny Kaye, You will be like, oh, yeah, I sort of remember him. Musician, Dancer, probably best known for "white christmas' 1954, but I know him best as 'Hans Christian Andersen' 1952, and "the secret life of walter mitty' 1947. And so, before finding me the link that lead me to todays question, I was already asking my colleague, "Do you suppose I am like the only person in America today who is actually holding a conversation about Danny Kaye?" to which there was a high vote of confidence in that, in which they say I won hands down.
So, does fame expire? What constitutes fame? Does it require a certain number of people knowing you? 150,000 people have read my books. I am clearly not famous. Just saying, that can't be the definition. Danny Kaye was definitely famous, so much so that not quite 100 years later, he comes up in conversations, but only with weird folks such as myself. There are also many stars, celebrities, who have clearly been in everyone home on a regular basis who went on to lead fairly mundane lives and hold jobs, compared to what we imagine, but does that mean they are less famous? Take the young lady that played Newt in the movies Aliens. Did you know she is a school teacher? When I learned that, I was like plotting on how I might get my child into her class so I could go to teacher parent meetings and raise my hand, "Oh, oh, oh, pick me, pick me..." (Shades of Welcome Back Kotter) if you didn't get that. And again, why hands down?
Okay, so apparently, if you are into horse racing, and the win seems so obviously sure that the jockey lowers his hands or releases the reigns means he has won 'hands down." So, the saying is famous, and it is still used to today, but not so famous that we know why we say it, and so, does it lose its meaning? Shouldn't things that have lost their meaning fade from usage? Clearly not. So, if a person was famous, shouldn't they have earned the right to still say, "Remember when." Yeah, that could get old, depending on who and what it is. "Whatcha you talkin about WIllis?!" will never get old with me. Neither would, "De plane, de plane..." Every time we sat down to watch Fantasy Island, I would ask, "what kind of M&M's does Tattoo like," and to which he would respond; do I have to spell it out? And I don't care how old I get, Gracey Lee Whitney will always be famous. Of course, only a true Trek fan would know who she is and why she wouldn't be forgotten, even though after (Trek)life was not so good for her. It's not so good for lots of people. If the actors and actresses knew how much mileage their tv shows would have, they would have demanded more royalties. Then again, maybe if royalties were higher, the studios would have squashed the shows.
And there are some folks that wanted to escape fame. Take Tina Louise, for example. You're probably like saying, who the heck is Tina Louise. I guarantee you, if you don't figure it out before I tell you, you'll be like, OMG, I remember her. And it doesn't matter how much joy she brought to the entire world, and that is not an understatement, she hated her role, hated the after math, and spent the rest of her life fighting that identity. Which is interesting to me. Because she was really loved. I am referring to, of course, Ginger from Gilligan's Island. True enough, I was always a Mary Ann fan, but Ginger was just as important in terms of iconic symbolism. And something as big as Gilligan's Island, that truly transcends surface level stuff. Yeah, it was all fun and games and slap stick, but it was also talking about society and offers insight in to archetypal aspects, and it was so powerful that no matter how much the studios hated it, it not only got renewed, but still is the longest running show in television history and is played in every language. In terms of sheer mileage, it beats "I Love Lucy" and "Star Trek," and Star Trek TOS has been released in every language and is credited with a lot of firsts, breaking glass ceilings and social roles. But even all the love and high ratings, Gilligan was trashed by every critic. Why? Because sometimes being famous requires you throw away intellectual criteria and go in, or deep, or sideways.
The celebrities that give us access to the archetypal energy, that is the essence of what I'm tapping into here, do come and go, and some of them can't be replaced. Take Gene Hackman in the Poseidon Adventure. They tried to remake that. It didn't work, and it's because there isn't room for Gene's character, but that was the moral compass that drove that show. Maybe the original movie is less famous, because fewer people can access that character, but it's still rich with necessary metaphor, which is why people wanted to redo it. But there are themes that continue to replay over and over in movies and television. Maybe instead of asking if fame has an expiration date we should be asking, do we. Cause think about it, if you can no longer sit down and enjoy an episode of Gilligan's Island, well, you've grown up and moved on and that person is no longer here. Just a thought.