I WAS at a dinner party on Saturday night – at a table full of writers – when the scribbler seated next to me let slip a nugget of obscurity that left a red wine stain on the front of my shirt.
“My father played tuba on the recording of Martha My Dear for The Beatles’ White Album”. So matter-of-fact.
Anyone who loves The Beatles will be able to hear it as they read this… the tuba kicking in at the start of the second verse… “Hold your head up, you silly girl, look what you’ve done…”
That’s the handy work of Alf Reece. He’s 90 years old now – didn’t really know who The Beatles were when he turned up for the recording session – but thanks to the wonder of Google his name is forever linked with the fab four.
There are so many ways to be famous in this brave new world. One of the authors at the table commented that he was quite comfortable with author fame; enough to get you a decent table at a restaurant, but not enough to have you interrupted while you eat.
Accidental fame-by-association, like Alf’s, comes as a result of following a passion, but for many, fame itself is their life’s yearning.
Andy Warhol was famous for his “15 minutes of fame” comment. But later in life he confessed to being bored by it.
“I never use it anymore,” he said in a New Yorker interview. “My new line is, ‘In 15 minutes everyone will be famous’.”
Prophetic words, given it was years before social media would put fame within the grasp of anyone with an ounce of attitude and a digital camera.
Lady Gaga, the fame monster herself, takes notoriety to a new level. As she says, “I’ve always been famous, it’s just that no one knew it yet.”
Her words are especially ironic for Professor Mathieu Deflem of the University of South Carolina, who teaches a course called “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame”.
Attending a Lady Gaga concert in Japan, Deflem found himself swamped by Japanese fans who called him Gaga Sensei, and asked him to pose for photographs and sign autographs.
Die-hard Gaga fans knew his face from TV and the internet.
In a weird, self-referential twist, Deflem has published an academic paper examining his own experiences of becoming famous for teaching a course about the nature of fame.
He concludes, like Warhol, that “15 minutes of fame” is a relic of the 20th century; that in the age of 24-hour media, and networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, “everyone can be famous all the time.”
Alf Reece, the accidental Beatle, just might agree. It’s staying unknown that’s the real challenge.
Australia may have talent, and you might think you can dance, but maybe in these fame-seeking times it’s more exceptional, more desirable, to remain obscure.