The Daily Mirror: Looking at Celebrities – Seeing Ourselves
Kim Kardashian. Miley Cyrus. Justin Timberlake. How do celebrities achieve pop-culture status? What elevates a celebrity – or faux celebrity – to the Mt. Olympus of fame? We know their love lives, their likes and dislikes, their stays in rehab. They’re in People or on Entertainment Tonight. They are, for better or worse, a part of the zeitgeist.
These people are famous because we make them famous. But why? What do they mean to us?
Before Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Madonna, there was a celebrity who profoundly shaped my life. This is what I explore in my new memoir, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew.
My Personal Father Figure
Pat Boone is (was) a 1960s pop-music idol, who sold millions of albums, often topping Elvis Presley on the Billboard charts, and had his own hit TV show. He was a squeaky-clean, wholesome singer, a family man and a Christian, at a time when rival Elvis was the “bad boy” of pop. Pat Boone’s trademark was his immaculate white-buck shoes; Elvis Presley’s was his sexy blue suedes. You would never see a mug shot of a disheveled Pat Boone being booked on a DUI charge. He was well known for drinking milk!
While I loved Pat Boone’s music, my crush on him went much deeper.
I wanted him to adopt me. Why? My Jewish father misloved me; Pat Boone offered a perfect antidote to my confusing and dangerous father.
Through Pat Boone, in this book, I examine my desire to pass as Christian – not only a reaction to my father – but also as a wish to belong, to fit into the WASPy suburb in which I lived. I wanted to flee my Russian Jewish heritage, and be like all my high-school friends. Pat Boone had four daughters, so, I told myself, surely he wouldn’t even notice if I suddenly appeared in his pew at church! If only he could confer upon me his magical, golden Pat Boone-ness, I’d meld into my surroundings. After all, don’t all teenagers want to resemble their friends?
A Pop-Culture Dream Come True
In The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, three separate encounters with Pat Boone frame my quest to belong to the dominant culture.
As I teenager, I first attended his TV show in Manhattan. Years later, now an adult living in Michigan, I attended a concert of his held in a mega-church. I barged backstage afterward to tell him what he meant to me all these years, how he offered me hope. He listened.
Not only that but, a year later, he invited me to attend a Christmas concert of his. Afterward, sitting together in his green room – and referring to how I survived my scary family – he said: “I see you as a flower growing up through concrete.”
Although he obviously never adopted me, he did see me – if not literally as a daughter – then in a way my own father should have seen me, but hadn’t.
Celebrity as Metaphor
Whatever celebrity is currently #1 in streaming videos, it may be a result of actual talent. But, just as likely, it’s because that person’s image represents something deeper. Celebrities speak to an emptiness, a longing, which isn’t always filled in the “real” world, our real lives.
Since we don’t truly know these people, we make them into anything we want. We project our hopes and desires onto them.
I’m sure that present-day idols have positive meaning for their fans, too. Who are some of your favorite celebrities? What do they embody? What do they mean to you?
Follow Sue Silverman as she continues on her blog tour through WOW - women on writing. Thank you Jodi Webb for setting up this tour stop here at All Things Audry!
Meet Sue William Silverman:
Sue William Silverman’s new memoir is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. Her two other memoirs are Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which is also a Lifetime TV movie, and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Her craft book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. As a professional speaker, Sue has appeared on The View, Anderson Cooper 360, and more. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
The Pat Boone Fan Club:
My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew
Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, and a rebel with something to say to those of us—most of us—still wondering what to make of ourselves.
Amazon link to The Pat Boone Fan Club: http://www.amazon.com/Pat-Boone-Fan-Club-Anglo-Saxon/dp/0803264852/ref=la_B000APU4YM_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383753234&sr=1-4