Fame is a fickle mistress 0



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I read a story recently about a young man who had just scored what was little more than a walk-on role in a third rate TV soap and he went on and on about how he had “prepared” himself for the role, about how excruciatingly difficult it was to “create a character that was believable” and how “emotionally draining both before and after” the whole experience had been.

At first, I thought I was reading some spoof, a satire about the pretensions of would-be actors but it was real. It was in one of those magazines about alleged celebrities and I read it at the dentist.

I was reminded of the 1976 movie, “Marathon Man” starring, among others a young Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. Hoffman said years later that he had come to the set looking particularly haggard one day and Olivier asked him what had happened. Hoffman said that the character he was playing was supposed to have been up for three days and three nights so he that is what he actually did. Olivier, the greatest actor of the 20th century, responded, “Why don’t you just try acting?”

The cult of celebrity is nothing new. When Rudolph Valentino, the heart throb of the silent movie era, died aged 31 in 1926 at the height of his career, more than 100,000 people – mostly hysterical female fans – lined New York streets to view his funeral procession.

But as with almost everything else, the cult of celebrity is now more transient. In that same magazine, I read of some kid who was being hailed as “the next Justin Bieber”. Poor Justin, I thought, how awful it must be to be considered a has-been at the age of 22.

There is a never-ending list of one hit wonders in music.

Do you remember these songs from the Australian hit parade? “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles in 1979, “I Wanna Wake Up with You” by Boris Gardiner in 1987 and “Sucker DJ” by Dimples D in 1991. All made it to Number One and these artists were never heard from again.

Some people of a certain age seem drawn to concerts composed of a line-up of the stars from yesteryear. Watching former pop stars wheezing out a song they made famous in the 1960s or 1970s allows golden oldies to recall their youth and is harmless fun.

I’ve even known some to drag their grandchildren along and make really interesting remarks to them like, “I took your grandmother to his concert before we were even married” which I’m sure provokes reactions of the sort of “Yeah, sure” comment. Frankly, it is a form of child abuse and my advice to the grandkiddies is to presents gramps and grandma with tickets to the next “hardcore punk” or “Death Metal” performance of whatever their favourite music genre happens to be.

Elvis Presley who had talent and durability once confessed, “I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.”

Try getting the next big thing in music – the new Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift – to make a similar admission and they would be mightily offended since they are true artistes who suffer to create.

Ms Swift must be worrying about her future as she is now 26 which is practically elderly in the pop music game. Mind you, Madonna is 57 and still packing them but she has had the good sense to re-invent herself again and again. The same can be said of Elton John who is 69 but he has talent by the truck-load.

The Rolling Stones, formed in 1962, are still going and I expect they will soon appear on stage propped up by walking frames as they hurtle towards their 80s.

And there is a long list of one hit wonders in the acting profession.

Remember Linda Blair whose performance in “The Exorcist” at the age of 14 earned her an Oscar nomination in 1973 when she was 14? She commented later that her career “went down faster than the Titanic”. She’s now 57 and in the 1980s created a record for getting four “Golden Raspberry Awards” for “worst actress”.

Then there is Brandon Routh, now only 36, who made quite a splash portraying Clark Kent/Superman in “Superman Returns” in 2006. Today, it is Brandon who?

Our very own Paul Hogan, now 76, catapulted to stardom in “Crocodile Dundee” in 1986. The sequel was critically ravaged while the pathetic third version went straight to video. Truly, he was a one-hit wonder but even those nostalgic about “Crocodile Dundee” have stayed away in droves from his later movies.

In 1990, American R Stevie Moore released an album called, “Has Beens and Never-Weres”. If you guessed that Mr Moore, now 64, has been playing in smaller and smaller venues in isolated communities since then you would be pretty right.

Perhaps he was predicting his own future?

Share your thoughts below.

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

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