Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fame Junkies (copy)

While attending school in the early years of 2000, I frequently lunched with a vivacious group of would-be librarians. Our conversations would evolve around school, grades, families, and celebrities. The celebrity talk came mostly from a twenty-something who brought her People or Entertainment Weekly to lunch.

At first I considered the celebrity talk a little odd. Here we were, soon to be professional information retrievers, and we were discussing the worst dressed at the academy awards. Instead of discussing metadata retrieval or authoritative websites, we were wondering who Nicole Kidman was dating. How odd right?

Not really. Between 2000 and 2005, circulation of major news magazines such as Time and Newsweek only increased by 2%. Celebrity magazines enjoyed a boom as sales increased 18.7%, according to Ruth McFarland of Bacon Information.

Another interesting poll, conducted jointly by Boston and Babson Colleges, asked 653 Rochester, New York, middle school students out of a list of famous people who would they most like to have dinner with. George W. Bush and Albert Einstein received 2.7 and 3.7 percent respectfully, yet Paris Hilton and 50 Cent placed third at 15.8% each. The second place winner was Jesus Christ at 16.8%, and the first place winner was Jennifer Lopez at 17.4 percent.

Within the same poll, students were asked which jobs they would prefer out of five choices. In fifth and fourth place, below 10%, were CEOs of a major company “like General Motors” and “a Navy Seal.” Only 13.6% chose to be “a United States Senator,” and 23.7 % opted for “the president of a great university like Harvard or Yale.” At 43.4 percent and in first place, students ecstatically choose to be “the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.” Not a famous person, mind you, but a lowly assistant!

All these fascinating statistics are compiled in Jake Halpern’s Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths behind America’s Favorite Addiction. This book, utterly enthralling, provides the psychological reasoning for our obsession with Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton.

Halpern actually has an answer to the age-old question, “What price is fame?”