Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Too Many Celebrities for My Liking, Yessiree

Image from here.

As numerous (and dare I suggest redundant) as the piercings in this man's face, so are the crowded constellations of stars demanding worship from the wage-slave just trying to get through a 33-hour week.

If you hadn't heard about the Oprah contretemp at the Hermes store in Paris, here's the scoop. The O felt snubbed by an employee who wouldn't let her and her companions (posse, entourage, minions, whatever) come in near closing time to begin shopping. This employee claimed not to know who the O was, and since we know that's not possible or permitted, the O knew her skin color was the most likely explanation.

After bullhorning the issue, she invited the president of Hermes America onto her show to prostrate himself and grovel for her forgiveness. She then extended her multimillion-dollar mitt of reconciliation, and consented to allow her hordes of hausfraus to continue patronizing the brand. The scene as recounted to me by someone who'd heard about it sounded distasteful. Even hardened media types who saw it seemed to sense it was an embarrassment Oprah inflicted upon herself topping anything one lowly store clerk or even assistant retail manager could achieve.

Here's the thing. In Europe, they don't like overtime, staying late, etc. They're famous for it. In France, they're also well-known for thinking they're "superior to everyone else". If you look or act less than French or have a less-than-native accent (quite apart from the obvious barbarism of speaking English in Paris), the inferior one is you. The couture and design houses require very wealthy and sadly brutish Yankee customers to maintain their etaliers, but they don't necessarily know (or want to know) every American who's made enough newly-risen dough to have an entourage. And neither do I. You could toss me in a shark tank of any-hued celebrities from television shows I don't watch or the band du microsecond, and I'd have no clue who they were as I repeatedly denied their outraged assertions of preference in my race to the surface. And I recognize even fewer foreign celebrities.

EDITORS NOTE: If Americans didn't lather the hindquarters of the heavily photographed and dubiously talented, perhaps U.S. celebrities wouldn't be so shocked by less than obsequious receptions in supposedly civilized foreign ports. Of course, if they'd really travel abroad, they'd find the kind of servitude and slavish devotion their little selves require easy and cheap to come by in the "developing world". For pennies and an ear of corn, you can have all the little people running at your beck and call you want. So many you won't be able to remember all their funny-sounding names. Enough to use as human ash trays and footstools All for you. So you may feel benevolent and important. END NOTE.

So Oprah the gazillionaire swings her considerable influence to castigate a company president, who is arguably beneath her, in vengeance for the activities of a peon, of course beneath her in every measure of personhood that matters. Grace is an antiquated discipline of consideration and generosity which can feel uncomfortable in practice, even painful. Its facility is enhanced through its exercise, but try to bestow it without training, and you're likely to cramp up. That's why modern celebrities avoid it, and hire stunt staff (assistants, reps, publicists) to be ingratiating for them. Sadly, many of these bright young things also fail, and now grace is less common than conversational Esperanto.

Though this O fiasco happened a couple of weeks ago, I was inspired to post on it belatedly by this new story with its whiff of familarity. Kanye West, who displayed his own selfish charmlessness during a telethon, was recently "snubbed" by a British club. Apparently, he will not be retaliating through lawsuit or as is more common (in every sense) by rapping them into submission for their misdeeds. But he's not as rich and famous as Oprah. Yet.

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