Welcome to Fantasy Island…or… The Mystery of Fame


I am often fascinated and sometimes troubled by America’s obsession with celebrity. There is something irrational about the intense, engrossing concern that so many people have for others who are extremely well known. Those who have achieved fame in professional sports or in the entertainment industry through music, films, or television seem to be at the top of the list of those whom the public idolizes. Though the talents of a sports star or actor can sometimes astonish us, we tend to lionize them as being somewhere between super-human and god-like.

Mariah Carey

The source of this deification is what interests me, though I’m not sure of its source. Does the value of worshiping celebrities (assuming there is any value at all) come from our need to daydream sometimes about being  in the limelight ourselves? Is there perhaps in most or all of us a secret desire to be lauded on a grand scale, to be a Michael Jordan, Taylor Swift, Tiger Woods, or Mariah Carey? Though the lives of admirers rarely cross the lives of the mega-famous on even the remotest levels, the mystique survives, maybe the same mystique that perpetuates such keen public interest in royalty, especially that of Great Britain, the lives of royalty being so vastly unlike those of the rest of us, as though we are from two completely separate planets.


Of course publicity is often used to further enhance the stature of celebrities so that, at last, they can become media creations like the ones from the old movie studios, like MGM and Paramount. The same adulation is rarely, if ever, offered to Nobel laureates, those who make medical or social breakthroughs that actually change the world. The greatest school teachers have never received accolades even approaching those received by professional quarterbacks. I wonder sometimes about what we really value and if, finally, entertainment doesn’t generally trump everything else. Our children being unable to name the people in history who changed the world most but able to name long lists of rap singers, pop stars, and movie idols isn’t as much the fault of public education as it is of human nature itself.

Marilyn Monroe

When fame and entertainment are joined, they become a powerful force to engage our attention and interest. The popularity of scandal sheets (disguised as newspapers) is another testimony to our fascination with the famous, whether for good deeds or bad. There is a kind of Jerry Springer appeal to the worst in us, the part that takes perverse pleasure in seeing those we envy brought down. Facebook, Twitter, the internet, cellphones, texting, and other media have rendered fame an instant commodity in our time, usually fleeting but potent nonetheless, for the time its presence is known. Driving a car through a store window can bring more renown than a brilliantly written book, and a dirty tidbit splattered across a tabloid cover about a United States senator can summon more attention faster than a military victory.


However remote fame is for most of us, we continue to watch from behind the curtain as distinction and eminence shimmer like gold dust upon those few among us whose names we know from a distance, not as much because they are very different from us as that they are “famous,” however else they may be just like us.          JB

matt damon

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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2 Responses to Welcome to Fantasy Island…or… The Mystery of Fame

  1. Randy Starewicz says:

    I think Americans CANNOT let go also…they cling to the past because it’s comfortable…What did Elvis do for mankind outside of the obvious pleasure from his music? And Marilyn Monroe? Seriously?

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