“Fame in a world like this is worthless.”
—Marcus Aurelius, 121-180 A.D.
“Fame is hollow. It amplifies what is there. If there is any self-doubt, or hatred, or lack of ability to connect with people, fame will magnify it.”
“There’s nothing about fame that I’ve ever seen that is healthy…it’s very hard to survive.”
“In many ways, fame is the industrial disease of creativity. It’s a sludgy byproduct of making things.”
“Last summer, I read a book by David Bohm, the physicist, called Order, Science, and Creativity. They gave chimps paint and found that they’d rather paint than do anything else, they even forgot to eat. The only thing that stemmed the flow of the hated word, “creativity,” was when they began to reward them for painting. I have seen in my life again and again what fame does to people…”
“How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”
“One can’t work
by lime light…”
“The only thing that comes from fame is mediocrity.”
—Sleater-Kinney, “Hey Darling”
“The secret to longevity in the music business is to get away from it. Alright? You gotta leave it man… Learn how to be a deep sea fisherman. Go scuba diving. Whatever it is. Snow skiing. Become, and be, something completely else.”
One celebrity I actually admire is Rick Moranis, who took a break from acting to raise his children after his wife died of breast cancer. “I discovered within a couple of years, I didn’t miss it at all,” he said. He explained that once he became a star, the real creative element of the work went out the window:
And once I became a commodity for hire, and was asked to be in other people’s movies, it stopped being about the creativity, the writing, and it became more about being a marketable entity. I guess what they call a star. Hitting the mark and saying the lines and doing the work that the scriptwriters and executives and the director wanted the actor to do, was perfectly acceptable way to spend time and make a living, but it was not fulfilling creatively, the way the early work had been. I knew as I was taking a break from it that if I went back to it, I was not going to go back to it in that way. If I ever went back, I’d go back to it in a much more creative way.
(He’s still around, by the way.)
I’m also reminded of John Lennon, who is more problematic, as we say. From 1973-1975, John Lennon lived what is known as “The Lost Weekend,” a period in which he separated from his wife, Yoko Ono, and spent his time drinking and running around with Harry Nilsson. The story goes that when they eventually got back together, Yoko got pregnant, but since she’d suffered several previous miscarriages, she said the only way she’d have the child is if Lennon agreed to be a “househusband.” He accepted, and from 1975-1980, they switched roles: Yoko tended to their business deals and Lennon stayed at home with their new son, Sean.
In a 1980 Playboy interview, when asked what he’d been doing, he answered, “I’ve been baking bread and looking after the baby.” The interviewer asked, “But what have you been working on?” to which Lennon replied, “Are you kidding? Bread and babies, as every housewife knows, is a full-time job.”
Lennon wrote the song “Watching The Wheels” about this period away from fame:
People say I’m crazy
Doing what I’m doing
well, they give me all kinds of warnings
to save me from ruin
When I say that I’m okay
well, they look at me kinda strange
surely you’re not happy now
you no longer play the game
In his later years, Lennon struggled with the notion of churning out rock ‘n’ roll product, so his househusband era was also a kind of retreat and sabbatical from the meat grinder. “Rock ‘n’ roll was not fun anymore…I had become a craftsman and I could have continued being a craftsman. I respect craftsmen, but I am not interested in becoming one.”
“I chose not to take the standard options in my business – going to Vegas and singing your great hits, if you’re lucky, or going to hell, which is where Elvis went,” he said. “Walking away is much harder than carrying on.”