Saturday, February 17, 2007

An ANNA-lysis of Stardom

Daniel Fenech
Feb 15, 2007


By the time today’s paper hits the stands, volumes will have been written about the bizarre, untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith. Editorials will have opined, blogs will have blasted, hard-news stories will have reported, and water-cooler conversations will have run from the poignant to the profane.

So, why, you ask, am I giving yet more press to she of the prodigious cleavage and dubious celebrity? Because I’m a writer and for writers, opinions are like crack. Except we’re more than willing to share our stash.

If you’ve read this far, it just goes to show that Smith can draw an audience in death just as she did in life. With no real talent to speak of, Smith nevertheless captivated viewers of her TV show like rubbernecking motorists passing a five-car pileup. Even those who didn’t watch the program know the details. The drugs and the battles with her weight. Her marriage to a 218-year-old billionaire and the subsequent court battles over his fortune. The loss of her 20-year-old son in September, mere days after she gave birth to a daughter, whose uncertain paternity seems to have every potential daddy except Kevin Federline crawling from the woodworks.

Smith, who died Feb. 8, was the object of frequent derision, mocked for her vapidity and tenuous grip on both reality and sobriety. True, she was a glorious mess, a larger-than-life kewpie doll zonked out of her gourd on who-knows-what, a walking punch line who made almost too easy a target. However, methinks the lady was perhaps a wee bit more savvy than she let on. She may not have been a rocket scientist, but she played the fame game well, whether she realized it or not.
Like many of today’s “stars” – for instance, one whose name rhymes with Harris Pilton – Smith was famous for being famous. Though she dabbled in both, she wasn’t an actress or singer in the true sense. A brief, all-but-forgotten-by-the-public modeling career thrust her into the spotlight, but what kept her there? The answer to this question is twofold.

First, Smith’s fame can be attributed to Smith herself. With a seemingly insatiable appetite for attention, she continuously managed to find a way to keep that spotlight aimed in her direction, even if it meant being the butt of the joke. According to her mother, Smith once said, “If my name is out there in the news, good or bad doesn’t matter, good or bad I make money, so I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

While other celebs play cat-and-mouse with the media, Smith virtually served herself up on a platter, proclaiming, “Come and get it!” And the press, public and paparazzi devoured every crumb.

Which brings me to the second, larger reason why Smith continued – and will continue – to make headlines long after her 15 minutes expired. That reason is US. Smith appealed to the Peeping Tom in us all, the spectator who pities the train wreck victim, but is glad it’s not him or her.

Those who denounced her as “tacky,” “cheap” and various epithets not fit to print did so while gawking at the tragedy of her life. In the end, that says more about our culture of voyeurism and fascination with fame than it does about Smith herself.

Friday, February 02, 2007



While Will Smith is gettin’ jiggy with it at some A-list post-Oscar bash, those of us whose invitations got lost in the mail will have to rely on our own creativity if we want to party like the glitterati.

Film awards season is upon us, kicked off by the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) ceremonies, and culminating with the granddaddy of all awards shows, the 79th Annual Academy Awards.

With the Oscars less than a month away, movie lovers are planning gatherings to see who’ll take home the coveted statuettes and who’ll graciously smile through clenched teeth while claiming, "It was an honor just to be nominated."

But why have just an ordinary Sunday night get-together when you can transform your humble abode into a celeb-worthy hotspot? Here are a few tips for hosting your own award-winning Oscar-palooza:

* Play dress up. – Within reason, of course. Unless you’ve booked, say, the Schuster Center for a bona fide black-tie affair, don’t make the dress code too stringent. Tuxes and tails are nice, but don’t turn your nose up at a guest who opts for the classic tuxedo T-shirt instead. It could be worse – he could show up dressed as Oscar. Ever tried to clean bronzer from your upholstery? (Don’t ask.) Not to mention that Oscar is anatomically incorrect and that’s just …well, creepy.

* Treat your guests as if they are actually at the Academy Awards. – In other words, pander shamelessly to those who might be of use to you in the future. Just kidding. We’re talking red carpet at the door, name cards on their chairs and such. (But save the best seats for the really important people. Just in case.)

* Do a shot each time host Ellen DeGeneres makes a goofy face. – Sure, you’ll be snockered before the first commercial break, but you’ll be a lot happier sitting through the awards no one cares about.

* See how many "Golden Globes" and "SAG" jokes you and your guests can derive from the often-revealing dresses worn by Oscar attendees.

* Serve snacks with themes devoted to the nominees. – For instance, mini-crumpets for The Queen. Or Peeps bunnies in little hats for The Illusionist. (Good luck finding ‘em – wabbit-hunting season is still a couple of months away.). For The Most Overhyped Overrated Film – oops, I mean Best Adapted Screenplay, Borat? A big fat ham. Yo-ho-ho and a platter of rum balls for Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest! And for Costume Design nominee Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake!

Of course, the snacks are purely for show, since eating doesn’t seem to be a popular trend in Hollywood.

* During the pre-show, have your guests make their own Oscar predictions. Make a ballot or print the one at and see who makes the most correct choices. The winner receives an IOU for a DVD of the Best Picture.

Last but not least, don’t forget the loser. Should I be invited to any parties (hint, hint), I assure you this person will be me, as I have broken my former habit of seeing most or all of the Best Picture nominees. It’ll be an honor to receive my IOU for a VHS copy of Borat.