In Defence Of The Pop Star

In Defence Of The Pop Star

I always wanted to be famous. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a superstar. Not in the “have I seen you in something before?” way, but in the sneaking out of Chateau Marmont behind Jared Leto way. I wanted flashbulbs popping as I cover my face and indiscreetly flash my giant engagement ring (from Michael Fassbender). I wanted to be Kate Moss backstage at Glastonbury, smoking cigarettes with Paul Simonon in shorts so small they required a special trip to the waxer. I wanted Studio 54, fur coats, and wall to wall parties.

Fame fascinated me, dazzled me, and pushed me. Everything about it seemed great. The last few years I have watched it up close, especially with musicians.

My specialty subject to observe was the rock star. They had money, they had booze, and my god they had women. The old ones, the ugly ones, the arrogant ones, the weird ones, and especially the married ones, all had a small army of attractive women competing for the merest scrap of attention they could snatch. Need a lighter? 10 are thrust in your direction. Want a line? A dozen hands rifle through studded purses. Want a fuck? Well, you see where I’m going.

The rockers have a relatively easy time. These days music and the celebrity machine have their guns pointed squarely at pop stars. The screaming teens that follow their every move mean more inches in gossip rags, more sales, and more money.

Even still that media created image of pop stars holidaying on hotel sized yachts, dating models, and being muses to fashion houses for better (Kate Moss and oh, anyone) or worse (Miley Cyrus and oh, anyone) looks pretty damn tasty to a mere mortal like myself. Surely the spotlight and the cameras are worth the payoff, right?

I remember a few years ago chatting to Taylor Momsen outside of a bar in Melbourne. She was in town to play a festival with her band The Pretty Reckless at the same time as Gossip Girl was a global phenomenon. I was texting when a blonde woman barked “no photos” in my face. The poor assistant (who was just doing her job) copped a sharp look before Momsen explained that while she was of the legal Australian drinking age, a photo of her at a bar with a drink in her hand would make a photographer a lot of money and mean “Taylor Momsen’s Booze Hell” headlines.

I’d almost forgotten about that conversation when I went to Sydney to cover the ARIAs late last year and despite it being an Australian music awards night the big draw card was English boy band One Direction. For those of you who do not have a female friend or relative under the age of 16, One Direction are arguably the most successful pop group in recent history. A product of Simon Cowell’s The X Factor, One Direction haven’t exactly broken the boy band mould (there is the usual line up- the scruffy one, the cheeky one, the vaguely ethnic looking one, the nice one, the one whose name no-one remembers) but have become global pin ups and very wealthy young men. 1D shot to fame while most of the boys were 16 or 17, they have had a string of number one singles and albums, and have toured nonstop for the last four or five years.

If you believe the pop based magazines they are demigods, and fair enough. They are young, good looking, and talented enough that they have managed to stay relevant when most other acts unearthed by reality TV shows are performing to half empty auditoriums, county fairs, or shopping centres. I knew that they were big, not my cup of tea, but big. What I didn’t know was just how big. As my cab eased it’s way to The Star I saw the first trickle of what was a sea of teenage girls. Many of these girls had been in place since 6am, just waiting to see these guys. Every possible entrance, stairway, elevator and escalator was blocked by rabid 1D fans. As someone who always wanted this kind of adoration it seemed as though they were living the dream.

As us media schmucks took our place along the red carpet, the teenagers behind us shrieked out the band member’s names and sang their songs. As I was about to chat to The Preatures, One Direction arrived. I know this because I could no longer hear my own voice, the screams were deafening. They were interviewed at the top of the red carpet by Richard Wilkins (who has an abnormally large head), and at the bottom of the red carpet by Angela Bishop (who is a goddess). As they walked along the space between surrounded by PR people, security guards, makeup artists (FYI even their makeup artist has fans) and god knows who else, I could only stop and stare.

What did I feel? Sadness. As I looked at those five gorgeous young men all I could see staring back were long, greyhound-sad looking faces. I was confused. The only humour to be found was when Guy Sebastian made the spectacular error of hitting the ruby rug approximately five minutes after 1D, the media cared not and I feel he learned a valuable lesson about the power of top billing.

Here are five of the most famous men on Earth and they look like they would rather be anywhere else. I thought about it a little more and it started to make sense. These guys have not stood still for five years. They wake up in a different city most days, they don’t see much apart from the inside of stadiums or hotel rooms, even if they could go and sightsee they would be mobbed by fans and photographers every step of the way.

The years between 14 and 24 are a person’s prime mistake making years, hell I can’t even think of all of the fucks, fights, and bad behaviour I personally got up to during those years. For almost all of this time the One Direction guys have been under the media’s noses. It’s the same for your Miley’s and Selena’s and Justin’s, they are the fish and we are the noisy kids tapping the glass.

Having to second guess every single fuck because you don’t know if the girl/guy will head straight over to The Daily Mail, having to look over your shoulder should you want to do a line or smoke a joint because you don’t know where the next camera is, having to hide out to be alone but even then there is security dotted around, and assistants, and managers, and hangers on.

Alone with everyone.

It made sense all of a sudden why so many of these artists burn out, or die. Heroin you can always do alone. Cocaine requires people.

Celebrity has changed since the golden days of old. In the studio system movie stars of the 30s all the way up the 50s were carefully shielded from the press, their public images painstakingly constructed, and places like Chateau Marmont were playgrounds built on discretion, because who gives a fuck that Bill Holden is fucking the first lady if no-one knows? There were no videophones at Studio 54, Warhol portraits only. The paps were less rabid before the Princess checked out in that Paris tunnel.

I always wondered how all of these beautiful, young, rich, and famous people died such lonely deaths.

When your face is currency, sometimes that is the only way to close the market once and for all.

For the first time in my life, when I looked at those bored young men with everything, I quietly thanked the Universe for every PR person who did not know my name, for every teenage girl that shoved me out of the way, and for the anonymity to fight, fuck and generally exist without anyone giving a single fuck.

Originally published as I Wanna Be Adored on 365 Stories, 365 Days
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