By Ruth Minshull
As you’ve undoubtedly heard (ad nauseam) Andy Warhol once said, “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.”
Well, if you’ve been hanging around waiting for your fame to come banging on the door, if you’ve been working on strategies for dodging the Paparazzi, you might as well put away your sunglasses. Fame will be a no-show.
Warhol was wrong.
In fact, if you want any recognition at all, you will probably have to elbow everybody else out of the way and grab it by the throat.
Just for fun, I analyzed Warhol’s concept in a practical way; I did the numbers. I limited my calculations to this country alone. After all, we have nearly 300 million people here. That’s a lot of fame to spread around.
There are 96 fifteen-minute periods in one day. Let’s say ten individuals get to be famous in every fifteen-minute period. That’s a total of 960 new celebrities each twenty-four hours.
This much fame is already overwhelming.
Obviously we need to compromise somewhere. There’s no way we can all find the time to honor 960 notable people every day. Most of us can’t find time to get the car washed and still keep up with the bizarre new revelations about Madonna, Britney, “Brangelina and steroid-ingesting ballplayers—all of whom manage to be famous (or infamous) most every day.
What is fame anyway? (I’m not sure it counts if you’re just mugging for the TV camera as it pans over the fans at a football stadium.) The dictionary says that famous means “widely known.” Well, we can see right away that we have to give up “world famous.” In fact, being known on a national scale is out for practically all of us. Most likely we’d have to settle for regional fame—maybe no more than four or five counties (narrowly known?).
One advantage to this smaller field is that you wouldn’t have to do as much to get into the paper (or on YouTube). Just growing the biggest rutabaga in your county might do it. Or getting married on a roller coaster ride (or while bungee jumping off the town’s water tower). Anything that will bring out the reporter from the local weekly or someone with a cell phone camera.
Anyway, with 960 newly famous people each day it would take over 800 years to get to everybody. Thus some of today’s children would have to live longer than Methuselah to reach their turn in the limelight.
Then, of course, with new babies being born constantly, it doesn’t take a genius to see that there simply isn’t enough time. It can’t be done. Warhol was definitely wrong. Maybe those turpentine fumes fuzzied his brain a bit. Or, quite likely, he was just trying to insure his own century of fame by making the remark (which, I’m certain, gets more mention than his artwork).
I suspect that most of us have known all along that we won’t get our promised fame. We’ve been hoodwinked before, and we’ve learned to deal with it—each in our own way.
Some people have obviously decided not to wait for fame to come upon them; they’re going to reach out and nail it any way they can. Instead of relying on talent, brains, performances, good deeds or a blue-ribbon hog, many settle for simply being noticed.
Some turn to crime. I heard of one serial killer who said, after he was caught, “I wanted people to know I was somebody.”
Others do bizarre things to get their names into the Guinness World Records. One fellow rode a lawnmower over 4,000 miles through sixteen states. Then there was the chap in Winnipeg who put 702 needles into his feet, ankles and nipples trying for the record of “most body piercings.”
So, whether we opt to go looking for a bigger riding lawn mower, or simply bask in obscurity, we each will have to cope with the fact that there simply isn’t enough famousness to go around.
I say, blame it on Branjelina.
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© 2009 by Ruth Minshull