‘Celebrities’ are part of our daily lives — whether we like it or not

Some of 2003’s biggest unanswered questions have nothing to do with everyday life but the world of bright lights, the media and politics. Questions such as what name pop singer Despina Vandi is going to give her child once it is born, why manager Ilias Psinakis fainted on the set of «Pop Idol» and whether Nikos of «Survivor» is going to tell all. Then there is the problem of who is to play Alexander the Great in the personal life of actress Mimi Denisi on the heels of Vaclav Havel, Antonis Tritsis and Apostolos Gletsos. Is Mr X. gay or straight? Who really wrote the Giorgos Mazonakis song «Your Gucci Dress»? These questions are not only debated in the gutter press and their television counterparts but even feature on prime-time news bulletins and serious talk shows. Thanks to ANT1’s «Elly’s Eyes,» we found out that the affair between singer Sakis Rouvas and Rebecca Wang is probably over. «Lady» Angela (Dimitriou) reveled in her problem with «Lady» Kaiti (Garbi) on NET’s «To Extremes,» while Nikos Hadzinikolaou, the Greek journalist who got singer Tolis Voskopoulos to announce he was to become a father, put the hard word on Antonis Remos (and later on Andreas Mikroutsikos) as to when they were «going to do the right thing» by their respective girlfriends. Greece’s household names live among us and only hermits have the luxury of being able to avoid them. Of course, the phenomenon is not restricted to Greece. A Guardian writer who was patient enough to count the names referred to over a month in lifestyle magazines and tabloid gossip columns found that over 500 celebrities lived in Britain. However, most of them had no obvious talent other than an ability to promote and market themselves, to act badly in public and/or appear on end-of-the-market television programs. In our little country, celebrities appear at theater premieres, weddings and baptisms, engagement parties, out on the town, at charity events, lazing about on the Aegean’s more glamorous islands and of course, on television. They are models, male and female, former participants in reality shows – and their relatives – professional socialites, fashion designers, stars of TV series, impresarios, soccer players and their wives, television personalities, nightclub singers, DJs, sexy dentists, high-profile lawyers – the list is endless. Nearly everyone has the democratic right to join the club of the instantly recognizable, although this is a club that does not give life memberships. Members have been, for example Father Nektarios Moulatsiotis (remember the Rocker Priests?), trans-sexual Jenny Heiloudaki (former lover of a public prosecutor and now a businesswoman), the Christian activist Louka and the mother of a participant on the first season of «Big Brother.» Last spring when a «gypsy beauty contest» was held in Amaliada, a number of candidates admitted before the cameras that a little bit of fame did no harm. Perhaps some of them might become models, or embark on a career on a local television channel. While once most teenagers dreamed of becoming soccer players or actors, now thousands of the young and not-so-young try to become famous by taking part in a reality or other down-market show. Of course, the promise of fast and easy wealth is a strong motive but not the only one. Many simply want to enjoy being recognized, have the fun of strangers stopping them in the street and asking them for an autograph, of being someone instead of no one. In the early 1960s, the American historian Daniel Burstin gave what has become the classic definition of celebrity as someone who is «famous for being famous.» These days, the phenomenon has assumed gigantic proportions, with an entire industry devoted to creating, maintaining and renewing the corpus of the famous – and television is the most effective way of producing brand names.

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