Meditation on Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame

First, the actual quote by Andy Warhol:

In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.

Now, me:

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I’ve been thinking about the comment by Andy Warhol’s comment about everyone being famous for fifteen minutes. I think I understand it (though not the way he does).The thing is, most people are more rabidly private than we’d like to admit to the world. We don’t mind being well-known to our friends and family and will tolerate goodwill (both taking and giving) from the neighborhood and our selected stages; but we’d rather have the gaze of the world diverted from ourselves as much as possible. Indeed, we don’t mind when certain stars get famous for odd actions (Britney Spears cutting her hair, Paris without underpants, etc.) as it makes it less likely that we’ll get the spotlight shown on us.

But we’ll deal with a certain amount of fame, if need be.

The question is, how much fame is too much fame?

More to the point, how much fame can be dealt with by people who have a life and aren’t ready to give up everything in order to seek Fame’s favor?

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Think of it for a minute: Most people we see who are famous spend most of their time seeking out the fame, whether by making it come to them or by keeping its gaze on them. They’ll divorce and/or marry so that they (singly or doubly) can work towards fame, set aside other interests so that fame comes to them, and work their schedule so that most (if not all) their efforts are aimed at fame.Think: How many people do you know about who have divorced someone they were stuck with during their “salad days” when they got to eat at the steak bar of fame? Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Garth Brooks are four people who immediately come to my mind. Others didn’t marry until they were secure enough in their success. Bill Gates and Tiger Woods come to mind here.

Many of the rest of us have wives/husbands/significant others who demand our time and attentions and have expectations of regularity of us. We also have friends who we’re not ready to toss aside for the sake of someone who might be able to push us to the next level. There’s also things we like to do and habits we like (or not) which take up time and attention that could be pushed for the purpose of fame.

And finally, we have to want it enough to deny ourselves something. One of my favorite quotes is from a book on Malcolm McLaren says that famous people aren’t famous because of something they have that we lack, they’re famous because of something they lack that we have. In short, they’re compensating for some inner shortcoming by exhibitionism.

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So now the question: What does Warhol’s quote mean?I take it to mean that people will end up receiving just a bit more fame than they can handle. We get known by more and more people, until we get to a point where we suddenly need to have our own space. The rabble who have come to know us because of the fame we’ve cultivated stick around a bit too long, then learn to leave us alone with our private lives.

People either overdose on fame, or stick around too long and seem a bit too needy. Either way, they’ve reached a point where they can’t handle the expectations of their fame, and people start turning towards other people.

Notice that I don’t state what the expectations of Fame are. Sometimes the expectations change, sometimes the person changes, sometimes the world changes independent of the two. Either way, the fame seeker can’t handle the changes to Fame’s demands and falls off the radar.

Just a thought…