|HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD|
December 16, 1999
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: This isn't quite what it seems it is. It looks like one of those familiar celeb-fests, the Emmys or Oscars, stars streaming down the red carpet through a frenzied mob of fans and media hounds, our ritualistic annual orgies of fame.
SPOKESMAN: Steven Spielberg is here with you. Steven, you ruled Hollywood.
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: But this is faux fame we're looking at here, real folks, who, for a $45 ticket, can be fawned over, manhandled, and treated just like those movie and TV stars.
SPOKESMAN: Rory Calhoun, ladies and gentlemen, Rory Calhoun.
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: Welcome to Tinseltown, a New Disneyland-like theme park south of Los Angeles, an e-ride for the fame-hungry of America, who for a night can pretend to be the Celebes du jour: Bruce, or brad, or one of the Jennifers; the pick of the litter, the cream of the crop, the toast of the town. Who could ask for anything more?
WOMAN SINGING: Don't you know who I am? Remember my name fame I want to live forever...
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: It struck me, when I read about it, as an obvious and amusing way to capitalize on people's desire to be in the spotlight.
SPOKESPERSON: Can we grab a shot of this gentleman back there? He's a big star: Leonardo DiCaprio!
SPOKESMAN: Get out of here! Leo's here? (Cheers)
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: No harm done; a lot of high- spirited, good-natured fun; everybody playing along with the conceit.
SPOKESPERSON: Baby, remember more remember, remember, remember...
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: But the more I thought about it, the weirder it got; sadder; a variation on the daytime talk show theme, where people are seduced into selling their souls and baring their unseemly secrets for a few minutes in the spotlight. Jenny...
ANNOUNCER: Tomorrow on "Springer"...
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: ...Jerry... (Cheers and applause) ...Ricki: They're the rabble- rousing leaders for this national striptease, provocateurs of our national neediness.
SPOKESMAN: I'll take some of this, thanks.
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: For that matter, so are the morning talk shows, eminently more respectable, but now housed in these transparent studios where the great American public can literally come to press their noses against the glass. "Please let me in, let the camera find me, let me be famous, if only for a moment." It's supposed to be fun, these new studios. The hosts come out and mingle, all charm and chit-chat.
SPOKESMAN: I just want you to know I'm not running for anything. (Laughter)
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: But then retreat to their glass houses, leaving the audience behind to commence again their sign-waving, attention-getting dance of supplication.
PEOPLE: Thanks, Katie! Thanks, Katie.
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: "Come back, Katie." "Come back, camera! See me, hear me, bless me." All of these things seem to fan the fires of envy that flare dangerously now throughout the national landscape. We all want to be known, celebrated, famous, even for infamous things. That's the lethal underside. You can get across that glass barrier and into the camera's eye, or onto the national headlines, by doing something bad as fast, if not faster, than for doing something good. You can get fame by assassinating it in someone else, or tattling on someone famous. You can get it by blowing up your own school and killing more students than the last guy did. Just ask the kids who, in the wake of the Columbine shooting, took up arms, made plans, laid plots to blow up their own schools. The rush was on, the adrenaline of envy running. A new sweepstakes had been unofficially opened. In a recent arrest here in Southern California, a demented drifter who'd killed a nine- year-old boy in a beach restroom perked up only when told that the grisly nature of his deed would probably make him famous. He was pretty excited about that, the investigator said-- the star for the day.
SINGERS: ...To keep you near my heart...
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: Is it a huge curmudgeonly leap from murder to Tinseltown and back again? Well, yes it is. But the longing is in here, contained and giddy for the night.
MAN: I'd like to thank all of you for making this night possible. (Cheers and applause)
ANNE TAYLOR FLEMING: The longing to be someone, to be recognized, singled out from the crowd for something, anything; the longing to be fawned over, even if that fawning is fake, and one has done nothing in particular to deserve it, except show up and shell out $45 for the privilege at America's ultimate new millennial theme park. (Cheers and applause) I'm Anne Taylor Fleming.