- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

The she-said, he-said legal drama in Colorado came to be because of America’s pathetic obsession with celebrities.

It seems all too many Americans want to be celebrities or want to be around them.

The obsession is sometimes pitiful, sometimes sad, manifesting itself in a number of astonishing ways.

Some people eat worms to be on television. Others warble on stage. Still others try to knock each other out with chairs after revealing icky things about one another.

It is all about television’s alleged power to validate the human experience.

If you are not on television, you are a nobody, and if you are a nobody your world is somehow less than complete.

The 19-year-old woman from Colorado did not go to Kobe Bryant’s hotel room at night because of their shared interest in philosophy, political causes and economic theories. She went to his room because of his fame. She went there to brush up against it, to be in its presence, if only for a few minutes.

She was coming from one end of the spectrum, Bryant from the other end.

NBA players, like all professional athletes, are conditioned to have a strong sense of entitlement.

Their idea of the courting process is to snap their fingers in the presence of a woman.

They invite a strange woman to their hotel room and expect to go from there.

Theirs is not a complex form of interaction. There is an implicit understanding.

This brief encounter is usually satisfying to the women who hang out in the nightclubs and hotels frequented by NBA players. They get to be around a famous person for a few minutes, and then they get to tell their friends how wonderful and exciting it all was.

This fleeting time with a celebrity is their opportunity of a lifetime, and the principals rarely pause to consider how empty it all is.

Television, in a way, serves as the pimp.

Television has this unnatural hold on America, dispensing its vapid messages that dull the senses, distorting everything that comes into its domain.

It tugs on both the famous and those who wish to be famous.

Most celebrities have a certain skill or talent, plus two arms, two legs, ordinary intellects and the like.

Their existence is really no more fascinating than that.

Yet a good number of Americans will stand outside a roped-off area or report to a hotel room to be in the vicinity of a famous person, in what amounts to a meeting of the unreal and real. There is something debasing about it for the fans of the stars.

The stars seemingly have what we want: fame, wealth and bliss.

Yet we fail to consider the paradox that lurks within celebrities, which is that they have as many problems as the no-name guys down the street. They do not find some nirvana-like peace in their lives because of their material wealth. They do not go through life with a permanent smile on their faces.

In fact, sometimes, they appear doomed to repeat their mistakes.

Some get married 150 times, check in and out of fancy drug rehabilitation centers, and end up professing to be very private people who have strong geopolitical opinions.

We are reminded of this on a regular basis.

Johnny Depp is the latest celebrity who is not as happy as an ordinary workaday person might think he should be.

Depp is one of those movie stars who is coming to terms with the political pain in his life after moving to France to be away from America and the Bush administration.

If he were still on these shores, American women might squeal in his presence, or even go to his hotel room, but this does nothing for him. He is grappling with larger issues.

“My daughter is 4, my boy is 1,” Depp said to a German magazine the other day. “I’d like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out.”

So Depp took America’s money and fled to France.

It could not have been easy for someone as principled as Depp, accepting money from a country as broken as America, but he did what he had to do to leave behind the unpleasantness.

It is a crazy world.

The rot within the mixed-up celebrity culture is interconnected on a lot of brain-numbing levels, from the mess in Colorado, to eating worms and throwing chairs, to the poor gentleman who has moved to France.

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