Before Christmas, the Better Half and I were at Best Buy looking for gifts for various friends and relations. As we strolled the shelves looking for CDs by a currently-popular British boy band whose same I am desperately trying to keep from committing to memory (our young niece is a fan), I passed a few selections that appealed to my own taste. I indicated that a few might make good stocking stuffers, and lo… come that blessed morn, there they were for me to enjoy.
Thus it was that I came to listen to Tom Petty’s “Full Moon Fever” the other day. (Yes, I realize that album is practically pleistocene in terms of popular music. I do not trouble myself with the delusion that my taste in listening material is at all hip.) Singing along to “Yer So Bad,” something occurred to me — I bet it’s really cool to be Tom Petty.
Now, I’ve said before that being famous is probably awful in a lot of ways. But it’s also probably pretty nice in a lot of ways, too. And I think Tom Petty is exactly the kind of famous I’d like to be.
First of all, I think he’s pretty obviously just a cool guy. He may no longer be churning out any hit songs, but you’ve got to admit that he’s just cool. Right?
Plus, the man obviously enjoys the respect of his peers. I imagine one doesn’t get invited to hang out and record music with the likes of the guys in the Traveling Wilburys without commanding a decent degree of esteem within the recording industry. That must be very nice.
And the guy also clearly has a fantastic sense of humor. For one thing, if you happen to own the CD version of “Full Moon Fever,” you have heard his amusing message halfway through in which he explains that, out of consideration for customers who purchased the cassette tape version and who at that point would be forced to turn it over, he was going to pause for a second to be fair. (Fine, the humor is dated. It’s still hilarious that he threw that in there.) Also, for several seasons he lent his voice to a character on “King of the Hill.” Dude’s a funny guy.
So he gets to be rich and well-respected and have a good time, but nobody’s saying idiotic things about him in “US Weekly” or going through his garbage. If I could be a famous person, I’d be Tom Petty.
And this got me thinking of other famous people I’d like to be. I chose two others, one a specific person and the other a rather broad category.
The other specific person I would be is Zadie Smith, because she is almost exactly the same age as me but is such a delightful writer it turns me green with envy every time I think about it. (Though I must admit that I enjoyed her more straightforward novels “White Teeth” and “On Beauty” to her more experimental new one “NW,” at least so far as I’ve gotten yet.) She enjoys acclaim and success and probably gets to do all kind of neat stuff. I’d be Zadie Smith.
The broad category in which I’d like to find myself is that of Oscar Pre-show Personality. Ryan Seacrest or *shudder* Billy Bush or the like. Not that I would want to be any of those asshats. (Thus this is admittedly kind of a deviation from the other two.) Far from it. No, I want to do what they do because I would be so much better at it. I would kill that gig, my friends. I would once in a while say something non-inane, a notion that appears not to have occurred to the folks who currently do the job. I would own the Oscar red carpet.
So that’s this week’s Question: If you could be a famous person, whose life would you choose? You get the whole package — their celebrity, their looks, their talent, their life. Whose place would you take?