3 Celebrities You Idolize (And The 3 You Resemble Instead)
A lot of us don't measure up to our idols. Like the little league ballplayers who dream of being Derek Jeter but grow up to be high school gym teachers. Or the young mall-rat divas aspiring to be Christina Aguilera who end up performing on Carnival cruise lines. But what about people who are distinct successes, but still want to be some wholly other thing? In the early '80s, Eddie Murphy apparently wasn't content being the world's most popular comedian and movie star, so he decided to become Rick James for awhile.
Far more damning than that story about him and the transsexual.
Or how about Billy Bob Thornton, who must have been so unfulfilled as a mere respected actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter that he tried to become some latter day, country rock Warren Zevon. Thornton yearned for that identity so badly he freaked out
at the mere mention of his former self. I guess I can understand this conflict. Even though I've achieved no success of any kind that could be mistaken for anything vaguely resembling the people listed above, I've always felt a disconnect between the kind of man I wanted to be and the kind of man I was destined to be. And I don't think that makes me unique. So many of us fit into neat pre-existing categories, but so few of us are content being that obvious. It doesn't even matter if we're destined to be good things. We have an attraction to the foreign and strange. Somehow, being what comes naturally feels like a cop out, and we flail hopelessly at everything we are not. Here are three of my biggest conflicts in the categories of music, monsters and comedy.
Music: The Flashy Cosmic Rocker vs. The Earnest Singer-SongwriterRock comes in many flavors, but two of its biggest archetypes are flashy, visually significant, performance-based showmen like David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie, who convey a deliberately artificial image to supplement their music; and earnest, heartfelt songwriters like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, who sing for the common man in a voice he recognizes. The Dream: David BowieIn 1982, my big brother (who is 10 years older) brought home Ziggy Stardust from college. I was instantly transfixed by the music and the album cover, which revealed a rock star unlike any I'd seen before. I still remember exactly what I said when I first laid eyes on the back cover.
"Oh my God! He's SUCH a gaylord!"
Yep. I was shocked. Why was he standing like that? Didn't he know that looks gay? But
The early '80s Bowie was still unique and stylish, but less likely to get chased by guys with baseball bats after a concert in Boston.
David Bowie was everything I wanted to be: eloquent, daring, multifaceted, stylish and impossibly cool. So yeah, I dressed up like Bowie, and played in bands, and always aspired for diversity, but in every single musical thing I ever did, I felt something pulling me back down to a more familiar place. A place called ...
Not fair to blame Billy for the mullet.
In fact, my first time performing on stage, I sang Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" while wearing a T-shirt and a sports jacket at my high school Battle of the Bands. (An outfit I'm apparently
Monsters: Vampire vs. Werewolf
The competing vampire and werewolf archetypes existed well before
Maybe not as respected as Interview With the Vampire, but easier to finish.
The Dream: The VampireI started compiling a list of things that attract me to vampires, and a funny thing happened: It was somewhat similar to my list of David Bowie attributes. Indeed, Bowie even played a vampire in 1982's The Hunger. Solid casting, as I enjoy the notion of the vampire as an elegant man about England, well-dressed, sophisticated, eloquent and impossibly seductive to women.Yes, I know Bram Stoker's Dracula looked a lot more like the one in
Just for clarity, I didn't aspire to be this kind of vampire, who looks like the spawn of gremlins and sea monkeys.
I'm talking about these vampires:
Yes, I know none of these vampires are English. Stop correcting me. You know what I mean. Nitpicking won't make your fangs grow in any quicker. [UPDATE: PLEASE STOP COMMENTING THAT GARY OLDMAN IS BRITISH. I KNOW. DRACULA, HOWEVER, IS FROM TRANSYLVANIA.] I'm just saying, the classy vampire is the horror archetype that I most aspired to be. But I'm not. If monsters were real, I'm pretty sure I'd be ...
Yep, you guessed it. Werewolves are fastidious with their personal hygiene.
Yeah, the body hair. Perfect for a wolf, but not so great for a vampire.
Apparently, the thirst for blood is borne from inadequate testosterone levels.
And whereas popular movies like
My hands don't look like that, but when I was 13 I heard they might start to unless I stopped doing a certain thing.
Comedy: The Witty, Urbane Humorist vs. The Shticky Jew
There's no shortage of comedic archetypes, but by this point I bet you can figure out which kind of comedy appealed to me most. Yep, English comedy. Specifically, the kind that placed an emphasis on eloquence and intelligence as much as humor. Although I love all of Monty Python, John Cleese's combination of vocabulary and hostility was inexplicably appealing. Meanwhile, I was also a big Woody Allen fan, even if his humor was more familiar to me and something I could manifest almost instinctively. There will always be comics more concerned about seeming smart and cool than funny, and comics who wear their Judaism on their sleeve, cracking tired jokes about their overprotective mothers. Ultimately, I realized I didn't want to be either one.
"Either that dreadful 140 character limit goes, or I do."
This pick shouldn't be too surprising. After all, wouldn't Wilde have made an excellent vampire, and isn't Wilde the literary figure you'd most associate with David Bowie? I spent a lot of my early humor writing aspiring to that kind of comedy, adopting a heightened prose and elevated vocabulary while doing a lot to avoid easy Jewish humor, like ...
And he was right at the time, but would I listen?
Over time, however, as the conflict above played out online, more and more of my personality emerged, until the show reached its high-water mark of market penetration as I hated on the Black Eyed Peas song "
Was There a Point to This?Yeah, I think so. Obviously, these examples are very specific to me. I get that. And I also appreciate that splitting my psyche open on the sharpened slate of the Internet has a limited appeal. But I do think there is a larger general point, and it's NOT "just be yourself."While there are dangers in straying from what you do best or ignoring your true calling to forcibly insert yourself into some other mold, I think it has value, too. Neil Simon, the playwright and screenwriter famous for The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys and Murder by Death, said that he wanted to write his comedies like Eugene O'Neill wrote his dramas. In using one of the greatest dramatists as his source, Simon wrote some of the most well-regarded and successful comedies of his generation. I admire that commitment to going outside your comfort zone in the hope of being better than you are. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I think we can all agree that me gaying it up a la Bowie hand gestures for my '90s grunge band wasn't terribly successful.
Flamboyance and grunge don't mix. That's why you rarely see this.
But other times, I think the desire to escape what comes easiest has worked for me. And while I cannot seem to
For more from Gladstone, check out Was 'Arrested Development' A Remake of a 70s Sitcom? and Dr. Strange The Movie: Why It's Not as Crazy As It Sounds.