By Tom Purcell
"I'll wear a blond shag haircut, a leisure suit and sing a syrupy Barry Manilow tune. If that doesn't get me onto 'American Idol,' Simon Cowell can eat his own head."
"Ah, yes, you sum up America's fascination with fame and celebrity. Both are explored in 'Fame Junkies,' an interesting new book by Jake Halpern."
"Did you know that more people watch 'American Idol' than all three major network evening news shows combined?"
"It's no wonder. Things haven't been as compelling since Rather left the air."
"Did you know, according to a study by Harvard University and the Kaiser Family Foundation, that 31 percent of teens are convinced they'll be famous? They believe they're entitled to fame -- that it will solve all their problems."
"It'll solve my problems. The waitress at the diner will finally go out with me."
"Halpern interviewed 653 middle-school students in Rochester, N.Y. When he asked them if they'd rather be a personal assistant to a celebrity, a corporate CEO, an Ivy League president, a Navy SEAL or a U.S. senator, 43.4 percent of girls chose 'celebrity assistant.'"
"I'd rather do chores for a celebrity than be a senator. Though I have to admit rubbing cream on Rosie O'Donnell's bunions would get a little old."
"When given the option of becoming famous, beautiful, stronger or smarter, boys chose fame almost as often as intelligence. Girls chose fame even more often."
"That isn't a fair question. Fame has nothing to do with intelligence. Isn't that made clear every time Hollywood actors open their yaps?"
"Our longing for fame is a recent phenomenon. Consider: In 1963, according to Gallup, Americans most admired Lyndon Johnson, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King Jr. In 2005, Bono and Donald Trump topped the list."
"Hey, common sense: You're fired!"
"Halpern told me there are two types of kids who long for fame most: the spoiled ones whose parents taught them they were the center of the universe, and kids who were under-appreciated by their parents."
"Talk about under-appreciated. My mother used to hang a Budweiser around my neck so the old man would read to me."
"The longing also correlates to the self-esteem movement of the 1970s. By praising everything children did, adults unwittingly created teens and young adults who can't take criticism and who demand the praise they think fame will bring."
"Ah, the good old days. When we played kickball, we weren't permitted to compete, and everybody got a trophy!"
"The result is that we've created a society of young narcissists."
"Five psychologists just released an interesting study. It found that today's college kids are more narcissistic than previous generations. Narcissists tend to lack empathy. They're consumed with self-love. They crave fame because they want the adulation of millions."
"I don't need to be adored by millions. But a few hundred thousand would be nice."
"Freud had a term for what is going on: wishful thinking. We've created a generation of kids who are lost in a fantasy world. They see themselves as they'd like to be, rather than as they really are. You have to wonder what happens when people who crave fame fail to achieve it -- or when people who achieve it realize it doesn't solve their problems and ends up creating even more."
"Why don't you ask Britney Spears?"
"It makes me realize how lucky I was to grow up as I did. We had only three television channels -- no celebrity shows were on. And I was part of a big family. We had to learn how to share and laugh and be considerate. Narcissistic behavior would have gotten us grounded."
"Look, as delightful as this discussion is, you still haven't answered my question. You think the blond shag haircut, leisure suit and a syrupy Barry Manilow tune will get me to the big time?"
"Why not. It worked for Barry Manilow."
Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. For comments to Tom, please email him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com
RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications."
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