Celebri-spiral™: Enough Already

Our culture is in a celebri-spiral. We're conflicted over our ridiculous, growing celebrity culture consumption via magazines, websites, and TV shows. In 2007, my love/hate conflict made me take to the blog-o-sphere. All writing on this site © Dave Singleton 2009.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30, 2007: Celebri-spiral is in a Virtual Jail of Sorts, Showing Solidarity with Paris

In solidarity with young, messed-up Hollywood, several of whom are in prison now for the 2nd try(Paris), and some headed there shortly (Nicole, Lilo), I have gone into solitary confinement for a couple of weeks to reflect on what I've done to cause my celebri-spiraling, just as Candy Spelling and Cathy Hilton advised.

I will be saying a little prayer for Dina Lohan and all other messed-up celebs and celeb-enablers who continue to bypass the so-called news filters, infiltrate our consciousness, and cause celebri-spirals.

Do we bring celebri-spirals on ourselves through our lack of self-editing? If so, what should we do about that? I'll be pondering such weighty topics while in solitary.)

All I'll say is that this could be the wake up call young Hollywood needs to get its act together, as well as a siren sounding on ridiculous celebrity overkill that we celebri-spiralers need.

I do not want to spend the rest of my life hitting the Internet Refresh button on TMZ, as they tell their readers to do, in order to not miss a split second of action!

See you soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29, 2007: Hi-ho Hi-ho It's Off to Rehab, Lilo

Every major news outlet is claiming that Lindsay Lohan is headed to Promises, where Britney supposedly got her sobriety and hair back.

This after Lilo was photographed passed out in the front seat of her SUV two nights after being arrested on suspicion of DUI.

She's not going down without a fight, but how true of addiction.

The Lilo news is presented in an equal time slot with President Bush finally addressing the horror in Darfur (it's about time) and Hillary Clinton being taken to task on the campaign trail for possible not reading all intelligence reports about Iraq before casting her vote regarding the war.

Can anyone say "priorities?"

Monday, May 28, 2007

May 28, 2007: Celebrity Culture Shocker! US Exposed!

Thanks to Howard Kurtz's great article in The Washington Post today (Celeb Rag Shocker: Us's Exposé Exposé!), we now know more about the dirty business decisions that drive the tabloid business.

Here's just a sample:

Eleven months ago, In Touch magazine ran a "Breaking News" cover about Jennifer Aniston that declared "JEN LOOKS PREGNANT!" In January, another cover blared: "FRIENDS WORRY BRITNEY'S PREGNANT." In April, Katie Holmes got the treatment: "KATIE LOOKS PREGNANT AGAIN."

In Touch wasn't alone on the bump-watch front. In the space of one year, after Angelina Jolie gave birth to baby Shiloh, Life & Style, owned by the same company, announced four times that Jolie again looked pregnant, was trying to get pregnant, was wearing loose-fitting clothing or nixing foods that pregnant women avoid. In 2005, Star said Jessica Simpson was "Finally PREGNANT!" In 2006, OK! magazine screamed: "J.LO TO BE A MOM!" Yet during this blizzard of cover headlines, these stars had given birth only to bogus stories.

While breathless hype is hardly unknown in the celebrity-rag business, a rival's finger-pointing campaign is rare indeed. Us Weekly recently started razzing the competition with such weekly spreads as "How They Faked the Baby 'News.' "


"When we put it all together and saw how many times they've played this game of trickery, it was pretty shocking," says Us Weekly Editor Janice Min. "Would you continue to buy laundry detergent that didn't work week after week?"

Clearly, this is not simply an exercise in selfless investigative sleuthing. In fact, Jann Wenner, the media mogul who owns Us Weekly, ordered up the attacks. Min, whose factual track record is not unblemished, concedes that her attempt to tarnish the other magazines amounts to "a business decision."

Editors at the other magazines refused to address the details. "Did I miss the memo from Us Weekly saying they want to edit everyone's magazines now? They should concentrate on their own," Richard Spencer, editor of In Touch, says in a statement.


At stake in the sniping is market share in a burgeoning business that almost seems to outstrip the available supply of celebrity couplings and uncouplings. At the end of 2006, Us Weekly was selling 1.75 million copies a week, a 40 percent increase over three years earlier. Star's circulation was 1.5 million, a 26 percent jump in three years. But the most dramatic increases were among two magazines launched in the last five years: In Touch (1.3 million), up 151 percent since 2003; and Life & Style (753,000), up 157 percent during that period. People remained the industry leader with sales of 3.7 million.

The formula is fairly simple. Stars must be seen falling in and out of love, cheating or being cheated on, dieting or blimping up, bouncing back or melting down. Weddings, divorces, pregnancies, births, drug problems and rehab stints are huge. The problem is that the two dozen or so first-name luminaries whose faces move magazines -- Paris and Lindsay and Britney and Nicole and their boyfriends and ex-boyfriends -- can stir up only so much intrigue week after week. So some of the magazines take liberties.

"It's clear what the editorial agenda is -- to spin fantasy under the illusion of news," Min says.


It's breathtaking that A) the numbers are that high for these pubs, and 2) Janice Min admits that what she does is spin gold fantasy from celebrity straw.

Read the entire story, it's fascinating.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

May 27, 2007: Valley of the Dolls Goes to Jail

As if prisons aren't overcrowded enough, now it's possible that the cast of Valley of the Dolls 2007 (Paris, Lindsay, and Nicole) might be headed to the pokey. Not content to let Paris and Nicole get all the attention with their DUI's-or Britney with her head-shave-meltdown- Lindsay got behind the wheel of a car on Sunset Boulevard at 5 A.M. Don't we all know by now that no good can come of that?

She's in trouble. Fleeing the scene of an accident, coke allegedly found in her car and a possible DUI, which now puts her a few charges ahead of the others. She's under 21, too.

Are they ALL going to the hoos gow, the pokey, the slammer? If so, will they bring the jails down, too? There's a phrase used in AA meetings: a drunk will get you drunker quicker than you will get her sober. With a mother like Dina Lohan, you might need some room in your cell, too, L-girl.

Someone wrote the following letter on TMZ. It doesn't seem far off if you ask me:

Don't worry baby, we can get another vodka, or a tequila company to sponser your party. This wasn't your fault, and THEY know it!!! And if Hollywood has a hissy fit over this little stuff, we'll just have your party in Columbia. Love, Mommy

Advice to LA County jail inmates: good luck and when Lindsay wants to borrow your cold medicine, lighter, and/or car, JUST SAY NO.

To Lindsay: a new GEORGIA RULE! Take Jane Fonda's generous offer that she's made in the media for weeks now and stay curled in Barbarella's arms until you grow up.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

May 26, 2007: Rosie vs. Elizabeth Celebri-spiral and Act Out Our Feelings in the Process

Did you see the fight between Elizabeth Hasselback and Rosie O'D on The View this week? It pains me to say two things:

1) As much as Rosie seems over the top much of the time, I see nothing strange in what she said or did. She asked Elizabeth to clarify something, which Elizabeth chose not to do. Instead, Elizabeth lost her temper, a fact few are noting. I agree with Rosie 100%.

2) Two celebrities fighting on opposites sides of Iraq war strategy - it goes without saying that both support the troops! - actually help us get our feelings out in the open. Sad, sad, sad. Two famous women express the bitter divide that many of us don't take let out enough. Two celebrities acted this out for us and we got to vicariously experience, and perhaps either deepen or release, some strong emotions about the U.S. led Iraq war.

Perhaps if more of us had this kind of debate with those close to us, or around us, or even with strangers via a blog, we wouldn't care so much about the latest drama on The View, which happens during sweeps week, the celebri-spiraling blogger cynically notes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

May 25, 2007: American Idol Coronation

America celebri-spiraled this week over the coronation of Jordin Sparks as the new American Idol.

Will we celebri-spiral over her? So far, so good. I know nothing about her personal life except a couple of minor tidbits. But her talent came across in a big way. We'll see what happens.

The show itself was designed to wreak every emotion out of you; fear, excitement, projection of star-making fantasies, joy, sadness, sentiment...and then after every former Idol sang, and Tony Bennett as the old man graced the stage, out came Bette Midler, and the wind beneath her wings, to make sure we were drained of every tear.

Jordin is just 17. I hope she, and the people around her, are careful about not falling into the celebri-spiralish trappings of fame.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

May 24, 2007: Al Gore Takes on Diane Sawyer for Celebri-spiraling

I loved Al Gore's critique of Diane Sawyer's GMA interview this week. He started it by saying to her, "Listen to your questions..." Hysterical.

When she asked him about the other personalities in the race, he replied, "That's not what this is about."

Sawyer admitted she was doing what Gore condemns, comparing the Presidential run to a horse race: "Not to fall into your thesis that the press only wants the horserace of a political campaign, but--"

"But back to the horserace," Gore mocked.

"But back to the horserace!," Sawyer replied, with no trace of sheepishness.

Then she went after his weight after promising to "dig deeper."

"At my peril here, I just want to say one more time. Donna Brazille, your former campaign manager, says 'if he drops 25 to 30 pounds, he's running.' Lost any weight?," Diane asked.

Gore laughed, but you could tell he was annoyed. "I think millions of Americans are in the same struggle I am on that one," he responded, right before he launched into his counter-offensive.

"But listen to your questions. The horserace, the cosmetic parts of this -- look, that's all understandable and natural. But while we're focused on Britney and K-fed and Anna Nicole Smith and all this stuff, meanwhile, very quietly, our country has been making some very serious mistakes that could be avoided if we, the people, including the news media, are involved in a full and vigorous discussion of what our choices are."

Way to go Al! I like him more and more for his bluntness. And, of course, for taking on celebri-spiraling questions from someone who really should know better but doesn't (Diane, Diane, Diane...what are we going to do with you?).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

May 23, 2007: A Celebri-spiral Cry for Help. Guest Blog from LG

Celebri-spiral reader LG is the guest blogger this week. She writes about the photo that caused a thousand celebri-spirals:

"I am not ashamed of my celebrity addiction. There is just something about them being in Cannes this week that put me over the edge. It's such a frenzy, but way more classy than these events that go down in LA. Cannes is all so Jackie O. I had to force myself not to look at more pics today on a A Socialite's Life. Gah.

I've never had much of a reaction to Brangelina. I always thought he peaked after Thelma and Louise (which was pretty early in the career ... as in, the very beginning), and my elephant's memory will never forget when Angie dated Billy Bob Thornton and carried around a vial of his blood. That's just crazy.

And this adoption and philanthropy business ... all well and good, and they sort of get a check mark for doing their human duty to help those less fortunate than themselves (i.e. everyone).

But maybe it was those photos of them doing mundane family things, playing at the beach, dropping the kids off at school, eating lunch together, and so on, that has made me see them as people. Because now, when I see the glamour that is this power couple, I suddenly realize all at once that 1) they are our royalty, and 2) I want that life.

In this picture, they are not trying too hard, or acting unstable, or looking desperate or outdated, like they got off the Hollywood treadmill and no one really cares anymore. Even her tattoos are somehow working. Like she's saying, 'I'm a gorgeous mom who has settled down, but I have a hot past, and someday when you're a teenager and effing up, I'll share some of my own stories with you and you'll realize I lived my life to the fullest.'

I can't take it."

Thanks, LG. You speak for all of us this week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May 22, 2007: Celebri-spiraling on the Flight to Las Vegas for Work

Flying for work today, and we know what that means in addition to prepping to do my job. It means a flurry of newspapers, magazines, USA Today headlines, CNN crawls, and the like, probably 50% of which was devoted to celebrities.

What did I learn in the mere airport-and-flight-time-of-seven-hours?

  • Britney, headed to Miami from LA to lip sync four songs wearing a variety of wigs while promoting a "comeback," actually made the pilot stop the plane so she could get off. Her reason? The plane didn't have leather seats.
  • Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake broke up but is there still tension? The news correspondent who analyzed their quick peck on the cheek at the Shrek 3 premiere seemed to think so.
  • Lindsay Lohan might have been doing drugs and it might have been captured on video and she might be upset and a little sorry about it and her friends who leaked it might actually be worried about Lindsay and that's the reason they ratted their friend out. Oh, scratch that last one. The 15 minutes, the money, the "fame by association;" those are the reasons we see so many "friends and family of.." coming forth these days.
  • Gossip blogger Perez Hilton gets 2 millions hits a day on his site, has three million dollar lawsuits pending against him, and blogs all day in the Los Angeles Coffee Bean and Teaf Leaf. USA Today calls him influential, while he crowns himself the "Oprah Book Club" of music. This is probably, sadly true.
  • Candy Spelling wrote letters of admonition to headed-to-the-hoos-gow Paris Hiton and Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, already in the pokey. Who next Candy? All I can do is agree with Amy Poehler, who looked at your picture and claimed, "White wine. Making housewives insane for two hundred years now."
  • Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria said her TV wedding would be bigger than TV's iconic Luke and Laura nuptials. Ego much?
  • Oprah's dad is writing a book on her and she found out about it from a New York Daily News reporter. She is upset. I don't blame her. Why would he do this? He can't possibly need the money.
  • David Hasselhoff got the kids in the custody disputes, despite his videotaped drunken burger chomping episode. Hmmm, something's fishy with the wife, who has been on Larry King now twice with scandalicious lawyer Debra Opri, who just billed Larry Birkhead $600 g's before being canned as his rep.
  • Amy and Joey are at it still. Joey was spotted frolicking in the pool with his soon to be divorced wife. Amy says the woman is "history." Note to Joey's ex: given the history here, believe Amy when she speaks. Now Mary Jo is on Larry King tonight and CNN is promoting the hell out of it. They are really looking for an Anna Nicole ratings replacement.
  • Brangelina dominated the Cannes film fest. Sorry Sharon Stone. Someone stole your glamor crown, though you certainly took over the limelight at this film fest post Madonna and pre Angie. Brad and Angie are impossibly attractive, now with an enviable home life to boot. More on this tomorrow.
Do I need to know any of this? What do I do? Look away when I see or hear trival celebrity news?

Monday, May 21, 2007

May 21, 2007: No, No, No, No! No More Amy and Joey! It's like Stepping Back Into Celebri-spiral Hell!

No, no, no, no, no! Not Amy and Joey kissing! Not more Amy and Joey! Why isn't he in jail still? Why isn't she? What are they thinking? Do they miss their tacky fame that much? Do they really want to subject us to their craziness like it's 1992 all over again and we're watching poor Mary Jo with a bullet in her brain try to deal with these two bozos? Will we let them?

Apparently, the answer is yes since this Amy Joey reunion story and gross photo is running across the world today.

I promise that I am only running this one clip as a service to you. It's not for me. I will avoid all future stories about them someway, somehow.

But better you see this shocking photo and hear the news here first before the tabloid coverage assaults you in the grocery checkout line.

OK, I feel a little better. As long as I am doing a social good by running this, it's OK.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

May 20, 2007: Farrah on the Celebri-spiral Radar

Today is one of those bummer celebri-spiral days when I know I shouldn't feel overly sad about someone I don't know. After all, there's plenty going on with the people I do know, and I try to be attentive to them.

Still, I'm sorry to hear that Farrah's cancer is back. She's an icon (30 years later, she still draws out attention.); an angel (I just bought (Charlie's Angels Season I on DVD, which makes me flashback to 1976. Watching that show makes me remember what was personally happening for me at the time. Strange, I know.); and a media phenomenon (who didn't have that poster? Even gay men had that poster.)

But she also seems like a nice, if slightly goofy, person, with a good heart. As I watched the entertainment media reporters discussing her condition today, I picked up on genuine concern, as opposed to the fake concern, which they've mastered.

If you had to choose the family of celebrities who are on your emotional radar, i.e. the ones you care about personally, who are they?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19, 2007: Celebri-spiraling in the World of Sports and Politics

Lest you forget that celebri-spiraling exists outside the arena of entertainment, these two cases have shocked the nation and made us realize how addictive celebrity soap operas can be in the worlds of sports and politics, too:

Drama at Landis Doping Hearing - bitter backstabbing behind the scenes of global bicycling! Greg Lemond is threatened by Landis' manager who says he'll reveal Lemond's childhood sexual abuse if he testifies at a hearing on steroids.

We never really considered the personal lives of these people before this. How long before we see this idea stolen and portrayed on Law and Order? I'd say three weeks.

Sick Ashcroft pressed to approve domestic spying' - Forget the Pelican Brief. Dynasty or Dallas could not have come up with a more heart-racing political thriller than what happened when John Ashcroft was in the hospital, having passed off his Attorney General authority to his deputy, as White House minions raced to his bedside to take advantage of his ill state and pressure him into signing papers for the President.

Friday, May 18, 2007

May 18, 2007: Ashley Judd in Celebri-spiral Recovery

When Ashley Judd received treatment for depression, it looks like they also treated the pervasive addiction that some celebrities must have for their own fame:

"I had to hit a bottom. It's like when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing." So says Ashley Judd, discussing the 47-day stay she spent in a Texas treatment facility last year to recover from a longtime bout of depression. The actress looks back on that healing time in the issue of Entertainment Weekly that hits stands Friday — in which she also says that one way she copes with the negatives of fame is to steer clear of the tabloids. "I have a really firm slogan now that it's none of my business what people think of me."

I am glad to hear her talk about this issue. She's a great actress who's doing much good in the world with her feminist activism and AIDS awareness outreach. But while hers is one side of celebrity depression, there's another, equally problematic celebri-spiraling side.

There's the depression that celebrities themselves must feel, faced with a purported need to stay in the press in order to be validated. Their agents and managers foster this I am sure; but for the person, what does that do to your soul? You take a person who's probably insecure to start with, overlay the need to now amp up the level of attention they need on a daily basis, and then tie it both to their self esteem and career.

Then there's the depression that celebri-spiralers face. Immersion in celebrity tabloid culture fosters impossible cycles of comparing-despairing (I'm not good enough), celebrity envy (I want Gwen Stefani's $4,000 baby carriage, Oprah's five houses, and John Travolta's fleet of airplanes), unrealistic expectations (If only I was famous, I'd have no problems like the happy people on the award show red carpet), and a confusing relationship with healthy escape (how much immersion into the lives of people I don't know is too much?).

Is there any question that there's a direct relationship between booming celebrity culture and the rise of Prozac?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17, 2007: Riddle Me This, Celebri-spiral Spoiler

This comes from Cathleen, the Celebri-spiral™ official spoiler™, who runs Sporadic™:

Digg did not father Anna Nicole's Baby
Inserted myself at the nexus of pop culture, tech news and social media and linked together two of my favorite bloggers: Dave Singleton,
Celebri-Spiral and Steve Rubel, Micro Persuasion.

I once used to talk to Cathleen live, but now only interface with her in the shadowy world of virtual Gotham. She combines a fascination with productivity mixed with pop culture.

Read her post today and her Alec Baldwin PowerPoint rant (in which productivity and celebrity culture collide, spurred on by a voicemail rant), and check out MicroPersuasion, which speaks to how technology is revolutionizing everything.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May 16, 2007: iPod Phone vs. Anna Nicole Death. It's a Celebri-spiral Throwdown!

AnnaThanks to Cathleen for sending me a link to Celebrities Dominate, But Not on Digg. Pop culture early adopters showed their strength over tabloid junkies. Woo hoo! Check it out:

It never ceases to amaze me just how much we love celebrities. Even the wide river of non-gossip bloggers. However, on digg they like tech a whole lot more. PC Magazine ran an interesting chart in their latest issue that measures this. They tracked the buzz around the death of Anna Nicole Smith and compared it to the launch of the iPhone. Anna trumped Apple in Google searches, blog posts and news stories by a wide margin. But the iPhone walloped Anna on digg.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 15, 2007: Making Friends with "Friends"

Tonight on CNN"s Showbiz Tonight, there's a segment on how our brains are wired to connect, including with celebrities. Showbiz Tonight's A.J. Hammer report uses the example of how the cast of Friends do seem like friends, and how our brains are full of these characters, both those we know personally and those we feel we know through media.

This faux connection with celebrities is a huge part of the reason why we celebri-spiral.

The science and psychology behind this concept is fascinating, isn't it? Basically, were we ever really meant to live and experience life outside of what psychologists call our "realm of influence;" I.e. those we know personally and can see and hear live instead of on a TV show or in a magazine?

Monday, May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007: File This Under the "...And He Would Know" Category

Celebrity and crime writer Dominick Dunne speaks on the industry that's made him a household name. Larry King recently asked him about why coverage of certain people, especially wayward young female celebs, is raging out of control like a brush fire.

KING: But how did we get to this?

DUNNE: How do we get to it? Well, we are in the most celebrity-mad phase in the history of our country.

KING: Tabloids add to it?

DUNNE: Absolutely.

KING: Does "Vanity Fair" add to it?

DUNNE: Sadly, yes, but not primarily.

There, from the horse's mouth, more proof of the celebri-spiraling concept. Mr. Dunne, over 80, has seen a lot and made a living off of celebrity culture for a few decades, including from the forenamed Vanity Fair. So if he thinks this is the most celebrity-mad phase in the history of our country, that's credible.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

May 13, 2007: Celebrity Quotes that Make Us Celebri-spiral

You have to hand it to VH1. They are owning the celebrity tabloid TV market (sorry E! Channel) with some shows that spoof celebrity culture (Best Week Ever) and others that celebrate it blindly.

The newest addition is VH1's 40 Dumbest Celeb Quotes, and frankly, I am not sure which of the two categories this one falls under.

On the one hand, spotlighting quotes like the following seems, in and of itself, like a spoof.

But on the other hand, it's not. They happened. The media covered them and we lapped them up, in blind, if not dumb, celebration.

Here are a few in all their glory:

The Blondes

  • Jessica Simpson - "Is this chicken what I have, or is this fish? I know it's tuna but it says Chicken, by the Sea"
  • Tara Reid - "I make Jessica Simpson look like a rock scientist"
  • Paris - "What's Walmart, do they sell like wall stuff?"
  • Alicia Silverstone - "I think that the film "Clueless" was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness."
The Leaders
  • George Bush - "Too many obgyn's aren't able to practice their love with women across this country."
  • Arnold Schwarzanegger - "I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."
  • Bill Clinton - "If I were a single man, I might ask that mummy out. That's a good-looking mommy."
The Geographically-Challenged
  • Britney Spears - "I get to go overseas places, like Canada"
  • Christina Aguilera - "So, where's the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?"
  • Dan Quayle - "I love California. I grew up in Phoenix."
And The Truly Bizarre
  • David Hasselfhoff - "I find it a bid sad that there is no photo of me at the museum at Checkpoint Charlie."
  • R.Kelly - "All of a sudden you're like the Bin Laden of America. Osama Bin Laden is the only one who knows what I'm going through."
  • Brooke Shields - "Smoking kills, and if you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
They made us laugh, they made us shake our heads and feel perhaps slightly superior, and, most importantly, they made us pay attention to those who said them. So maybe VH1's next show should be called VH1's Dumbest Celebri-spiraling Viewers.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

May 12, 2007: $600 Diaper Bag Marketed with Celebrity Envy

Just what new moms need to know. As if struggling to manage home, finances, and new baby isn't enough!

Featured in In Style magazine, the new baby diaper bag (Angelina & Tori Gaga for Same Diaper Bag) is the latest celebrity envy-inducing product to grace the pages of yet another endlessly materialistic glossy. Hey, it only costs $600. That's affordable for the average reader of In Style, no?

As reported by TMZ:

In between Angie saving the world and Tori opening a Bed and Breakfast, both ladies recently picked up Hammitt's $600 Suzy leather diaper bag. No Babies "R" Us for these mamacitas! StyleChic's Aly Scott tells TMZ that Angelina got hers in Oscar-winning black, while Tori opted for one in a more reality show appropriate hue.

And once diaper-changing days are over for these hot mamas, the plush pouch doubles as a stylish travel duffel. Which will be perfect for all of Angelina's Third World jaunts and Tori's trips to day spas in the 90210!

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 11, 2007: Human RSS Feeds for Celebri-spiralers

Today's post is inspired by PR-maven Suzanne, who's come up with a new term for those who race to celebri-spiralers like us with the latest celeb-news. The term is Human RSS Feeds, and it's a spin on the direct news feeds that every major media outlet offers. It's fitting. Don't celebri-spiralers, in one way or another, train those close to us to give us what we want?

The question is why do they do it? Co-dependent enabling? Overeagerness to please? In Suzanne's case, is it that she's the mom and they want parental approval? Suzanne says she's trained her kids to rush to her with celebrity news, as if she's not already on it! In fact, our group of friends races to email each other with celebrity scoops, and Suzanne usually wins.

I think she's set the bar high for the kids in some scary, celeb-hued Mommie Dearest take-off, in which mother says sternly, plainly to child, "You will never, ever beat Mommy at getting the latest celeb-gossip. But you must try, Christina, try! Compete with US Magazine alerts and TMZ!"

Writes Suzanne (and I paraphrase) about a typical morning in which The Today Show was on in the background at around 7:30 A.M. as the family readied for their day, and daughter Ellie needed to relay celeb-news to Mom.

"Ellie came running in, saying 'Mom, on TV they just showed a clip from Sound of Music and then one from Mary Poppins back to back....'

I cut her off, pushed her aside trying to get to the TV while wondering aloud, 'Oh my god, has something happened to Julie Andrews?!'

It's funny where my mind went immediately. As I wondered if Julie had died, I thought of the other possibilities. Could it be: A) new book, B) some charity rah rah, C) an early Shrek 3 promo, or D) her death announcement. I shrieked at the possibility that it might be #4. In truth, it was # 1.

Maybe it's just an itching for some delicious celebri-tragedy served with your oatmeal? I know when I hear anyone even say "Charl" as in Charlie or Charleston, South Caroline, I immediately assume it's the death announcement of very ill actor Charlton Heston, Mr. N.R.A. himself. Some newscaster is coming on to say that Moses has finally fallen like a tablet off the earth mount."

I'm sure that, when Mr. H. finally does pass, Ellie and thousands of other human RSS feeds will get to work, informing their respective celebri-spiralers of the breaking news.

How many of us have Human RSS feeds? Who's yours?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10, 2007: Wikipedia and Celebrity Culture

Have you seen the wikipedia entry for celebrity culture? It's so encompassing and polarizing a topic that it's hard to define.

But I like this excerpt about the rise of celebrity culture:

One possible explanation of this trend is that an artificial importance has been created in order to promote a product or a service, rather than to record a purely biographical event. As more new products are launched in a world market that is constantly expanding, the need for more celebrities has become an industry in itself.

Another explanation, used by Chuck Palahniuk, is that this exaggeration of modern celebrity culture is created out of a need for drama and spectacle. In the book Haunted, he describes the pattern of creating a celebrity as a god-like figure, and once this image is created, the desire to destroy it and shame the individual in the most extreme ways possible. Tabloid magazines are the prototype example of this theory.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

May 9, 2007: Oprah on Larry King Causes Unusual Type of Celebri-spiral

If you dislike fawning, then run, don't walk, to the Blog exit.

I saw Oprah interviewed by Larry King for his 50th anniversary celebration.

I'm writing about it because, while watching, I celebri-spiraled in an unusual way. Instead of feeling conflicted over watching a celeb on his show, I was impressed with how inspirational she is, launching a school for girls in Africa and new projects aimed at boosting child predator laws. I felt like I can't possibly do enough, like Oprah does.

Disclaimer: no, I don't know what Oprah's really like, or what her bad habits are. She has them. We all do. Nor are celebrities the best role models. That moniker is reserved in my mind for many an unsung hero; a caring teacher, selfless parent, and anyone who acts on behalf of evolution-personal, social, spiritual, scientific....I know all this.

Despite my celebri-spiral conflict, I am the first to say, "Don't put celebrities on pedestals. It's a huge celebri-spiral mistake."

Still, I watched with a mixture of feeling-great-about-Oprah
as uber-celeb Ms. Winfrey spoke in the contagious language of vision and positive energy. There's a great poem from Emily Dickinson called "I dwell in possibility." I have the saying Dwell in Possibility on my refrigerator. It's a profound thought for me, and for some reason, Oprah embodies and expresses that idea.

On the show, Oprah made a few comments that fit with my celebri-spiral theme:

Without dismissing celebrity culture, or her very clear role in fostering it, she said,
"Celebrities are great and fun and all, but the real stories from real people are most important."

She spoke of her dream legacy that far surpasses TV fame: "I want to have changed the laws, the laws, state by state, for child predators in this country. That's what I want to have done. And I won't be satisfied until that is done. I want the laws to change because you know, every time we are outraged as a citizenry and as a country. All over the world people are upset when a child is snatched, when somebody goes into somebody's house, you know, and molests a child, kills a child. It's inconceivable. But every time it happens people say, oh, we're outraged, it shouldn't happen, the law, he should have been put in jail, he should have been able to stay in jail. Well, I want to change that. So that's my big goal. So no, I'm not even kind of done. I haven't even gotten started."

She talked about how celebrities can and should add value to the world through their fame platform that's handed to them: "I've got a great platform. And you were asking me the question about clout. What's the point of clout if you can't do something with it?"

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

May 8, 2007: The Celebri-spiraling Petitions to Pardon Paris

Since Ms. Hilton has called her jail sentence "unfair," her fans are posting petitions on pardonparis.com and freeparishilton, urging The Governator Schwarzenegger to free the heiress.

"I feel that I was treated unfairly and that the sentence is both cruel and unwarranted and I don't deserve this," Hilton told photographers assembled outside her home Saturday.

The latter petition, which had more than 1800 signatures by Tuesday afternoon, urges the California action star/governor to pardon Hilton because "She provides hope for young people all over the U.S. and the world. She provides beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives. "

Ouch. Yuck. Blech. Is your life mundane enough to require her?

As I read this, I can't help but think of the new book The Secret, which claims that we conjure up the events in our lives. Why exactly did we conjur her? And don't give me the two-second answer. Let's really think about this. The key to celebri-spiraling could be found here.

But for now, back to the petitions, which pull out the stops. I have to give them that. Another excerpt:

"If the late former President Gerald Ford could find it in his heart to pardon the late former President Richard Nixon after his mistake(s), we undeniably support Paris Hilton being pardoned for her honest mistake as well, and we hope and expect the governor will understand and grant this unusual but important request in good faith to Ms. Paris Whitney Hilton."

Well, sirs and madams, I knew Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was a friend of mine. Paris Whitney Hilton is no Richard Nixon.

Monday, May 7, 2007

May 7, 2007: Hillary and the Celebri-spiraling Age of Denial

Like everyone else I know, I've been pondering the 2008 Presidential race as it were to be held tomorrow.

No, in fact, it will not be held for a year and a half. But that hasn't stopped us from making bets on front runners. That's what I did with Crannie this weekend, ironically the same weekend that horse racing kicked off its season with The Kentucky Derby.

I called that race (Street Sense!), and wonder if I'll have the same luck with the future leader of the free world.

It's hard to know where any of them stand, since the only true issue on the table seems to be the Iraq war. This despite the fact that our domestic policies are in crisis, as we ignore topics ranging from national education standards to the U.S. lack of self-reliance on finances, oil and..well, just about everything.

Today I quit talking and jumped into the 2008 Presidential race with both feet and wallet, measured by my first donation to Hillary. Also on this day, Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, got press for his latest Editor's Letter.

This preview comes from Liz Smith in today's New York Post:

Depressing but enlightening: Graydon Carter in Vanity Fair for June, citing how we have entered the Age of Denial. His most interesting example is high gossip! - "Democratic steamroller Hillary Clinton is in denial over the rumored, er, friskiness of her husband, Bill. If journalists are aware of this apparent friskiness, you can be damned sure Karl Rove and the Republican intelligence machine knows about it, too . . . (Should Clinton get the nomination) . . . they can grind her campaign into the gutter with all the lurid specifics."

Lurid specifics, indeed. Everyone I know is judging the candidates on the specifics of their personal lives, and the assumed strength or weakness quotients of those near and dear:

  • Hillary has Bill as an unprecedented pro, as well as a possible con if eagled-eyed political operatives and tabloid spies, both trained in the School of Dirt, discover indiscretions.
  • John Edwards has Elizabeth and her health issues.
  • Barack Obama has the floating balloon of untested goodwill, based on a limited track record, that could burst into the Hindenburg with the first misstep.
  • Rudy Guiliani has third wife Judi Nathan, kids who speak out publicly against him, and the ghost of Donna Hanover.
  • Mitt Romney has a chronically ill wife.
  • John McCain has unsteady health and a second wife who seems reticent about the spotlight.
We may very well be in what Graydon refers to as the "age of denial."

But what we're really denying is not the candidates' perceived ability to see themselves through the brutally laid-bare media window through which others view them.

The true denial is that we're content political celebri-spiralers. When will the focus switch to issues, and new ones at that?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

May 6, 2007: Celebri-spiral Does Not Pass Go or Collect $200. Instead, Paris Goes to Jail

Jail is sooooooo not hot.

If good taste, lack of sense, and outlandish superegos were criminal offenses, Paris Hilton would have gone to jail a long time ago. But they are not. Sadly, these crimes aren't punishable by law.

As a society, we could decide to deem them unacceptable, and then the celebrity tabloid business would go under, as our social intelligence quotient recovers.

But will we? Not today, at least it doesn't look likely.

Instead, just like it took a tax error to land Al Capone in the pokey, it's taken probation violation and too much booze for a judge to rule that Paris will head to Los Angeles County Jail for 45 days on June 5th.

Well, if she broke several laws and ignored all the rules, shouldn't she?

Justice is served. And that's hot.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

May 5, 2007: The Queen Vs. Celebri-spiraling! It's a Death Match

Ladies and gentleman, I give you a Queen. No, not just a queen. The Queen. As in England. As in the only Queen anyone cares about.

Forget Elton John, the gays in Castro, Queen Noor, Helen Mirren, and even Queen Amidala from Star Wars.

The real Queen is gracing us with her presence this week in Virginia, to commemorate the anniversary of Jamestown.

Royals make us celebri-spiral, it's true. But the Queen faces smaller crowds and ruder questions than in years past.

Yes, the Queen in the age of tabloids is not allowed to remain as untouchable as she was, my dear subjects. She's faced all sorts of questions this trip, such as:

"Why did Prince William break up with Kate?" "Did you hate Princess Diana?" "What did you think of that movie about you?"

In the last 20 years, this Queen has faced scandal, rumor, the "Diana explosion," and her family dragged through the royal mud.

But she endures, regal as ever. She is a survivor. Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is simple sport compared with the changing of the world guard (i.e. the new, invasive, celebri-spiraling media) that this Queen has experienced in her lifetime.

When it comes to the final match, don't bet against this Queen. She has us all down for the count.

Friday, May 4, 2007

May 4, 2007: Edith Wharton and The Age of Celebri-spiraling

I avoided news and celebrity drivel today-no minor feat. Instead, I turned my attention to the life of Edith Wharton, arguably one of the great 20th century writers on culture, manners, and social convention. I spent quite a while skimming An American Original: A comprehensive life of Edith Wharton, the sharp-eyed chronicler of high society by Hermione Lee.

What would Ms. Wharton think of today's celebrity-driven culture, where fame eclipses all rules of social engagement? Certainly, as the well-brought up woman who married then divorced in scandal, she faced her own contradictions, as the book duly notes:

As a result, secrecy, privacy, a sense of being a misfit or foundling child became one of her main subjects, along with a sense of the tragedy of lives unfulfilled, revealing her idea of her father, and perhaps of herself, at least until her sexual awakening 20 years after her marriage.

Well, that's certainly a lifestyle that today's celebs can get behind! If she'd been alive today, perhaps she would have written The Age of Celebri-spiraling. That's why this quote from Edith Wharton is particularly prescient, while shaking up her image a bit:

'If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time."

Thursday, May 3, 2007

May 3, 2007: Why Don't We Care About This Celebrity Trial?

Why don't we care about the Phil Spector murder trial?

It has all the requisite elements that usually make us celebri-spiral; money, drugs, sex, fame. And yet, it's not stimulating a fractional level of interest that the Robert Blake trial spurred a few years ago.

Is the crazy-haired producer guilty of murdering actress Lana Clarkson, a made up Hollywood name if there ever was one? The 67-year-old Spector, who's produced everyone from Aretha to the Ronnettes, denies murdering Clarkson with a single gunshot at his Los Angeles mansion four years ago.

Are we just a fickle, celebrity-driven culture that doesn't even understand why it picks and chooses which celeb-travails to obsess over? The answer is obvious.

Sorry, Phil. If there was a Court TV version of American Idol (
Court Idol?), you'd be voted off.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

May 2, 2007: Celebri-spiraling Without Makeup!

Somehow, videos like this, that show celebs in their natural, untouched state, balance the airbrushed, overly polished, and glam shots that make us feel like we can't possibly compare to the Gods and Goddesses of Hollywood.

The feeling isn't schadenfreude as much as it's relief, as if the unattainable just might be closer than you think. Or possibly, that you don't need to feel so bad when you're hanging out in your sweats.

OK, OK, some of them would be stunning after running a marathon or when they're exhausted. But for most, without Photoshop, kind and sensitive cinematographers, and the Zone Diet, where would they be?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

May 1, 2007: Bob Mould's Take on Fame and Sycophants

Don't know who Bob Mould is? Don't be surprised. He's a DJ and writer whose latest piece on Fame and Sycophants is on the D.C. City paper, for which he writes a column called Ask Bob.

On the one hand, I read it and thought, "I could see writing this if I am Angelina Jolie, chased down the street by hundreds of paparazzi and known in every country. Why Bob Mould?" But on the other hand, Bob makes some very good points, for the uber famous as well as for the sorta famous. Here's his take, which is worth thinking about in our fame and celebrity-driven culture:

I have always wanted to ask you about what it is like to become famous without seeking it. How did you deal with that when you were younger, and what would you recommend to talented artists finding themselves in an awkwardly “famous” spot?—Michael King, New Jersey

You are the company you keep. I have noticed, during busy or high-water periods in my career, that I am approached by people who may be interested in associating with me; to what end, sometimes I can’t discern. Usually, we share nothing of interest or value. It’s good to remember who your true friends are and to try not to let notoriety or fleeting success interfere with those friendships. There is a big difference between friends and sycophants.

Humans enjoy validation. We want approval and recognition of a job well done. I believe most people who acquire fame are true to their hearts; but when one listens to the wrong people saying the right things for the wrong reason, it is usually the beginning of the end. If you stay true to your work, your friends, and your heart, fame can be an enjoyable experience. And when it’s over, you’re still left with work, friends, and heart. If you trade them away for something less permanent, you might never get them back.