Who’s to blame for the latest fame-mongering trend of using buzzed mug shots as the new publicity still?
Publicists? A natural first suspect, yes, but, naw. As creatively conniving as they are (and I say that with love), they’re not so evil as to have dreamt up this new death-defying, attention-seeking missile.
I think we need to dig a little deeper. After all, there has actually been a slow ramp up (or spiraling out-of-control) to the current celeb DUI phenomenon for a while now, if you knew what to look for.
Consider the modern history of fame-whoring stunts, starting with the #1 rule: When your fifteen minutes strike, initiate chokehold and ride them full throttle, Baby!
First, celebrities started pounding down publishers’ doors declaring they would TELL-ALL, even selling out their own mother if the advance was right. But how many memoirs can your ghostwriter possibly write for you? Two, three.
Next, it was on to children’s books, maybe even a roman à clef. Who could blame them? With the right ghostwriter, a picture book or young adult series could go on indefinitely with a star’s name on the cover, along with highly publicized book tours and fat royalty checks. And don’t forget the obligatory cookbook (all the more successful if you’re a country star, for some inexplicable reason).
But surely, boredom sets in for celebrities during that period between signing a publishing contract and having your ghostwriter finish the book, and then it seems like forevs until you get to hit the Today Show to promote it as an instant New York Times best-selling author. Oh, the torture. What they don’t do for us fans, I declare!
Sooooo, how about adopting a baby! EUREKA! If that doesn’t score you the cover of People, nothing will. Also, the further you travel to adopt said child, the cha- chinging grows louder. For every continent you crisscross to pick up the little darling, paparazzi in tow, the more covers you’re guaranteed. Unfortunately, estates are only so big and nannies are expensive. And a fad that has a habit of waking you (instead of the nanny and especially sans cameras) in the middle of the night with a runny nose really, really runs its course fast.
Easier yet if you’re a celebrity sitting back and having your name slapped on any number of products that you get to peddle before millions of adoring fans with open wallets on the same home shopping networks you once shunned as beneath you (NO, you really cannot then call yourself a “Fashion Designer” – Calvin, Ralph, Karl, Marc, & Donna, Do you have my back here on this one?).
Alas, home shopping fame only gets you an initial burst of outside attention and now that everybody is doing it, no one cares anymore (Unless you’re Joan Rivers, who was gutsy enough to do it from the beginning and is all the better for it. You’re a true rock star, J.R.! xo).
Besides, this is just a step below offering up your family as sacrificial lambs all so you can have your own reality show, also a genre once considered beneath you (How many of you turned down Dancing with the Stars when it first started? Huh, Huh? Exactly, I thought so. Now there’s a star-studded cattle stampede to that dance floor.).
Once the above options became mere par for the course, our valiant celebrities had to dream up something newer and bigger for attention. In fact, in this case, the bigger, the better (wink, wink).
Bow chika wow wow. ENTER the sex tape.
If Rob Lowe is the forefather of the blockbuster celebrity sex tape for (un)wanted attention circa the 80s, and Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson are the godparents circa the 90s, then Paris Hilton is the fun, doting aunt of the modern day sex tape phase of the fame-enhancing movement. Cue One Night in Paris, boys, compliments of her former boyfriend Rick Salomon. Ta-dah…the Viagra for Hollywood careers was unleashed, heiress-style.
Further evidence the celebrity sex tape performed as expected in the beginning: Hilton’s childhood buddy Kim Kardashian got a jumpstart on her own reality superstardom via one night with an R&B singer and a camera. Not to mention Kim’s co-star from that film is now known to tweens, teens, and other reality show bottom feeders as the star of his own popular VH-1 shows, For the Love of Ray J and A Family Business (with sis, Brandy). Coincidence? Naw. Not too shabby either, if you have no moral compass.
Bottom line: Do a sex tape and have it “mysteriously” leaked to the public, and the eyes are as good as rolled back in the fame whore’s (and media’s) head.
This PR tactic, if you want to be technical about terms, did work for a while. The key, however, if you want to be classy about it is to have made (or at least claim to have made) the sex tape before you were famous, or beyond grunts and moans, have a little something-SOMETHING extra to offer as in the case of Tommy Lee. Ah-ha. Then you can claim innocence, naïveté, even victimhood – take your pick, while the tabloids and fans are having a field day in your bedroom.
Just be sure to blame the gardener, the maid, or the guys doing a little construction work around your house for stealing the tape from your safe, which you accidentally left open (whoops!), of course – that always scores a little extra sympathy (i.e., headlines).
What’s not so classy (yes, we are actually debating levels of class on the sex tape front): God love her, late to the sex tape party is Real Housewives of New Jersey star Danielle Staub, who made a point to headline her own sex tape after becoming famous (She should have asked Screech how well that worked out for him.). The tape was leaked this year and in the midst of her memoir, The Naked Truth, being published (oh, okaaaay, that makes sense now). Squeaking by on the skin of her, um, teeth with this fad, she still eeked out an impressive collection of news clips over it, albeit while threatening to induce a mass case of projectile vomiting amongst viewers.
(FYI – No, I’m so not going there with John and Rielle’s late bloomer entrance into this cinematic genre. Much too sad. Sad sad sad. And as for the rumors that Betty White may even have suggestive pics of she and her late husband…not touching that one either.)
But the public demands more. MORE, we say! We just won’t let these poor celebrities catch a break from entertaining us. Whose idea was it anyway to start an exhausting 24/7 news cycle, TED TURNER?
Thus, desperate times…
ENTER the new mark of fame: The Drunk Driving arrest.
Oh, let me count the ways…Vince Neil, Chris Klein, Lindsay Lohan, Kiefer Sutherland, Shia LeBeouf, Khloe Kardashian, Rip Torn, Pamela Bach, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, Charles Barkley, Stephanie Pratt, Jason Wahler, Nicole Richie, Heather Locklear, Michelle Rodriguez, Gary Collins, Puck, Tawny Kitaen, Haley Joel Osment, Mike Tyson, and so on and on and on.
As if you didn’t already know by now, here’s the silver lining in this law-snubbing little cloud: Nothing says cover shot like a great, make-up-free, crazy-eyed mug shot. Click Click – BINGO! (And should you go to jail, just think of the hoards of paparazzi and fans lining the perp walk on the way in and out – Hell-OOOO! Pay dirt!)
So, back to my original question: Who’s to blame for this latest fame-mongering trend of using buzzed mug shots as the new publicity still?
Well, we’ve already eliminated the publicist, who has Dr. Drew’s producers on speed dial and is lurking in the wings with the carefully crafted, fill-in the blank damage control statement (i.e., [Insert celebrity name] was suffering from “exhaustion” and is going into “rehab” for “a rest.”).
How about the celebrities themselves? Technically, yes. I doubt anyone held their mouths open and forced the bubbly or brew down their throats. Aaaand, it certainly is a cheap alternative to an expensive photo shoot. In the end, they’re cleared though since they’re only doing their job, right? Also, you never know when the buzzer is going to go off on those 15 minutes, so who can blame them? (Eeeeeks!)
What about the media? No, can’t shoot the messengers!
Then who could po$$$$$ibly be left to send celebs into such an uncontrolled frenzy of “Look at me! Look at me!” that they would throw caution to the wind, chug-a-lug, and then hop into a car? Who could be so persuasive a force as to challenge celebs to risk arrest, or worse yet, the threat of turning a DUI into a DOA, all to prolong or reinvigorate their careers, or simply keep up with the Joneses?
WAIT JUST A MINUTE! That only leaves…us.
John Schlimm is a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States, meaning he sees life through sudsy, gold-colored glasses.
A former celebrity publicist, educator, and artist, John is the award-winning author of several books, including his latest, Harrah’s Entertainment Presents…The Seven Stars Cookbook as well as The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook (named “Best Beer Book in the U.S.” and “Best Beer Book in the World” by the international Gourmand Awards).
Join John on Facebook.com/JohnSchlimm and Twitter.com/JohnSchlimm. For more information, please visit www.JohnSchlimm.com.