perm_identity Who Knows?

by Derek Alger

Published in Issue No. 185 ~ October, 2012

I never know when an idea or something will click to perk my curiosity but at the moment it was the cover of a magazine, a general magazine similar to People magazine. I was getting prescriptions filled at the pharmacy when I saw the magazine propped up by the cash register. More than three quarters of the front page had a photo of a nice looking couple, with perfect white teeth. The headline read “Blake & Ryan’s Surprise Wedding.” I have no idea whom Blake or Ryan are, so I bought the magazine to find out.

On one level, the headline was completely accurate because Blake and Ryan’s wedding was a surprise to me, especially since I didn’t know whom they were. I felt more out of it when I read the three kicker headlines beneath under head shots of other attractive individuals and I didn’t know whom any of them were either. But back to Ryan and Blake, a smaller headline, running beneath the large white lettered “Wedding” — as in “Surprise Wedding” — states “Why they couldn’t wait and how they kept it secret — inside their dream Southern wedding.”

Time to open the magazine. I’m guessing Blake and Ryan are television celebrities, or maybe singers. I do know I have no idea what constitutes a “dream Southern wedding.” I don’t even know what constitutes a dream wedding of any kind, anywhere, at any time, for that matter.

Okay, opening to the article, I see I’m in real trouble, there’s a box listing guests at the wedding and i’ve never heard of any of them. Once upon a time, when I was in junior high school, I could zip through the crossword puzzle each week in TV Guide. Granted, that’s not quite the same as completing the crossword puzzle in the Sunday New York Times, but still, I was on top of pop culture at the time, or so I thought.

I’ve worked as a reporter in the Bronx for many years and instinctively understood the pyramid structure of a news story, quite simply getting the pertinent facts up top and continuing with the story with the awareness that an editor would cut from the bottom up if the article was too long for the space allotted. Features, of course, are a bit different, but after reading the first paragraph about Blake and Ryan’s wedding, I still didn’t know whom they were, but did learn the date they were married, and that it was in South Carolina. The next sentence provided me with their last names, as well as the tidbit that they visited South Carolina quire frequently.

I hate articles with information attributed to sources, without designating whom the source is, but according to the story about Blake and Ryan’s wedding, someone described as “a source close to the couple” is quoted as saying, “Blake and Ryan valued having their wedding in a place where they could have it all to themselves and be out of the limelight.” Mission accomplished, since I still didn’t know whom Blake and Ryan were, so I certainly wasn’t a threat to force or push them out into the limelight.

I continued reading the article, gleaning more information than really needed, or wanted. It’s not that there was anything outrageous, or even close to outrageous, in the article, it’s just, at least for me, I kept thinking “Who Cares?” Apparently, Blake and Ryan pulled off a surprise wedding, not even telling their “nearest and dearest” friends they were getting married, though I have no idea why someone would decide not to let close friends know about such a presumably important event.  Also, according to the magazine, “most relatives were informed it was a family vacation.” And to top it off, the caterer didn’t even know the bride’s identity until the day of the wedding, though I’m not sure how that would influence the way anyone would do his or her job catering a special affair, but, of course, I could be wrong.

I enjoyed learning that Blake was “a creative bride with a creative vision” concerning how she wanted the wedding to go. I have no idea what that means. What is an uncreative bride? I read on and learned a children’s choir performed “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” the hit song by Frankie Valli of The Four Seasons, as Blake came down the aisle. That’s it, sorry to say, I couldn’t go on, couldn’t finish the article, but I think I did get halfway through it.

I have nothing against Blake and Ryan — how could I, I’d never heard of them? –so I’m not trying to say anything negative about them. I’m sure they’re a wonderful couple. I’m more interested in why I’ve never heard of anyone mentioned on the front page of a successful national magazine, albeit, a celebrity magazine — whether I have to get out more, watch more network television, or whether there has simply been an enormous  proliferation of those designated as celebrities. There sure seem to be a lot of them, though that may be the result of ever expanding social media outlets and the Internet, and how much time people spend clicking about, here, there, and everywhere, without ever looking up.

I do know there’s a difference between celebratory and fame. Winston Churchill is famous. Madonna is a celebrity. I think of celebrity as being equated to the Academy Awards, in many cases, no one remembers the movie that wins the Oscar for Best Picture. In many cases, the best film of the year, the one that continues to endure, doesn’t win. Perhaps, in many ways, celebrity can be much more fleeting than either glory or major achievements. And then there’s the word itself, celebrity, celebrate, celebrate what?

I should say in the same issue of the magazine with Blake and Ryan on the front page, I did recognize some of the individuals in various photos, such as Prince Harry and Michelle Obama, as well as Johnny Depp, Kate Hudson, and Sandra Bullock. When it came to the full double spread fashion pages, however, I didn’t do too well. In the red dress spread, I knew whom two of the six were, and in the black dress lineup, I knew two out of five, each of which translates into a more than respectable baseball batting average.

I realize I haven’t mentioned either Blake or Ryan’s last name, but I figure if there first names can appear on the front page of a national magazine than people, such as fans, instantly recognize them, and some, like me, still wouldn’t know whom Blake and Ryan were even if their respective surnames were provided, causing me to wonder what happens now that Blake is married, though I suspect she’ll keep her maiden name, or professional surname, or whatever she goes by in movie or television show credits. So, there you go, from reading the article, I am now aware Blake and Ryan are primarily known for their acting, or maybe I should say, many know them for their specific respective roles on television and in films, but, for better or worse, I’m not one of that number.

When I was a kid, we usually thought of celebrities as television actors or comedians past their prime who appeared on game shows like Hollywood Squares, or in episodes of The Love Boat. Now, we have reality TV shows thrown in the mix, and the lines are becoming more and more blurred between legitimate recognition and being known simply because of extreme exposure, the cliche of being “famous for being famous” in the current obsessive, 24-hour nature of media outlets, whether it be cable television or online news or entertainment sites.

When I started this article I really didn’t know how to end it, but I went to check my web mail and spotted a headline, “Schwarzenegger admits affair with Brigitte Nielsen.” That’s it, perfect, I know whom both Arnold and Brigitte are, but the headline was enough, I don’t really care about them having an affair. Don’t care when, don’t care if either was married at the time, don’t even care if it was only a one-night stand.  Besides, personally, I always liked Sylvester Stallone better, and that seems like a pretty good place to end this column, or whatever it is.