On and around yesterday's topic of nobodies:
People say everyone wants to be famous these days. Actually, I would have been more likely to say that ten years ago. But now we know that there's actually a tiny percentage of the American population that doesn't want to be famous. They're the ones who don't have a Facebook account.
The rest of us? Yeah, we want to be famous.*
In my twenties, I remember talking straight up with my wife about how I hoped to be interviewed by David Letterman one day. Shameless vanity is typical of young writers, who actually have a path, however unlikely, to some version of fame. ("The best fame is a writer's fame," Fran Lebowitz says. "It's enough to get a table at a good restaurant, but not enough to get you interrupted when you eat.")
But until the advent of Facebook, Twitter and Super Nanny, most people not named Lee Harvey Oswald couldn't imagine how they would ever become famous.
They never had the whiff of fame that 46 views of your YouTube video gives you, and unless they got up a head of steam and ran for town councilman, they lived and died without ever knowing firsthand that being known about by strangers is as fulfilling as eating cotton candy.
But these days the cotton candy is flying off the shelves, because the people who wanted to be famous all along are finding ways to feel like they're famous.
The trouble is—and I hope they will learn this—there is no such thing as being famous. There are a thousand such things.
There is having 123 Twitter followers, some of whom you have never heard of.
There is being well-known in a small and insulated circle. By that measure, I am famous, and have been for 15 years. But then, you—and only you—already knew that.
There is being well-known in a slightly larger, well-insulated circle.This is the level of fame you need to get an obituary in The New York Times, where more people learn about you upon your death than ever knew about you during your life. (I read the Times obits to meet new people.)
There are Tanya Harding, Philip Michael Thomas and Rickey Schroder. And there are the Beatles.
Thinking you want fame is like wandering into a bar and saying, "Booze, please."
The next question is, "What kind?"
* The only person who I know who does not want to be famous, even secretly and for only five minutes a month, is my wife. Sho is truculently unimpressed by fame. One afternoon some years ago well-connected movie-producer friend called to ask me what I knew about a young actress he was thinking of using in a movie. I didn't reognize the name, but I called downstairs, "Cristie, Tony's on the phone. He wants to know, do you know who Lindsay Lohan is?"
Cristie yelled back, "Oh, for Christ's sake, is Tony bringing Lindsay Lohan over for dinner?"