Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pride, Fame and Fakers

Fame is a drug.

When my band was signed to Tooth and Nail Records back in 2005, a lot of people were 'blowing smoke,' as they say. Out of the blue a lot of people started saying we were good and we should expect a certain type of treatment. We had been strictly DIY up until that point, struggling for every pinch of recognition we could find, so it felt good to finally hear people saying things like, "You shouldn't have to worry about that, let me handle it for you." We were spoiled with great tours and interest and the ever fleeting buzz of youthful hope.

Let me preface this by saying that what TCC experienced was very much a fraction of what many other people have experienced. We never blew up, we never got rich, we don't own homes, those dreams didn't happen. I'm just writing to share about what even a small dose of fame can do to you. I have gained some new perspective being a few years removed from things like... well, Warped Tour. Fame is a helluva drug, all you need is a taste and you can start acting like a total jerk.

I rarely admit this, but it kind of went to my head. It kind of ruined me for a season. When a lot of people tell you you're great and talented and the offers are flying in and the kids are really excited that you just walked by, you start to think that you're pretty special. Suddenly smaller bands want to be your friend, old friends you used to know start calling you up to "see how you're doing." People want a piece of it. They either want you to help them or they want to be able to tell people they know you. Knowing you has become a bit of a status symbol, and that type of flattery is like cancer to the soul.

The ironic thing about all of this is that almost nobody is born famous. Most people spend years on the other side of the fence, looking longingly past the photographers at those who we assume are happy and somehow more special than the rest of us. It's so weird that you can be normal and nice in one moment, and in the next become immovably selfish, but that's what pride and flattery will do to the best of them. When you take a step back, celebrity is really a stupid thing. You can be famous for anything these days, it really doesn't take much more than a willingness to embarrass yourself on camera. Celebrity is a freak show.

But back to my point, we all start out wishing we were a Somebody, all the while the people who are Somebody's are oblivious to us, perhaps even sometimes blatantly ignoring us. Then suddenly, a group of people turn around and look at you and say, "You're a Somebody!" And they toss you over the fence. Now you're on this red carpet but you don't really fit in on either side of the fence. You look around and there are people more famous than you, but to most spectators there isn't much delineation between the Somebody's, you're one of them. You know you don't really belong, but you've had your taste and you're hooked so you fake it. Your old nature of envying the Somebody's has been magnified, so you naturally start looking around to break the inner circles of the people more successful than you. You isolate from those who can't help you and attempt to infiltrate the lives of those who can. This is the bad part of human nature.

It gets manifested in the little things. There is no instant reward for someone with any fame to respond to someone of lesser fame (I've never met a Somebody who could delay gratification). This results in a disconnect. Text messages, emails, phone calls, etc, get ignored. You naturally isolate from the nobody's in order to integrate more with the Somebody's.

For awhile there I acted like I didn't have time for people. Part of the reason was we were touring a lot, and anyone not in front of me seemed like a distraction. Much of who I am can be summed up by the phrase "Out of sight, out of mind." If I can't sense you I have a hard time recognizing your existence. It's a blessing and a curse.

The other excuse is probably more selfish. You see, people used to ignore me. People who were Somebody's when I was a nobody, they would never get back to me, probably banking on the made up justification that the "Somebody Lifestyle" had kept them busy and the message had been lost in the madness.That whole justification is such a lie. Somebody's are glued to their phones all day long. They read every message. They're all painfully insecure so they have to. They ignore the ones that don't help them and respond to the ones that do. 

That's the fame drug. You get a little taste and then you want more. But to what end? You can never get enough of it. Even at the top you never feel like you're at the top. I'll bet Bono probably wants to be closer friends with Mick Jagger or Bill Gates, and he probably gets all defensive when they don't return his calls.

My point is, I passed on that same initiation. It's like those stories of pep band hazing that gets out of hand. Upper-class-men do some terrible things to freshmen, because those same terrible things were done to them. It's the whole "Hurt people hurt people" thing. I had no problem neglecting anybody that couldn't help me because the same had been done to me and it seemed like a rite of passage. I was faking like I was more important/busy than I was.

It all boils down to pride, fame, and faking it. We're all susceptible to be addicted to fame because of our own selfish pride, so we can tend to fake like we're more important than we are. Here's the truth: I'm no more important than you. We are of equal value. I am just as special as you are. Believe it.

I've come full circle on this fame thing. I no longer envy the Somebody's. They can have their popularity contest without me. I've climbed back over the fence and I'm walking the opposite direction, and maybe I'll start an egalitarian hippy colony on the outskirts of town. Wanna join?