Saturday, February 17, 2007

Celebritydom: Marilyn to Anna Nicole

“Why,” Marilyn Monroe asked half a century ago, “do they print things about me that aren’t true?”

“Because,” I answered, “pictures of you sell magazines and newspapers and, when there’s no excuse, they’ll use rumors and gossip, anything they can get.”

I was interviewing her at a crucial point in her life, March 1955, between her marriages to two cultural icons, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, when she had moved to New York to study at the Actor’s Studio.

Marilyn died in 1962 at the age of 36. Thirty years later, a blonde model, Anna Nicole Smith, posed nude for Playboy Magazine, which Hugh Hefner had started in 1953 by buying nude calendar photos of Marilyn.

Ms. Smith was, of course, tagged the “new Marilyn Monroe” and launched on a celebrity career, hampered by a lack of any discernible talent.

Performing at a Houston club, the 26-year-old stripper met 89-year-old billionaire, J. Howard Marshall, who married her and died thirteen months later.

Why am I telling you all this, when Anna Nicole Smith’s own death is now a flood of 24/7 media sewage about conflict over the cause, the paternity of her daughter (and the child’s inheritance) and custody of Ms. Smith’s cadaver?

This is not to harrumph about the good old days, when fame required something more than being well-known for well-knownness, in Daniel Boorstin’s phrase, but to get back to the subject of authenticity in public life I wrote about in “The X Factor for ’08.”

Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy, whose lives intersected, were, for better or worse, substantial people, unlike today’s mostly cardboard Presidential candidates and the shameless reality-show Paris Hilton-Donald Trump fame whores who pollute our consciousness today.

“Don’t make me into a joke,” Marilyn had pleaded in her last interview. With Anna Nicole Smith, is there any other choice?


Naomi said...

With A/N Smith, the answer is two-fold: some looked at her and think, "There but for the grace of..."; the rest looked at her as a proxy for their lackluster lives. I, doing neither, looked at her as little as possible. She was only a time-waster and a diversion from reality.

On plastic presidential contenders: I'm most concerned that the media will be toxically instrumental in choosing our next president. Is the "medium the message"? While it shouldn't be, I fear for our lazy electorate--the ones who use the media as a filter for substantial news. Short on attention and critical thinking skills, they've come to rely on the corrupted media to provide them with the decisions but without the background. Hence, the American VoteBots...

C'est triste! Am I blessed or cursed that I can remember Edward R Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Huntly&Brinkley,

MN said...

Allow me to take the opportunity to lampoon the baby-boom generation once again. One of the most selfish paranoid generations in memory.


Seriously though, those "golden years" say, 1935-1975 or so, are an anomaly. Those days of Media "balance" or substantive people saying substantive things. Look at the politicians of the 1800s, look at the media of that time or the early 1900s. They were just as sensationalist only they did not try to hide behind a veneer of "balance."

The dominance of mass media has encouraged more people to APPEAR to be cardboard cut outs and some do end up being that way, some however (and Bush comes to mind) end up being something much much worse than an empty suit. Some end up rather better.

Anyhow, I ask, what would your idea of a substantive politician look like? What would they sound like? What positions would they articulate?

Anonymous said...

I can say nothing about Anna Nicole, but I can say that Monroe was a real star! You can check some of Marilyn Monroe quotes - her soul is shown there.