Friday, September 12, 2008

The New York Post reports that Michael Phelps is so famous and universally lauded that even the crusty, jaded old celebrity saturated New Yorkers eating at Blue Ribbon Sushi were impressed with his mere presence on Wednesday night. So much so that they kept sending him bottles of champagne and sake. First up, the reason this item appeared is because he is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend and they want publicity. This happens every night with Phelps but they're pushing it in the media to drum up interest in the show this weekend.

Secondly, I’m not SO sure New Yorkers are actually THAT jaded about celebrities. I was eating in Midtown recently and Whoopi Goldberg was at the table next to mine and the entire restaurant was staring at her. It eventually descended into a dreadful display of people actually going over to her table to ask for photos. Similarly, I read about how Bill Clinton walked into the Spotted Pig a while back and the entire restaurant applauded him for a good minute or so before he could just sit down. Two or three weeks ago I was at a party in the West Village and Kirsten Dunst turned up. She stayed for a moment and said hello to one person and no one turned or said anything until she left when everyone started gossiping and the person she talked to stood there beaming and soaking up the attention and validation fro having been the one Dunst talked to.

The performance of acting like you don’t care that a celebrity in the room isn’t inherently New York-type behaviour nor is it even something found in New York that much at all anyway in my experience. People notice but they know it’s gauche to act out so they just sit there and watch like a hawk via the reflection in their knife rather than actually turn around. Media people do one of two extremes. They either completely subjugate their entire being and laugh at everything the celebrity does and offer to lie in a puddle so the celebrity doesn’t get their feet wet or they make a show out of standing there with their back to the celeb.

Michael Phelps is in that Bill Clinton at the Spotted Pig stage right now and he’s also someone who has done something that is beyond criticism. You can’t argue that he’s not the greatest athlete because it’s scientifically proven in the most universally recognized manner. It’s completely black and white and that disarms people. People aren’t disclosing anything about their own neediness or political affiliation or cultural taste by praising him so they feel it’s safe to do so without outing themself in any way or removing their marketable mystique. Unless their mystique is anchored in seeming dark and sociopathic. If that’s the case then they will probably say and do nothing all. I just wonder when Paris Hilton will aim her groin at him and go in for the attack. If he ends up sleeping with her it will tarnish his image quite substantially, I’d say. [source]

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