From George Michael to the History of Press

(This is a weird long posting. We’re going on a ride.)

Carrie Underwood just did a cover of George Michael’s Praying for Time for Idol Gives Back.

Well, I’ve neglected to share that GayBoy snagged us some GM tickets for the upcoming tour when it hits Vancouver. We don’t have great seats, but the day for me paying $200 to see anyone, God included, is still not even fucking close to nigh. Not when I can pay $12 and get sweaty, up close, and personal with dirty rock people in small clubs for insane shows that feel like the best kept secret in town.

Still, it’s George Michael. George got me through my folks’ divorce and my mothers suicide attempt. His Songs from the Last Century got me through the first year after her death.

I saw him live the last time he rolled through Vancouver, 1991, when I was just graduating high school. Old times. Killer gig. (His Cover to Cover tour where he performed only covers, none of his own work — pissed off the record company but it was awesome to get to dance to Superstition and Play That Funky Music [White Boy] ).

George is in a weird place. Mocked, derided, taunted for his escapades in Beverly Hills washrooms and getting arrested for pot. The older I get, the more I like the guy, though. He’s human after all.

People fuck up. God knows if I was famous for the last eight years and cameras had followed me around everywhere, I’d certainly be trying to live it down the rest of my life. I’ve been a complete ass sometimes. I don’t even want to get into some of the bullshit I’ve brought to life over the years. Suffice to say, I do not have cameras following me and have managed to get past most of my own stupidity, but the road was real fucking long, hard, and bumpy.

It’s part of why I can’t stand this obsession we have with celebrities. Constantly hounding them, haunting them, hurting them. Sure, they sign up for fame, but, really, would anyone ever really want to willfully submit to so much ridicule and analysis from others? Get real. Why should they carry those burdens just because they’ve had some success?

I feel badly for anyone enduring hard times, celebrity or not. I don’t think having money or fame makes anyone immune from hurt, shame, or resentment.

I often wonder what it is that drives us as a society to be so obsessed in this cult of celebrity. My thinking is somewhat subject to historical interpretation, though. (Bear with me for a crash history of the modern media.)

I figure that, before the media really began at the end of the 18th century — by media, I mean press and news in its original form, pure print and word on the street — it was easy to maintain a certain mystique when one was wealthy or famous. People might hear a bit about you here or there, but if you were a celebrity before about 1890 or so, you could effectively limit what the world saw or knew of you, and without a spin doctor eating 10% of your income.

But then… Better print technology meant more papers could be produced, bigger ones, so more content was possible. More competition was born, and suddenly newspapers had become bigger business. We entered a society of mass production, so advertising became more important because more things had to be sold. To sell more advertisements, they’d make more content, have more stories ergo more pages for ads. More content meant more paper, and more paper meant more costs, like ink, and running presses markedly longer. So they needed to sell more papers. Needing to sell more, content and sensationalism became important. When the news mattered, papers would sell themselves. But day to day, “hooks” became more important. Stories with appeal. And celebrities have appeal.

Long story short, celebrities were good for business. But then technology improved. The portable television camera, right up through to camera phones. Every bit of technology has made that access more possible, so the stories have become increasingly invasive as a result.

Well, now that we can see all the nitty-gritty about these rich, famous people’s lives, the mystique of wealth and fame has begun to erode, and suddenly the monotone of our lives seems so much less sucky because their lives suck too.

And I resent our tendency to submit to that, on a lot of levels. Whether it’s because I think we’re a big world with a lot of serious problems that need serious solutions and these vapid stories take away from that discussion, or that I just get bored by it all, I do know we can do much, much better than reading the latest story about how celebrity X fucked up with Y.

In keeping with this sentiment, I really try to avoid reading more sensational celebrity news. Someone talking about a movie is one thing, but there are limits, and I try to abide them.

I guiltily confess, though, that I’ve followed George Michael’s crazy happenings to a degree. But right around when my mother died, he’d lost his mother (and a lover) as well. He had an off-the-hook pot habit, was fucking up in a million ways. So did I, so did I, and so was I. A lot of his lyrics have always cut a little close to home with my own life experience. And, yes, knowing he was human and was fucking up made me feel a little bit less alone as what I perceived to be a failure, you know? But I know that was my motivation, and I’m honest about it.

(And he puts on one hell of a concert. It’s all the way off in July, but it’ll be great.)

As usual, total queen of the segue there, but it’s all about going with the flow. Writing’s a great ride some nights. :)

PS: But I have a lot of disrespect for GM refusing to take an HIV test. I think it’s irresponsible of anyone to not have an HIV test. In this day and age, anyone sexually active — married, in a relationship or not — should be tested annually at the very least.