Famous for Fifteen People

19 Oct

I’ve decided the time is right to claim my fifteen minutes of fame.

I’m not yet quite sure how I should go about doing it.

Here’s one idea I was tossing around:

I was thinking about building a large silver mylar-and-aluminum helium-filled flying-saucer-shaped balloon in the back of my house and letting it loose accidentally on purpose to float up and across the sky. Then, I would announce there was a child trapped inside of it. Then, I’d sit back and wait as the authorities, the media and a horrified live television audience of millions watch my big UFO-like balloon zip and spin through the atmosphere, landing – empty save for the helium – in a barren field.

By the next day, my front lawn would be crammed with cameras and reporters. I’d be interviewed on all the big network and cable chat shows. My family and I would be the lead item on every newscast from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I’d either end up with a TV show or a prison sentence. Either way… I’d have my shot at celebrity.

Well… wouldn’t you know it… someone beat me to the punch on that one. Unfortunately, my idea now seems quaint and passé.

No worries. There are plenty of other ways to grab my fifteen minutes. Most of them involve reality television.

So… I think I can’t dance. That show won’t be my claim to fame.

Maybe Survivor. A couple of months of conniving, back-stabbing and duplicitous alliance-building on some exotic island or in some distant jungle. Can’t be any harder than office politics.

I could consume copious amounts of some kind of gross insect or hold my breath as I waded through a vat of rancid food to get a gig on Fear Factor.

Or, if the show’s willing to lower its standards a bit, I could be The Bachelor. My wife may not like that one.

There’s always Google Street View. Next time the Google Street camera-car comes to town, I can sit outside my house 24 / 7 to ensure that I get photographed and that my image lives on in perpetuity whenever someone clicks over to my street within the service (Better remember to clean the junk off my front porch next time).

I could even chase the Google-cam down the street as it snaps multiple pictures every few metres. That would certainly increase my exposure. If I get my photo taken enough times, I may even be able to build all the way up to twenty minutes of fame.

Of course, I will be certain to blog and tweet about my exploits, the better to spread the word and cultivate my celebrity.

Legendary Pop Artist Andy Warhol coined the Fifteen Minutes of Fame concept back in the 1960s. More than simply inventing an idea, he put it to practical effect by turning his somewhat marginal and transient entourage of hangers-on into “Warhol Superstars” through his films, paintings, and media appearances.

Forty years later, Warhol’s maxim – “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” – has become a cliché, but has also mutated to fit changing times.

As we speed through an online age where anyone can have their own self-promoting blog, Facebook fan page or podcast, some commentators have altered the Warhol quote to this:

“In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen people.”

Maybe the currency of celebrity has been devalued because it’s become so much easier to grab your small slice of fame. We don’t need Andy Warhol on our side anymore to win notice.

In his recent book “The Peep Diaries”, Canadian author  Hal Niedzviecki writes that we are living in an era of “Peep culture”, where it has become increasingly routine to share the details of our private lives with as many people as possible.

Reality television, 24-hour news cycles, and online media fuel the culture.

“We fear the moments when, unobserved, unrecorded and unexhibited, we virtually disappear,” Niedzviecki writes.

This mass quest for fame – however fleeting and often small-scale – has its pitfalls, according to Niedzviecki.

“We’d rather be at home peering at each other online than putting ourselves out there for friendship… and all the responsibilities and frustrations that come with forming attachments to others.”

Maybe so. But as long as there’s celebrity – and fortune – to be gained, there will be no end to balloon boys, bug-eaters, and blog confessions.

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