Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad, Tiger Woods—quite possibly, three of the most famous people on the planet (and not necessarily in that order).
That fame, however, does not necessarily bring peace and tranquility.
Tiger Woods may be miffed that his “transgressions” came under public scrutiny, but students of history know better. Fame has been a blessing and a burden since the beginnings of civilization. Muhammad’s growing popularity (and opposition) forced him to flee his native Mecca to Medina. Jesus had a similar brush with fame and popularity, with a more grisly end. So it should not be a surprise to any celebrity that their lives are under the microscope.
Here in America, celebrity has been valued, as well as criticized, since the colonial period. Benjamin Frankin was perhaps the first true American celebrity: his fame as a scientist, author, diplomat and all-around American workaholic spread across Europe. Franklin was also among the first, ironically, to write on the dangers of celebrity. In 1725, in his Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, he wrote:
“Mankind naturally and generally love to be flatter’d…Geese are but Geese tho’ we may think ’em Swans; and Truth will be Truth tho’ it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful.”
Later, in his unfinished autobiography he famously wrote:
“Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves.”
In a sense, Franklin is pointing out the paradox of fame in America: we crave attention, yet hate it when others crave attention. Yet even though we may crave stardom, it’s difficult to mask the underlying truth to our being.
Davy Crockett, the Indian fighter, frontiersman, Congressman and martyr at the Alamo, was another early superstar, according to many historians. By the 1830s, his frontier persona, thanks to massive marketing through stage plays, books and merchandising, had become a caricature of the real person: an often uneasy celebrity who, like Tiger Woods, often craved anonymity in areas outside of public life. Crockett once stated that:
“Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of some thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it!”
In retrospect, Tiger Woods has some pretty impressive company, and a certain match for prowess in the boudoir (if the accounts of Dr. Franklin’s escapades are true). Here are some other quotes about fame and celebrity.
“He who pursues fame at the risk of losing his self is not a scholar.” — Chuang-tzu
“The best people renounce all for one goal, the eternal fame of mortals; but most people stuff themselves like cattle.” — Heraclitus
“What is fame? The advantage of being known by people of whom you yourself know nothing, and for whom you care as little.” — Lord Byron
“Fame is like a suffocating castle sieged by the enemy. “ — Mehmet ildan
“All the fame I look for in life is to have lived it quietly.” — Michel de Montaigne
“When once a man has made celebrity necessary to his happiness, he has put it in the power of the weakest and most timorous malignity, if not to take away his satisfaction, at least to withhold it. His enemies may indulge their pride by airy negligence and gratify their malice by quiet neutrality. “ — Samuel Johnson
“No true and permanent fame can be founded, except in labors which promote the happiness of mankind. “ — Charles Sumner
“A sign of celebrity is that his name is often worth more than his services. “ — Daniel J. Boorstin
“A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized. “ — Fred Allen
“A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.” — H. L. Mencken
“The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it’s their fault.” — Henry Kissinger