I am nearly 60, and back when I was young a celebrity was someone who was generally admired and venerated for their achievements. They seemed, in a sense, otherwordly because the studios, record companies and agents and, to a degree, the press colluded in putting celebrities on a pedestal: their transgressions tended to be hidden or ignored, and anything even remotely risque (by today’s standards) was forbidden; for example, Elvis Presley being filmed from the waist up to prevent us being either/or stimulated or outraged by his wildly gyrating hips.
I quite liked the idea of our heroes being unnaturally perfect; I think we all knew that, for example, Errol Flynn was a randy git who screwed anything that moved, but, because, it was never more than rumour, it just added a frisson of excitement to his persona.
Now, the word ‘celebrity’ seems to have a different meaning. There are so many television programmes featuring ‘celebrities’ that clearly have had, at best, only brief brushes with fame. Achieving anything worthwhile or significant has ceased to be part of the equation. It has all come down to a cheap marketing ploy. Even the pretence that they might be better than us isn’t bothered with anymore.
OK, there are still the Merryl Streeps and Dustin Hoffmans, the Bob Dylans and Neil Youngs, but maybe they are stars and not celebrities. Maybe we have created a new category, and used the old nomenclature, but I think it’s become a bit tawdry and sleazy. Bring back the old standards of mystery and glitter.