Special, special, what do you get?

4 08 2013

Pressed on the topic of Hitler, Borges said that “of course I hate and loathe him. His anti-Semitism was very foolish.” This is hard to read because, although we should know better, it’s difficult to stop ourselves expecting wisdom from a person who happens to be a genius.

—Mark O’Connell

I used to believe that talented people were better people.

I wouldn’t have put it that way, back then, don’t know that I even knew I believed this, but I almost certainly did. If you were talented you were special, and if you were special, you were special all the way through.

I think this bias cuts through our celebrity culture, such that fame itself is a signifier of specialness. We want to meet, become friends with these celebrities, hoping that by virtue of being picked by someone special, we’ll become special ourselves.

I don’t want to push that too hard, not least because there’s also a knowingness about this desire, and jokes about “My boyfriend George Clooney” poke holes in the whole cloth of celebrity-dom. Still, why else would any of us who are not-famous and not-friends of the famous care enough about them to make them famous unless we though there was something more to them than [what led them to] the fame itself?

Anyway, it was well into adulthood before I even became aware of this equation, and while I’ve pretty much disabuse myself of the notion, those times that I have met famous folk (mostly actors, mostly while working at Big & National Bookstore), I’ve had to remind myself that they are just folks.

Yes, just-folks with name recognition, just-folks with talent, but when not on stage or in front of a camera, just folks, full stop.

Still, it must be said: I don’t tell my friends when I meet non-famous just-folks.

Lena Horne, 1917-2010

10 05 2010

A grande dame has died.

This, of course, is the song for which she was most famous, but I fell for Lena Horne when she was on Broadway with her show ‘The Lady and Her Music”:

I was in high school at the time and don’t recall at all how I zoomed in on this show—perhaps it was because I was theatre-mad—but I damned sure couldn’t understand all that went into that performance. The earlier version is sweet, wistful, but the later one? That required some living.

No way did a small-town teenager understand. But as much as it scared me, I wanted to.

Of course, there’s also the Ed Bradley interview—the one he said that when he gets to the gates of heaven and asked what he’d done to deserve heaven, he’d say, Check out my interview with Lena Horne.

He ain’t kidding; I can’t find the whole interview, but here’s a smidgen.

(This isn’t working as an embedded vid, but the link should work—and you should definitely click on it, because it’s the best of the three links.)

I give the last word to the woman herself, from an interview twelve years ago:

“My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

(Credits: 20th Century Fox; Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music; CBS; New York Times)

Cat lady rocks!

13 04 2009