MAD DOG: The True Price of Fame

The famous prophet Andy Warhol once predicted that we'd each have fifteen minutes of fame. I for one believe it. How else to explain Kato Kaelin, Manny the Hippie, and -- if we're lucky -- the Spice Girls?No one, it seems, has the right amount of fame. The not-famous want it while the famous claim they don't. Contrary to popular belief, it really doesn't take a lot for people to think you're famous. Sure, having a hit movie or being a serial cannibal will do it. But the truth is a photograph in the newspaper, being seen waving behind a reporter's head on the eleven o'clock news, or a mere mention on America's Most Wanted is enough to make even your most jaded acquaintances call and leave a snide message on your answering machine daring you to call back "If you still have time for your old friends." Right. Like Jenny McCarthy wants her cell phone tied up all night while you return calls to these peons.Even though fifteen minutes of fame is all most of us will get -- if we're lucky -- it really isn't much. Not when you consider that's the same amount of time it takes your dental hygienist to clean your teeth, tell you about her vacation in Marrakesh, and call two of her friends to tell them she has a famous person in her chair because your name was listed in the real estate transactions when you sold your house for half of what you paid for it because of that toxic waste dump they discovered under the foundation.But before you go out and buy the regulation Ray-Bans, baseball caps, and bodyguards that are required of the famous, what do you think the odds are that you, the celebrity challenged reader, will actually see your fifteen minutes? Not too good when you realize that the prophet Warhol was an artist and not a mathematician. The last time I checked there were about 5.7 billion people in the world, not counting children under the age of three, advertising executives, and whoever thought a remake of Leave It To Beaver was a good idea, none of whom can in good conscience be considered people. Now even if we assume that a couple thousand people can be famous simultaneously -- which thanks to the E Network and Dateline has become a distinct possibility -- I figure it could take over 80 years before it was my turn, and I just can't see waiting that long to be interviewed by Jane Pauley. Tabitha Sorens, maybe.And this doesn't even take into account that some people have hogged more than their allotted fifteen minutes. Think about it. Charles Nelson Reilly appeared on the Tonight Show for years for no discernible reason, while Arnold The Pig never even got a second TV series. Who decides the comparative worth of the famous? And how do we bribe them so we too can appear on reruns of Hollywood Squares?It turns out a company called Autographed Collectibles in Valley Cottage, NY has been bestowed with this awesome power. They run ads in magazines offering photographs of famous people. Not just any photographs, mind you, these are "Personally Signed By Your Favorite Stars & Guaranteed Authentic For Life." Don't you just hate it when the authenticity runs out after a couple of years? They have photos of stars in four different categories: models, sports figures, movies and television, and under indictment. Just kidding. Actually music is the fourth category -- nobody wants autographed photographs of politicians.By comparing autograph prices we can actually put a dollar value on our idols. Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and The Artist Previously Known as a Symbol top the list by commanding $395, while Lisa "Even I Don't Know Who I Am" Rinna brings up the rear at $30. Demi Moore is worth $125 yet husband Bruce Willis only pulls down $75, a situation which could be reversed if Willis were willing to star in Striptease II - “Hollywood Has Too Much Money to Throw Around”. Willis, on the other hand, can take solace in knowing that his signature's still worth two of Will Smith's, even though Smith tried hard by starting his career as the Fresh Artist Previously Known As Prince of Bel Air.So now that we can equate fame with charging a fee -- was there really ever any doubt? -- I have a simple plan which will guarantee that your fifteen minutes of fame will occur during your lifetime, which is, after all, the best time for you to enjoy it. Simply make out a check to me in the amount of $40 -- the same price as an autographed photo of Elizabeth Berkley, send it care of this newspaper, and I'll print your name in a future column. Before you know it, your friends will be leaving snide messages on your answering machine, I'll be vacationing in Marrakesh with my dental hygienist, and the executor of your estate will be chomping at the bit to sell your signed check to Autographed Collectibles for big bucks so he can retire.Andy Warhol, on the other hand, will still be dead. And famous.

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