Fame in 2006

So much for New Year’s resolutions. In addition to hoping for some semblance of sanity in Iraq, an end to the war on Americans’ privacy and livelihoods, and an improvement in our nation’s reputation abroad, I had hoped that the diviners of all that’s hip and trendy would temper the practice of elevating the infamous and scandal-plagued to renewed celebrity status. Early indications tell me it’s not to be. Bad behavior will continue to be rewarded with ample ink and airtime.

Following the anticipated career-ending coke-inducing newspaper cover shot, the style prognosticators at W, Vanity Fair and Italian Vogue deemed waif-model Kate Moss cover-worthy. Mary-Kate Olsen, whose child-star status was bulimically blighted by the bright lights of the big city, mugs on the January cover of W and, following a most public meltdown, Mariah Carey is in the midst of a spectacular career revival.

Could this be the trick to scaling new heights of fame, Martha? Get arrested. Appear in a viral porno film. Go anorexic. Get caught shoplifting. Crash your car. Bare your breast on the Super Bowl. Go crazy.

Americans love the comeback, and the editorial arbiters of this phenomenon provide the fuel for celebrity reignition. My first sense of this came many years ago when the late Mamas & Papas star John Phillips walked in to our office seeking PR help. He was facing jail time for cocaine possession, but had teamed with Dr. Mark Gold in New Jersey for a then experimental withdrawal treatment. His daughter Mackenzie had her own set of similar problems. Could we organize some interviews to demonstrate the earnestness of their respective drug rehabilitations? Sure thing.

Exclusive joint appearances on NBC “Today” and the cover of People magazine ensued, which ultimately led to the drug charges being dropped. The Phillips’ were back on the road to celebrity.

At last in Mariah’s case, she has a well-received artistic piece of work on which to re-build her career. Kate and Mary-Kate? Who needs to actually work when America’s editorial gatekeepers don’t seem to care?