Fame And Blame
Princess Diana's Demise And The Nature Of Celebrity
By Tom Danehy
SEPTEMBER 15, 1997: IN THIS EVER more cynical world, Princess Diana was a genuinely good person. She was nice and caring and loving. It could all be summed up in the way she touched people, literally touched them. There was no cringing, no holding back, no fear of sickness and death, nor, for that matter, the stuffy vindictiveness of the dysfunctional Royal Family into which she had married 15 years earlier and escaped just one year ago.
One of the few well-said things I heard over the 48 hours following her death was the description by British Prime Minister Tony Blair of Diana as "the tactile Princess." That she was, having once remarked that "there were no known side-effects to hugging."
She had pretty much dusted off the old concept of noblesse oblige, the idea that the rich and powerful have an obligation to help those less fortunate than themselves. This had pretty much become a foreign concept in the latter part of the 20th century, until it was resurrected by a princess. She set out to help people, and not just in a photo-op way. She did much good, and I, among billions, will miss her presence on this earth.
The truly horrible thing about the aftermath of her death was the way people went about latching onto the tragedy, trying to put their own spin on things to advance one agenda or another. Celebrities denounced the tabloids; the tabloids denounced the increasingly vile and criminal stalkerazzi; the al-Fayed family released security videotapes in a shameful effort to show that the driver, while allegedly plastered, was able to walk upright in jerky photography.
There's a lot of disgust to go around, what with shameful behavior and self-serving posturing wrapped in the guise of grief being all too prevalent.
Probably most annoying was the opportunity grabbed by many celebrities to lash out at the tabloids and the paparazzi.
Tom Cruise was first to speak out, his voice appearing over the first scenes of the crash site. A few days later, George Clooney waded in with a more reasoned response, but one which dodged a crucial issue in this matter. Most of these celebrities owe much of their success, their popularity and their wealth to the tabloids and the public's insatiable thirst for a little naughty knowledge about their favorite stars.
When Cruise was starting out, making such disasters as Losin' It with Shelley Long, he would have given his left kidney to have photographers following him around. Likewise Clooney, when he was doing the first E.R., a one-season comedy which also starred Seinfeld's Jason Alexander as an obnoxious hospital administrator. What these guys are saying is, "Help me get started, get noticed, and get my name out there in the public arena. But when I get famous enough, you guys are going to have to stop."
I'm sorry, but the Deal With The Devil doesn't have a buyout clause. And like it or not, that's what celebrity is, a deal with the devil. No one could contemplate fame these days without knowing beforehand of its downside. This doesn't mean it's right, but neither is it the evil it's being portrayed as.
Heck, we're less than two centuries removed from a time when the Battle of New Orleans broke out because news of the treaty ending the War of 1812 didn't get there in time. We've only had TV in our society for 40 or 50 years. It will take a while for humans to catch up with the implications of instant news and celebrity worship, but I'm convinced we can. It won't happen overnight, so we just have to nudge the system in the right direction.
There are lots of tough calls to be made. Should a photographer have the right to climb somebody's fence, peek in their window and take a picture of the person going to the bathroom? Of course not. But if Brad Pitt goes out in his backyard with his johnson flying and some guy in a tree with a telephoto lens takes a picture of it, that's not quite as clear-cut a case.
For those celebrities who bemoan the dark side of fame, the solution is simple: Don't. Most stars are little more than flavors of the month anyway. They need the media. If stardom is too much, quit. But remember two words: MacLean Stevenson. Or how about: dinner theater.
Another disturbing note: Winn-Dixie and Kroger's grocery store chains announced they wouldn't put certain tabloids on the shelves, depending on their content. The thought of grocery-store corporate heads acting as news censors is chilling.
Also, people need to stay off the Royal Family. You can't expect a snake to act like a swan. These people are the product of centuries of dangerous in-breeding. While royalty was initially just a scam to make sure that really ugly people could have sex, too, unfortunately, they kept having sex all in the family, which explains Prince Charles.
They're a bunch of dolts, living a life which should have been laughed out of existence 400 years ago by illiterate peasants. And if they reacted all wrong to Diana's death, you can't transplant emotions into a stone.
I'm disappointed President Clinton didn't go to the funeral. That was his friend; why stand on ceremony, especially when the terms are being dictated by the British?
Finally, I feel obligated to say that I have a high degree of confidence in the truthfulness of items which appear in the National Enquirer. People tend to lump all tabloids together--and some are ridiculous--and the Enquirer gets a lot of heat because it's the biggest.
But go back over the O.J. Simpson case and see if the Enquirer didn't have everything right, and first. They did a spectacular job in covering that and many other big news stories. Of course, their writing is sensationalistic and their checkbook tactics are shaky, but those are separate issues. For the most part, their sources are impeccable and their reporting is usually dead-on.
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