I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of fame lately, mostly because like a dog with cars I’ve been chasing it my whole life and I’ve never been able to catch it. While it may be an ugly bitch goddess, it oftentimes seems to be the only game in town. After all, the only other option is to toil in obscurity, and what artist (and I do think of myself as an artist, otherwise why bother?) has ever said “I truly hope to be an unknown for the entirety of my life”?
Certainly there’s something to the notion that you can peak too early, as we have seen in many child stars who go on to become the butt of every late night talk show host’s repertoire. And then there are the one hit wonders, those too-numerous-to-name musical acts that have achieved wild fame and success… for the proverbial fifteen minutes. While some of them (such as emmet swimming and Wheatus, a couple of my favorite bands) continue to perform and have dedicated fan bases, others are resigned to the dustbin of musical history.
And I wonder: what does it feel like? What is it like to be a one-hit wonder? Not a failure or a nobody (I know that already, thanks). Not a great celebrity, like Tina Turner or Harrison Ford or even Will Smith, or somebody who has a major success and then becomes a hermit (J.D. Salinger, I’m looking in your direction). I’m talking about a person who has one mega-hit (Rick Astley) and then is never heard from again.
What does that do to you? Do you feel terrible? Does it make you bitter? Do you feel angry? Are you grateful you got to taste the heights that everyone dreams of, even if only for a little while?
Maybe it all depends on how you dealt with the fame. Did you invest your money wisely? Did you blow it all on coke and whores? Were you just a little kid and your parents invested your money wisely (or conversely, blew it all on coke and whores)? How does all of that change you as a person?
Maybe it’s contextual. What if it was your best work you ever produced, at least in your own eyes? What if it was the worst drivel you ever produced? What if you banged it out in 15 minutes because you had a deadline? What if you labored over it for years? Do you try a different field, or just keep going, hoping lightning will strike twice?
Do you ever take a break from it and decide to come back to it later? I know that Mayim Bialik did just that, taking a break from acting to pursue a short sideline in a simple side career (neuroscience), but it’s not like Blossom was an obscure show that only ran for one season. What about the folks from The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.? What happens to them? (Well, besides Bruce Campbell. His career can survive anything.)
I’d like to know. No, really, I’d like to know, specifically by finding out for myself. Hey, I’ve already been a nobody. I’ll take being a one-hit wonder.