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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 09/10/2007

Comment Box: When Does Celebrity End?

By Liz Kelly

My question is, when does someone stop being a celebrity? At what point do we say, "This person does not have talent, never had talent and is now losing whatever looks made her a compelling pop idol for the tween set?" -- Posted by jes to Britney Spears: The Naked Truth

Good question, Jes, and one that came up again last night following Brit's cringe-worthy VMA performance. One Celebritology reader vented her frustration about Spears news, questioning the time we devote to a woman whose career is clearly flatlining. But almost immediately, reader H3 chimed in with a formula that sums up our continued interest in Brit:

"Sure, there are plenty of performers with more talent, but how many performers have more celebrity? If the blog were Talentology, we could get rid of her... but I think Britney is here to stay!"

And, for better or worse, H3's formula applies to many of the names that end up here in the blog. In the past year alone, celebrity-related news has been dominated by stars behaving badly. And, in most cases (though not all, Mel Gibson), these are people who peaked years ago and can't seem to make it down the slippery slope of declining stardom without a few scraped knees: Pete Doherty, Foxy Brown, Naomi Campbell, George Michael, Michael Richards -- the list goes on. The dynamic is not necessarily a new one, but thanks to the Interwebs and aggressive paparazzi, we're able to feed our addiction 24/7 rather than with a weekly dose of supermarket tabloids.

In a way, celebrity is now synonymous with "infamy" and each successive arrest, fashion disaster, mug shot and divorce only serves to perpetuate that celebrity. Glossy weeklies (and even mainstream blogs) devote more coverage to Amy Winehouse's latest drug-fueled escapades than to Angelina Jolie's trip to Iraq or Oprah's support of Barack Obama. And, as H3 points out above, talent is not a prerequisite for entry into our galaxy of stars. Never before have we been so flooded with people famous for being famous -- led by Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie -- as we are now. Why are these things so? Because sex, drugs, rock and roll and schadenfreude sell.

I could go on. I could talk at length about how Anna Nicole Smith's death -- like her idol Marilyn Monroe's before her -- brought her a level of fame she would never have achieved while alive or bemoan a culture that rewards has-been celebs with reality shows, but I think you get the idea.

The article on Pete Doherty also notes that squirrels in Brixton have become addicted to the crack that they find hidden in parks and gardens and also notes that "crack squirrels" are a recognized problem in NYC and DC. This certainly needs further investigation!! -- Posted by JDG to Morning Mix: Brad Pitt 'Stifled' Attraction to Angie

Thanks JDG, for this brief reprieve from the above. Don't get me wrong -- I'm firmly anti-squirrels-on-crack; just grateful for a little non-celeb research. And, you know, this story really hits a sweet spot of two interests for me. I love both animals and the A&E show "Intervention." For the past few minutes I've been amusing myself with scenes of a Mutual of Omaha-sponsored rehab show. We could start with crackhead squirrels and progress through to my dog's obsession with the cat box.

Okay, so squirrels on crack -- urban legend or not? Apparently, the U.K. paper The Sun broke this hard-hitting story back in 2005, but used the occasion of Pete Doherty's cat-on-coke story to recycle it. The short article claims that "Crack squirrels are a recognised problem in America. They are common in parks used by addicts in New York and Washington, D.C." But, according to the Columbia Journalism Review, no mentions of "crack squirrels" are to be found in the American press.

Since we're uniquely placed to observe D.C. area squirrels, perhaps a little surveillance is in order? If you happen to stumble across squirrels actively smoking crack, send pix to celebritology@washingtonpost.com.

Comment of the Week:
"Bless her heart, as we say in the deep south where we have dogfights on a regular basis." -- Methinks comments on Avril Lavigne's magnanimity in Morning Mix: Brad Pitt 'Stifled' Attraction to Angie

Creative Captioning: Sept. 3 - 7 Winner

Congratulations to Thor, who may call himself not only "God of Thunder" but "Offcial Celebritology Captionologist" for submitting this week's winning caption:

"From CBGB's to the heebie-jeebies."

See all top five winning captions here.

And, personal to commenter xnowhereboyx: We appreciate that you ID'd Deb's outfit out as Comme de Garçons right away. But a little couture does not always a comely outfit make. [Please see Sevigny, Chloe or Olsen, Mary Kate and Ashley.]

By Liz Kelly  | September 10, 2007; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Comment Box  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Morning Mix: Britney Bombs at VMAs
Next: Morning Mix: Britney's Embarrassed, Y'all

Comments

I was hoping Thor would bring his [or her] mad captioning skillz to that picture of Lil' Mama and Perez from the previous item...

Posted by: byoolin | September 10, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

now i know the thrill, the butterflies in formation fluttering around my stomach excitement of having the 'comment of the week'. byoolin, how can you take all the accolades on a regular basis. it's only 11:08 a.m. and i think i need a cocktail to settle down.
cheers, y'all!

Posted by: methinks | September 10, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

As in, "Lil' Mama asks Perez Hilton if he's seen her sheep."

Posted by: byoolin | September 10, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Woo!! Ok, it's not comment of the week, but I got mentioned in the comment box! Methinks, let's go get a drink!

Posted by: h3 | September 10, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

oh yeah, wtg H3!
lol, byoolin.

Posted by: methinks | September 10, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

methinks, it's a rush, isn't it?


The only advice I can offer is this:

Take advantage of the little people. Those poor suckers can carry you indefinitely.


Posted by: byoolin | September 10, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

i'm noticing that about the little people.

and their shoes are so cute.

Posted by: methinks | September 10, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I once got chased down and brutally attacked by one of DC's aggressive squirrels... finally now I can get some closure on this. For research, I recommend the park at 16th and Columbia.

Posted by: I was attacked by a crack squirrel | September 10, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

So who would you back in a fight between a Malcolm X Park crack squirrel versus a NYC sewer 'gator?

Posted by: M. Vick | September 10, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

A squirrel at my college got into some leftover hooch fruit and was never the same. He hung around that fraternity house a lot...I'd believe the crack squirrel phenomenon. What it really says is that squirrels might look cute, but inside, they're all partier.

Just kidding, I feel bad for the squirrels, and Pete's poor kitten! :(

Posted by: Sigh | September 10, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"At what point do we say, "This person does not have talent, never had talent and is now losing whatever looks made her a compelling pop idol for the tween set?" "

Following this logic, we would not be seeing and hearing about the infamous Ms. Hilton. Hmmmm....not a bad idea at all.

Also, Britney should wear garters so she can tuck in the $1 bills that she will soon be earning...

Posted by: BDWESQTM | September 10, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, celebrity seems to linger almost forever with some people - and for reasons we cannot fathom.
Consider Danny Bonaduce, for example. He was a secondary character in an early-70s TV comedy about a non-existent pop band (the Partridge Family), before a subsequent period of drug abuse and homelessness. He resurfaced in the 80s as a radio DJ, after which he also co-hosted a TV talk show, married and divorced a couple times, and starred in a TV reality show.
Is Bonaduce possessed of any rare talent that we, the public, are aching to see? Not at all. Does anyone care if he lives or dies? Maybe his mother and the ex-wives to whom he pays child support. But for better or worse, Danny Boy is still a card-carrying member of the celebrity underculture. And he will probably continue to loiter on the fringes of our pop-culture consciousness, at least for the remainder of his lifetime.

Posted by: niceFLguy | September 10, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

WHo is Danny Bonaduce?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Sweet! my caption got picked. Now I can kiss my case of the Mondays buh bye.

On the crack squirrels thing I believe it. They've been really aggressive lately and the pigeons too. The other day they didn't even move as people approached. They just wandered around.

Posted by: petal | September 10, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Liz, Liz, Liz. How can you possibly compare Marilyn's death, and its effect on her "level of fame," to Anna Nicole's?

Unlike the late Ms. Smith, Marilyn had actual *talent.* I recently saw one of her early performances, in 1952's "Clash By Night" alongside Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan. She more than held her own alongside those screen greats.

I'll readily admit that her sordid death ensured Marilyn's icon status. But even if she'd lived long enough to fade into obscurity, do you really think that anyone would have forgotten Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," or Sugar Kane in the immortal "Some Like It Hot"? Hell, no.

Whereas in ten years, the name of poor talentless Anna Nicole will evoke a head-scratching "Who was she again?" from virtually everyone -- except, of course, lawyers who are seeking to defend the inheritances of trophy wives.

Posted by: DMS | September 10, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Whereas in ten years, the name of poor talentless Anna Nicole will evoke a head-scratching "Who was she again?" from virtually everyone -- except, of course, lawyers who are seeking to defend the inheritances of trophy wives.

Lets hope

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Normally I wouldn't cut and paste the work of another writer at another paper, but this is from a piece about Jodie Foster in today's NYTimes. I thought it apropos of the topic...
"In time, the jailbait (Foster) entered the age of consent, won a couple of Oscars and dodged the gossips, which insisted that she discuss her sexuality so she could join the ranks of the desecrated celebrities whose bodies and sins litter the tabloids. Her refusal to discuss her personal life remains an affront to some, but it comes off as refreshingly sane in a world that values gynecological close-ups of sloppy party girls giving their greatest, most lasting performances in a limo and on the red carpet. Along these lines it's worth noting that Ms. Foster, who starred in the original "Freaky Friday," has thus far survived the magnifying glass of fame far better than Lindsay Lohan, who starred in the recent remake."

touche!

Posted by: methinks | September 10, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Depends how one measures "talent". Madonna does not now, nor has ever had more musical talent than your average high school band last-chair clarinet player. Her abilities at marketing and re-invention however, could save the American automobile industry if she chose to channel her energy in that direction.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Bah, I'm already over Britney.

In related news, Justin Timberlake won an Emmy for his SNL short D**k In a Box!

http://thesuperficial.com/2007/09/justin_timberlakes_dck_wins_an.php

Posted by: Bored @ home | September 10, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I too have to object to the Marilyn Monroe - Anna Nicole Smith comparison

Monroe was in award winning movies (one of my favorite all time movies is Some Like it Hot)

- was directed by some of the best directors of the time (Billy Wilder)
-acted with some of the biggest box offices draws and best actors of the time (Laurence Olivier)
-and won a few awards herself.

Other than posing for playboy, marrying a millionare, and being famous for those two things, what did Anna Nicole Smith do.

Posted by: MGC | September 10, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

anna nicole smith played a blonde bombshell bimbo who was a hanger-on to a nouveau riche former elevator boy in 'the hudsucker proxy' directed by the coen bros.

oh...wait...never mind.

Posted by: methinks | September 10, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"I'll readily admit that her sordid death ensured Marilyn's icon status. But even if she'd lived long enough to fade into obscurity, do you really think that anyone would have forgotten Lorelei Lee in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," or Sugar Kane in the immortal "Some Like It Hot"? Hell, no."

I have to completely disagree with you. I'm a 25 year old female and have never seen a Marilyn movie, and also don't know a lot of people in my generation who have seen her work beyone her pinup pictures either. We know who she is because she was a blonde bombshell, dated famously and died young... same as Anna Nicole. I'm not saying people will know who Anna Nicole was in 25 years, but today's younger generation doesn't know Marilyn because of her movie career. (Yes there are exceptions to this, but on the whole, that's the truth)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I have to disagree with the above comment. I too am a 25 year old female and I sure as heck have seen a Marilyn movie! How could you have not? Every girl should know the words to "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and see the move it hails from (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)if for nothing else than to put the Madonna "Material Girl" video into context. For shame!

Posted by: Melissa | September 10, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

All squirrels seem like they're on crack to me.

Posted by: Stella | September 10, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Dude, go rent a Marilyn Monroe movie now! Seriously! She was hilarious! Some Like It Hot? The Apartment? Totally awesome.

Posted by: h3 | September 10, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm a 25 year old woman and I agree with Melissa. I've never seen a Marilyn movie and I know who she is because of her pin-ups, her relationships, and her tragic death, not her movie roles. That's all. So she is similar to Anna Nicole in that way.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 11, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"Dude, go rent a Marilyn Monroe movie now! Seriously! She was hilarious! Some Like It Hot? The Apartment? Totally awesome" ....

Not to discourage anyone from seeing The Apartment, but Marilyn Monroe wasn't in it. Maybe you're thinking of Shirley MacLaine? For those younglings who don't know who she is either, she is Warren Beatty's sister. Warren once dated Madonna.

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