Making McCelebrities
The advantages of an ever-changing menu

Artist Marcel Duchamp liked things such as bicycles and sewing machines because they are quite simple and you can't make them at home. The same principle drives celebrity culture. Calvin Klein, who invented supermodels, announced that he was giving them up in favor of musicians and actors. Clearly, with the advent of mass-marketed techniques of self-starvation, cheaply available heroin, and sophisticated cameras, anybody can become a supermodel. Musicians and actors, however, have something quite simple inside that can't be made at home -- namely, talent. This may be quite temporary, though, because karaoke and homemade movies can provide the dullest bourgeois with a simulacrum of talent, and then what?

See also...
... by Andrei Codrescu
... in the Dirt section
... from August 18, 1999

The celebrity market's problem is finding genuinely interesting people to sell, which means fresh faces every 10 seconds or so. The worlds of fashion, music, and film are incestuous and fairly small. Recycling faces and bodies can quickly get old, and once the styles sink from the runways in Milano to the aisles of WalMart, the jig is up. The only constant currency is youth. The masses want to possess everything splattered on the pages of glossies, provided, of course, that there is fresh meat in every issue.

There is also a whole new category of consumers now, nouveau-riche baby-faced cigar-chomping Republicans who make shitloads of money in the market and aren't satisfied with wanking off at pictures anymore. Instead, they are using Vogue as a telephone directory. I had a brilliant and shameless student who dropped out in his sophomore year, made $5 million in one year trading risky stocks, moved to New York and made his way through every model in Vogue until he ran out of money. He wasn't even a footnote in the gossips, but his type is by no means rare. The sycophants who lay their hands on the real thing provide the celeb-mill with a nice cushion audience and the semblance of a frenzy.

The high-end celeb market used to feed surreptitiously on tabloids, but that's long been a thing of the past. High and low are the same now: Everything has gone tabloid. The same goes for the G-string language that adorns celebrity fetishes. There is only so much tawdry gossip to keep them interesting, and only so many words to keep the beat in that gossip. Being drunk at awards, getting blow jobs from hookers, practicing bigamy, being present at suspicious suicides or murders, being a virgin, an heir, or a second-generation celeb, and being busted for drugs -- that's the whole repertoire. The high-end language for reporting these stories hasn't evolved much from the days of Louella Parsons, and the low end, well, just turn on your TV.

We like change and we like it quick. If the menu changes fast enough, we won't fall asleep and we won't be able to make it at home. If you're producing the change, your problem is finding fresh meat. If you're consuming, you can rest assured: They will get to you, eventually. You are the next fresh meat. Provided you have the tools: youth, cable TV, ten glossy-mag subscriptions, and a desire to be whatever they want you to be.

Andrei Codrescu edits Exquisite Corpse: A Journal Of Letters & Life and is the author of the novel Messi@h.