It’s been just over a year since I packed up all my worldly belongings, my dog and four of the best friends anyone could ever have and Uhauled it to Los Angeles. I like to think that, even though I grew up in the diverse-as-an-Oreo cultural landscape called North Georgia, I was a pretty worldly person. I was open minded to different viewpoints and walks of life. I had seen both sides of the tracks and realized there was good and bad on both. I was prepared for any culture shock L.A. was going to throw at me.
There is, however, one detail I missed. If the old expression of “the cream rises to the top” is applicable to people, then there is a thin layer of scum between the two. These people, I call, are The Notorious.
There are two thoughts that I feel permeate the parts of the country that don’t live in Los Angeles. 1) Everyone in L.A. is just trying to be famous. All the baristas and valets are starving actors, writers, and singers. 2) Everyone is on welfare and leaching off the government. This backwards human-utterance is usually followed by a racial stereo type and spoken by someone missing teeth, a belt loop, brain cells, or self awareness.
Let me go ahead and confirm for you that, in my experience, these two assumptions are false. They are perceptions that have been formulated based on misinformation and general laziness. However, they aren’t COMPLETELY off track. So, let’s revisit them.
1) 1) The Fame Monsters. I’m sure there is a higher than average number of people out here that want pure fame. Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Nickelodeon Blimps probably live in quite a few dreams out here. Sure there are people out here that just want straight up, mogul-status, fame. I mean, ask the guy skateboarding down Highland in nothing but hot pants, a red cape, and a sign that says “make me famous” what he is rolling towards. I doubt it’s a modest income and a benefits package that includes dental. No, the little Kanye’s and GaGa’s aren’t ruining this town. That level of fame does require some iota of hard work and dedication. That level of fame comes with stress and long hours and the ones that stay at the very top earn it. There is a level of fame at the bottom of the list and right above infamous that I like to call ‘notorious’. This level of fame comes from being the biggest fish in a man-made pond; of touching the stars without ever becoming one. This level doesn’t mean you’re the fifth Beatle, but instead the guy that’s best friends with Beatle number 7 and 9. It’s the guy or girl who everyone knows their name. You know, “oh, Captain Jeff who works at that record store and always wears an ironic captain’s hat and is into vintage motorcycles”. That guy. They want to be defined by their quirks instead of the merits of their work. Everyone knows them but not for accomplishing anything- merely existing. Their fame, or notoriety, comes from just being a character in everyone’s life. The Kramer to a world of Seinfelds. So carefully are these images crafted that they must take up a week’s worth of thought and an afternoon’s worth of work. Questions must be addressed like “what kind of crazy facial hair should I carve into my face” or “is everyone else wearing this outfit?”. These people endure to become living caricatures or embodied one-liners. They have given their destiny’s over to a craft that could always be vaguely defined as art but not art before image. These people clutter the space where interesting things are happening by talented people. They are leeches that don’t want you to notice they have nothing but what they have sucked from other people. This, ladies and gentlemen, are the real Fame Monsters.
2) 2) So how does one afford this lavish lifestyle? How can this constant stream of irony and reinvention stay afloat in a consistently anemic economy and a job market that turns its back on applicants with empty resumes? Why, suck up all that sweet, free, government money! Before I dive into this, I want to make it clear that social programs like welfare and food stamps are great programs. I support them completely and don’t think that there needs to be aggressive changes to the programs. I have personally seen these programs help families in need and wouldn’t want to strip them away because a selfish minority- but let’s talk about this minority. The minority that I have encountered out here are the Notorious. So dedicated to the cultivation of their new image and lifestyle that they couldn’t possibly be asked to pay their own way. Their career is gig life with no gigs because there just isn’t a job for a no-experience-having, soft-handed, talentless lout except maybe ditch digger (which is way too much like a job to begin with). This isn’t to say that you can’t live comfortably on a gig-to-gig lifestyle. Hell, that’s how most entertainers live after they reach a certain level of success. That’s how the business is. However, the stream of jobs coming in and being accomplished must match or exceed that of a normal job for this to work. So how do they afford those vintage rags and late night bar tabs? I mean , those cigarettes really pull the look together and they aren’t free. The money comes from a series of favors, advances and unemployment checks. This money is just barely enough to get by if you are ok with skimming off of other people. When that dries up there is always Uncle Sam. So what you have is a legion of young, able-bodied, adults who opt to not get a job and pay their own way. Instead, they live off hand outs, one-night money makers, and social programs waiting for that big paycheck that they will get for just being “themselves”.
So we aren’t drowning in singers, actors and writers out here. Sure, there is a ton of them, but, as the saying goes, the cream rises to the top. Instead, there is an infestation of people trying to get their foot in the door just so they have a nice place to stick their foot. They are Star Fuckers that make it look so easy and fun. They are clogging the opportunities out here and don’t take full advantage of what has been lucky enough to fall into their laps. I’m not afraid of the Fame Monsters- let them come. Instead, like roaches, I am sick of stepping around these wannabes; these quitters who have settled for a life of no effort, all claims to brushes with fame, and empty results that compound yearly.