The Shrubbery
September 1999
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Angry Dan's Column

Hollywood as the New Mt. Olympus

by Daniel Strohl


He walked into the bar, his bag slung across his torso. He let his eyes acclimate to the neon-pierced darkness, then unsnapped his bag and pulled out a notepad and pen.

He walked across the room to a table a few feet from the bar. A couple trucker-types sat at that end, eyes stuck to the WCW program on the television overhead. He started to take notes.

The bartender noticed the twenty-something at the table, scribbling furiously and looking intently at his two best customers. He brought a glass of water out to the young man.

"Why exactly do you find Bobby and Jack interesting?" the bartender asked.

The young man looked up. Bobby and Jack turned around on their barstools. The television had gone to a commercial. The news tonight was to feature a story on the second anniversary of Princess Di's death.

"I'm conducting a little research," he said. He received blank stares from all three men. "I'm writing a book about western celebrityism and comparing it to the Greek gods."

The bartender folded his arms. Jack glanced at the tv to make sure he wasn't missing anything.

"Yeah?" the bartender asked, quite bored.

The young man closed his notepad. "Well, look at our culture. Why do you and every household in America have televisions?"

"Entertainment, I guess. To keep the customers happy. You gonna order?"

"Maybe. Now what do you think the Greeks did for entertainment? Wrestle naked all the time? No, they had their gods and their stories, right?"

"Uh-huh." Bobby and Jack grew bored and went back to Stone Cold up above.

"The big problem with western celebrityism today, though, where Hollywood is the new Mt. Olympus, is that you can actually drive the streets of Hollywood. Our celebrities are mortal. We hear stories of how they started out average schmoes like these two and then became gods, in a way, with all the human reactions to such a position. Makes you wonder if we westerners demanded another deity system after the failure of the old one, huh?"

The bartender didn't look satisfied. "So what does studying these two fellers have anything to do with that?"

"I was getting to that point," he said and shifted positions. "The problem with our system is that it leads all these schmoes into thinking maybe they can be celebrities too. Gives all of us some grand hopes and dreams which 99.9% of the time don't come true. "Hey, Bobby! Have you ever wanted to fight on WCW? Tell me the truth."

Bobby reluctantly turned around. "I dunno, maybe. I never really thought about it."

"Sure you did? Maybe you never told anyone about it because they might make fun of you, but you've at least tossed the idea around, right?"

"Sure, I guess so." He then resumed his worship.

The young man quickly turned to the bartender. "See? And I bet you've thought about it too, right? Like right after the movie Cocktail came out, right? Anyway, when people realize they can't fulfill these hopes and dreams, they start acting them out among their peers. That's why we have so much pain-sharing nowadays. It's easier and better to tell the world our sorrows than our joys because sorrows make a better story, make a better celebrity.

"Are you gonna gossip about the girl whose boyfriend ditched her for another guy or the girl who has been happily married to the same guy for the last several years? It's almost a syndrome. People want to be celebritized, if not by the world and the tabloids, then by their peers and the local newspapers."

The bartender nodded towards Bobby and Jack. "Are those two celebrities?" he asked.

The young man leaned back. "That's what I'm here to find out."

The bartender smiled. "Are you a celebrity?"

The young man held up his notepad. "I'm trying, at least."



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