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Dec 10

So, Ya Wanna be a Star? —Part 1

A Golf Parable—

(Short Version) Deep in the jungles of Africa, an explorer heard a strange sound, THWAK! Cautiously, he approached. There was a gorilla in a clearing putting rocks on little mounds of dirt and hitting them with a stick four hundred yards straight as a die into the jungle beyond. Seeing his fortune made, the explorer captured the gorilla and transported him to America. He dressed the gorilla in plaid slacks and a red polo shirt and substituted a driver for the stick.

Out on the course he teed up the golf ball and the gorilla hit the ball, THWAK!, four hundred yards straight as a die toward the distant green. The ball rolled up two feet short of the pin. Visions of stardom danced in the explorer’s head. On the green, he handed the gorilla a putter. The gorilla addressed the ball and, THWAK!, four hundred yards straight as a die…

A good friend of mine sent me a Youtube segment of a little boy of not more than four-years-of-age sinking incredible shots in a childs’ basketball hoop to the joyous, dancing, high-fiving hijinks of his father. Immediately I thought of this joke, THWAK!

Further thoughts followed. Through my wife’s friend, we got to know a major sports star. Every time he appeared in uniform and ready for action, thousands of fans would leap to their feet and scream his name. It had been like this since he was a child sports prodigy. He was destined for stardom and, sure enough, within a few years, when he was a young man, it happened. The years passed and the screaming crowd still surged to its feet when he entered…though with somewhat less gusto.

The years passed and, as happens with all of us, retirement from the profession arrived. The fans no longer screamed his name. In fact, there were no longer fans. He was left without the adulation he received since he was a child…and he was left without his “fix” of autograph-seeking admirers. He became a stunted, withdrawn man. When we would visit the couple, he would walk through the room without so much as a “Hi” only to disappear in the next room, door closed.

My thoughts turned to the little Youtube boy and his future as a basketball star. Screams of approval and high fives would be there for as long as he produced. Afterward would come reality and the realization that the fans had moved on to the next star. I hope the little Youtube star develops into a more complete human before that day arrives.

History is filled with horror stories about stage mothers and sports fathers. This little Youtube prodigy may have such a father, one who pushes his child relentlessly to make up for the lack of success the father may have experienced. I could be wrong, in fact, I hope I’m wrong, but the risk remains that a child can be emotionally scarred by the ambitions of an overzealous father or mother.

Another personal story. The Hollywood Studio Club was famous in its time for being the domicile of budding film starlets like Marilyn Monroe. A buddy of mine was dating a young woman who was living at the Studio Club and asked me if I would like a date with one of the starlets who lived there. Aware of the Studio Club legend, I thought, “Oh, Boy, would I like that!”

So on the appointed evening, dressed in my best, I picked her up. Off we went to the restaurant for drinks and dinner. To say it was the most boring evening I’ve ever spent would be to massively understate it. The entire evening was devoted to a recitation of the young lady’s life and roles. It was all her for the entire evening. Was I ever happy to see that date end.

The moral to that story is that budding starlets and sports stars are too often one-dimensional humans who believe the world is designed to dance attendance on them, that the dance will go on forever. It was true of my starlet date and it was true for our friend’s sports star husband. The sports star’s wife, now happily remarried remains our friend. I have no idea what became of the starlet.

 Part 2 Coming Soon to a Blog Near You—

While attending UCLA, I worked part-time as a page at NBC in the early days of television when radio was in its decline. Fibber McGee and Molly gave way to Queen for a Day. I pushed show tickets at the corner of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood and ate lunch in the basement kitchen of the Moulin Rouge theater while Queen for a Day took place upstairs, often the only meal I had all day. Those were the days! But wait! That’s a story for another day. Stay tuned for So, Ya Wanna be a Star—Part 2 coming soon to a blog near you. It deals with the stars I met and the experiences I had. Until then…

9 comments

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  1. Marty harris

    An addiction to any drug be it fame, fortune, alcohol, love, work, attention. etc. always has the same outcomes when the energy is withdrawn, a type of withdrawal and hopefully a new beginning! I find this to be true as I move towards the end of my current working persona towards ……. something else!
    footnote: It is a great rush however to be at the focus of a great river of energy. It just never lasts.

    1. Don Bay

      The operative word is “addiction.” Hanging on to one’s balanced humanity when given too much too soon is the trick. Even recognizing balance is difficult if not nearly impossible when the addiction is introduced early in life unless counterbalanced by thoughtful guidance by respected others. Marty’s observations hit the bull’s eye.

  2. Kathlena Contreras

    I call this Pretty Girl (or Boy) Syndrome: people who are accustomed to adulation simply because they’re gorgeous. They develop a sense of entitlement so profound they never realize they have to be decent human beings, too.

    1. Don Bay

      The effect is the same regardless of the origin. It’s normal to admire beauty or talent. It’s what the favored one does with that admiration that counts. Unfortunately, those of us who are the admirers too often fail to recognize our own strengths and fall into the trap of envy. That can be a disabling problem, too. We humans are indeed complex creatures.

  3. Linda

    I think there is a difference between the story of the young starlet who might have been more interested in the idea of being famous rather than acting and having a talent or interest in something at an early age that is nurtured. I think sometimes we think we might be passionate about something when really, we are in love with the idea of being that thing and we haven’t realized it. Of course, this would apply to overly aggressive parents seeing their kid as a “star” whether it be in basketball or science. I knew of parents who pushed their kids at a very young age in academics as well….nothing is good enough except that “A” or “A+.” I will confess that I was devastated to hear from one of our sons when he was in elementary school, that he feared the day would end without time for play because so much homework was given at the public school he attended. Wow! Did I learn the lesson of balance the hard way, which I shared with his teachers! This was a life lesson our son learned early.

  4. Donna

    Your mention of stage mothers reminded me of the mothers who enter their daughters in contests such as Toddlers and Tiaras – contests in which little girls are dressed like adult sex symbols with teased hair, lipstick, and fancy costumes. It seems a good way to turn a nice little girl into an object with the goal of “looking pretty for the audience”

    1. Don Bay

      Absolutely! Often, it is the mother living out her fantasies through her daughter. At a minimum, however, it conditions the child to value physical beauty over lasting values like compassion, honesty, truth and social contribution. Beauty fades while those values last a lifetime. And let’s not forget the fathers who push their sons into sports rather than allowing the child to pursue a path more in keeping with the child’s personality and interests. It’s fine to be interested and engaged, but when compulsion takes over, look out!

  5. David Lehman

    Hey Don,

    I’m Lionel’s friend and met you and Ewa a few years ago when you visited him and went to see Beatrice Wood in Ojai. I have been reading your blogs with great interest, especially those on the topic of free will. I have resonated with this idea for about 35 years when I became interested in Eastern philosophy. I have recently became engrossed with this possibility after meeting Wayne Liquorman, a teacher of Advaita and Author of The Way of Powerlessness. http://www.advaite.org
    I have registered to receive your blogs but for some reason I am not getting them. I have Lionel forward them to me.

    https://www.facebook.com/funusa/info?collection_token=1051969341%3A2327158227%3A8

    1. Don Bay

      I have replied to David via private email with full instructions that I hope will solve the problem. For those like David who have had trouble receiving my blog, please contact me so I can take a whack at whatever problem exists. Subscribers are notified whenever I post a new piece, so it helps to subscribe.

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