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Friday, April 9, 2010

Ten Easy Ways to Become (or Remain) a Celebrity

One. Have too many children. Remember, eight is not enough—even octomom had six others in the wings. Now, who am I to judge how many is “too many”? Well, I’ll leave that up to you…I’m sure you’ll know when you’ve had too many kids (and when to stop). Won’t you?

Two. Have a sleazy affair with a married, or otherwise “taken,” celebrity. Bombshell McGee is the cover girl for instant celebrity. Not only did she have the affair, she accepted $30K to tell her intimate secrets—which someone already knew or how else would the $30K offer have materialized—and insures her place in the rags by sniping at Chelsea Handler’s physical appearance. Need I mention the Tiger Woods harem?

Three. Overdose on cosmetic surgery. Heidi Montag? C’mon, you’re kidding. Who is she? Apparently she “stars” in a television program, The Hills which strangely is not about her huge breast enhancements (hey, I’ve been wondering where to store my extra linens!), which has been cancelled. Do me a favor—don’t correct me if I’m wrong. Those with good memories and a sense of the obscure may remember a woman who made the afternoon talk show rounds who wanted to look like a Barbie doll, and had undergone a number of surgeries to produce the effect. Who was she? (Depending on where you live you might answer “Sarah Burge” or “Cindy Jackson.”) Unfortunately, no one was able to cut her height down to eleven inches, so she was doomed to failure. Heidi, this is your future: “Remember that blonde who had ten plastic surgeries in one day? WTH was her name?”

Four. Become a doctor (okay, maybe that’s a harder one) and overprescribe medications to a celebrity. Remember Elvis and Dr. Nick? MJ and Dr. Murphy? Brittany Murphy and Dr. Kroop? The Corey Haim Seven (or is it twenty)? Heath Ledger and Dr. Parnassus—oops, that can’t be right!

Five. Be a defense attorney. Okay, this requires a good sense of timing. You have to get through law school, set up a practice in a location boasting misbehaving, wealthy celebrities, and before anyone can say “Kardashian,” you’ll have your photo in all the papers. Important: the more sensational the crime, the better your chances of celebrity. If you're going for this one, think about who you'd like to play you in the movies (I'm thinkin' Angelina Jolie--no particular reason, I just like Angelina Jolie).

Six. Be a sleazy associate or relative of a celebrity. Ah, the inspiration for this list: “Lindsay Lohan’s Dad Gets Engaged to Jon Gosselin’s Ex” screams the Celebrity News headline Need I say more? Jon Gosselin is a celebrity due to rules 1, 7, and 8; his ex, Kate Major, is a celebrity for sleeping with him. Mike Lohan is a celebrity because of his dysfunctional relationship with his troubled—and ditzy—daughter. Put them all together and it spells “HEADLINES.”

Seven. Have no shame. Unleash your most taboo desires, stockpile your shameful secrets, indulge yourself limitlessly. Then write a book about it. While this is not a guarantee of celebrity for an unknown, has-beens have been raking in the big bucks and recelebritizing themselves thusly for years.

Eight. Appear on a reality television program. Seriously, how galling is it that people like “The Situation” and “Snookie” are considered celebrities? Really, what’s to celebrate? Some genius decides to put a bunch of wackos together in some contrived situation and suddenly they’re all in People, Us, andThe Daily News, and they’re appearing at posh functions all over the world. Most earthlings don’t know the names of The Real Housewives of Anywhere, but those gals are getting invitations, book deals, interviews—you name it.

Nine. Be heinous. Charlie Manson, 'nuff said.

Ten. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Balloon Boy’s dad wanted his own reality show; Kirstie Alley can’tsay “no” to a stick of butter. Jessica Simpson…well, forget Jessica Simpson.

Since I don’t like people fawning over me, I don’t particularly have my heart set on becoming a celebrity. I’m pretty sure that number one on the “How NOT to Become a Celebrity” list is “Blog.” I am a teensy-tiny bit jealous, though, of celebrity swag. Not only are these folks artificially elevated, they get free gifts, too. Hey, I’m not talking return-address labels from the Humane Societies, or seed packets from gardening clubs; I’m talking designer clothing, jewelry, sports equipment, make-up, and all the other things that make the luxe life, well, luxurious. Nobody’s paid me $10K per Tweet, outfitted my dog in magnificent canine couture (as a matter of fact, I make all her dresses myself!), or hosted banquets at exclusive restaurants for me and seven hundred of my closest friends. I’m not saying that life should be fair. I’m saying, I want some of that stuff!

Jesse and Tiger, the Vet Will See You Now

Jesse James and Tiger Woods cannot be labeled serial cheaters. Why? Because neither had a series of affairs (look, I’m not even bothering with “alleged” or “allegedly”; those terms are for news not opinion); they both had overlapping or concurrent affairs. For those who think it’s none of my business, you are absolutely right. Why should I care what a couple of cads do in their spare time?

I care because they are sending so many rotten messages. I may not be affected by their behavioral spam, but I live in a society where others are. Whether they like it or not, they are role models. People who admire them, and see how successful they are, think it’s okay that they do what they do (same for Roman Polanski and O.J. Simpson).

Once people begin thinking it’s okay for their idols to be irresponsible or criminal (or deserve special dispensation from the rules because they are so successful, well liked, or famous), they begin to apply that behavior code to themselves. What’s the big deal about a one-night stand, when you’ve got the celebrity lifestyle as a model of behavior?

Is it sexist of me to be using only male examples? Is it hypocritical to choose only one type of negative behavior? Put simply, no. Why not? Because I said so. Today I am talking about two high-profile cheaters. If you want to throw LeAnn Rimes into the mix, be my guest. I realize cheating isn’t less reprehensible when you confine yourself to one affair. And there are plenty of other ugly behaviors being flaunted in the media—but we’ll save them for another time.

What makes James and Woods stand out is the fact that both went into treatment after they were outed. Nice, guys. You didn’t think you were sick before, but now that you’ve been depicted as dogs, you’ll try the addiction dodge. Seeing as how you’re both dogs, and you both felt it necessary to hide behind doctors, perhaps the best medical treatment is offered at the Spay and Neuter Clinic.

If celebrities think their behavior has no effect on other people, people outside their circles, they are incredibly, ignorantly wrong. When a man is held up as a paragon of family values or his wife dotes on him and their spectacular relationship, he has successfully projected an image. If it turns out that image is false, he has betrayed everyone who bought into his mythos. There is another sad side to this.

If a model family man turns out to be a creep, what about those around us who aren’t quite perfect? If people believe the PR about perfect families and perfect relationships, surely they (in their less-than-perfect relationships) might feel suspicious, threatened, or less secure. Just as reports of widespread crime can keep people from going out at night, lurid headlines about unfaithful spouses can keep people from trusting others, or their own judgments.

What happens in Jesse James’ or Tiger Woods’ boudoirs isn’t just the stuff of late-night monologues, gossip rags, and TMZ. When it enters the public domain, it becomes part of our culture. Public apologies and addiction treatment notwithstanding, James and Woods need to make major, MAJOR efforts to redeem themselves in the eyes of the people they chose as their judges—their audiences.

In fact, guys, don’t lie, don’t deny, just keep your mouths shut. Tiger Woods was recently quoted saying he had done “pretty bad things.” Hey! Leaving your socks on the floor and dishes in the sink are pretty bad things. Allowing the garbage to overflow is a pretty bad thing. Fourteen affairs? Tiger, don’t you think you’ve wandered into the realm of “really bad things,” or “really very bad things”? Of course, arrogance knows no limits, and Woods went on to say that his wife, Elin, “had every right to be hurt.” I’m sure it makes her feel better knowing she has his permission to feel injured. I know I’ll sleep better tonight.

Yo-Ho-Ho! A Refreshing Alternative to Grog for Buccaneers and Wenches

In honor of Chip reading and reviewing not one, but two books about pirates (he’s very democratic; one was fiction, one was non), here is the recipe for a “cocktail” (pirates don’t drink “cocktails”) that is sure to enhance your swashbucklin’ adventures on or off the high seas.

Bob’s Pirate Punch is one part Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, one part pineapple juice, two parts cranberry juice, and a bit of lemon (a squeeze or a twist). Shake it up, pour it over ice, and serve in on-the-rocks or collins glasses — or a coconut shell if that’s what ye’ fancy.

Etymology: There are a number of recipes for drinks called "Pirate’s Punch" or “Drunken Pirate’s Punch.” This recipe is based on a drink Captain Chip and I enjoyed at the wonderful Bistro 1896 in Asheville, NC. I remembered that the drink was named after a flower, but couldn’t remember which one (and no, not because I had too many). It was refreshing and delicious. I went home, experimented, drank, experimented some more… passed out (not really), until I came up with this simple recipe. My name just clarifies that it’s not one of the other well-known pirate punches. However, in an effort to add verisimilitude to this tale, I took the "What's My Pirate Name" quizand learned I could change the name of this recipe to Captain Bess Rackham's Pirate Punch. I fear, though, that after one or two, it would be difficult to order, so Bob's Pirate Punch it is! If there’s another Bob out there who has his or her own Pirate Punch, maybe we can reach an agreement. But — remember, Bob — no one can pronounce Etier.

I’ve introduced this recipe at a number of parties to “smashing” success. To translate the measurements, Bob’s Pirate Punch for two would be ¼ cup Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, ¼ cup pineapple juice, and ½ cup cranberry juice (or cranberry juice cocktail). It’s low in carbs and I’m pretty sure it will ward off scurvy — just don’t forget the twist of lemon.

Note: For a "Virgin Pirate" substitute ginger ale for the spiced rum.

Living with Animals

No, this isn’t about surviving your kids’ teenage years. Nor is it about coping with your mate’s irrational, disgusting, or just plain irritating habits. This is about some of my closest, personal friends. It’s not that I haven’t read plenty of books and articles about animal behavior. It’s just that observation serves me so much better. Not only do I read about animals, but I watch (and buy) documentaries about them.

This morning I looked into Charity Marie Doggy-Dog’s eyes and realized that she doesn’t know she’s a dog. Then I realized that our four cats don’t know they are cats. I don’t mean this in the sense of the animals’ conviction that they are people, or in the sense that they are treated like children — very spoiled, pampered, royal children.

The words “cat” and “dog” mean nothing to my housemates. Oh, sure, Charity reacts with a curly wave of her tale (she’s part Basenji) when anyone utters “the dog,” but in her mind that sound means we are paying attention to her. (Not that I know how her mind works — every day I look into her eyes and ask what she’s trying to tell me.) I am sure the word “dog” is just a sound we make.

I used to think I didn’t like dogs, but — more to the point — I didn’t like small dogs and was afraid of large dogs. I now believe that it’s impossible to dislike dogs or cats or any animal as a class, because those classes are comprised of individuals. This does not apply to fear or phobias. If you are afraid of an animal (such as bears or alligators), that fear is based on what you think (on some level) that animal can do to you. With a phobia, something freaks you out. If you have arachnophobia, the very thought of spiders may make you uncomfortable and you may be totally unaware of the root of that fear.

If a person who is afraid of dogs (because they are noisy and bite) has a friend with a dog who is extremely likable and affectionate, always happy to see someone, then that person can come to know the dog and feel comfortable around it. Translation: they may grow to like the dog. I think when people “don’t like dogs” they don’t like most dogs — the dogs they haven’t befriended. Or maybe they don’t like some of the things dogs do, like drool or tear apart furniture.

Before I left New Jersey, I was a volunteer at a county animal shelter. I volunteered to work with cats specifically, and did not plan to spend any time with dogs. After all, I didn’t like dogs. Things can be very hectic at a shelter, and sometimes when the public address system blares that a handler is needed to bring a dog from “recovery” to “reception” to be reunited with its owner, there are no dog handlers free (most volunteers handle any animal). I hated letting the dog and the owners wait, so I decided to be a big girl, put a leash on the dog (regardless of size), and take it for that long walk to reception. Okay, I learned, dogs are not that bad. When some dogs were actually excited (in a good way) to see me, I began to think that dogs were okay. Despite that, I was still a cat person and had no intention of ever getting a dog.

When I moved to Louisiana, one of my new husband Chip’s co-workers told me I was mean because I wouldn’t let Chip have a dog. I think the guy was trying to get rid of one. I explained that it wouldn’t work out, we had cats, I can’t train dogs, and so on. For five years we lead a dogless existence.

Our granddaughter Chloë spent every summer with us, and the summer of 2005 was remarkable for more than just Hurricane Katrina. About a month before Katrina hit, a dog was abandoned at our church. We arrived at 9 a.m. for Sunday School, and the dog trotted up to my car and licked my hand. She was still there after Sunday School, and when we left the church after the service to go to a dinner in the fellowship hall she again greeted us as though we were her best friends. Everyone saw the dog, and during the dinner Chloë, who is a vegetarian, was sneaking her some fried chicken and other treats. She wasn’t the only one doing it, either. No one wanted to leave the dog there. Having worked in a shelter, I didn’t particularly want to see her go to one. At the end of the dinner, there were several people who thought they might be able to take the dog. Phone calls were made, and one after another bowed out.

Chloë was nine years old and all heart. When the last possible adopter told us her mom said “no,” Chloë convinced me that I would be worse than Obama Bin Laden if I didn’t take the dog home with us (we were the last ones at the church — clean-up crew) and she would never get over it, no less forgive me. Now I was pretty sure that: a) with three cats at home, we didn’t need a dog; b) I didn’t want a dog; and c) Chip wouldn’t want the dog (lucky for the dog, Chip was working).

We agreed to take her home, take some pictures, and put up “lost dog” signs. We named her Charity because she was found at a church. When Charity came home with us, one of the cats (Fuzzy Lumpkins) didn’t particularly care for her, and didn’t mind showing it. Other than that, Chip was the only one who was unhappy about the dog. We assured him that we were putting signs up all over the neighborhood (I think he’s pretty convinced we put them in dark alleys and abandoned buildings), and that someone would claim the dog. No one did.

So Charity Marie Doggy-Dog became a member of our household. A pregnant member. A pregnant member who would deliver eight puppies. Soon after, Hurricane Katrina hit providing more drama than any sweet, little dog ever could. Chloë went back to New Jersey for school (so much for having someone to walk the dog) and Charity and I bonded. Since she really is sweet, she and Chip also bonded quickly.

Now Charity is about six years old. I know that she doesn’t know she’s a dog. As far as she’s concerned, she is a member of this “pack.” She never knew that she wasn’t supposed to like cats — after all, the cats shared their home with her — and everyone she’s met since joining our family has been kind to her. When a kitten joined our clan, he was her baby. Not knowing he was a cat, he wasn’t afraid of the dog. It seems that everyone living in this house (a man, a woman, four cats, one dog) considers him/herself to be an element of a relationship.The cats don’t think in feline terms; that’s something that people do.

All six of us seem to be most concerned with eating, sleeping, and affiliation. If we get enough food and sleep, and if someone combs or compliments us, we’re happy. Species has nothing to do with it. The one with the job pays for the food, and one with a car buys it. While the cats seem to believe they should be privileged, they accept that they are not. And everyone — cat, dog, human — respects the differences of the others.

If six individuals who are so different can peacefully, nay happily, co-exist in one small house, why can’t humans — one species — manage to get along better on one big planet? Maybe it’s because we concentrate on what we are, and what we think others are. Maybe it’s too difficult to look at all members of the human race as individuals; maybe it’s impossible. Or is it because we’ve grown past our needs, and can’t get past our wants?

The Time of Your Life

The Time of Your Life is a celebration of spring with images by FCEtier and words by Bob Etier. Click on over and join us.