The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

March 3, 2012

BILL EGGERT | The high price of fame

— The recent death of Whitney Houston serves as a cautionary tale of how fame can destroy not only careers, but lives as well.

The talented and beautiful singer with a remarkable voice had made some bad choices during her 48 years, not the least of which was her poor judgment in choosing a celebrity spouse, who many feel introduced her to a self-destructive lifestyle.

The media blitz surrounding Houston’s death, like that of Michael Jackson, and decades earlier, Elvis Presley, can lead one to wonder where society’s priorities lie when lionizing various sports and entertainment celebrities.

My good friend PR, who served with the Marines in the first Gulf War, frequently posts on Facebook how society glorifies celebrities, while failing to honor our armed forces (as well as police, firefighters and first responders) who put their lives on the line every day without publicity.

However, I feel the media (especially television and the Internet) are also a cause of this perception of the “greatness” of celebrities. The media will defensively say that society demands this thirst for scandals and fame.

I think it is a case where they both feed off each other.

Andy Warhol was correct when he said we would all become famous for 15 minutes.

Reality shows and social media, such as Facebook, exploit that.

Ask kids and young adults about their goals and frequently you hear they want to become famous, but without doing the work involved. It used to be kids wanted to become astronauts, doctors or architects.

Now they want to become instant millionaires by creating websites, all without breaking a sweat.

I don’t want to damn all athletes and entertainers with one broad stroke. While their vocations are obviously not as crucial as the military, they do provide us with diversions from life’s horrors.

Some of my favorite moments included watching Pirate great Roberto Clemente make an amazing play in right field, Steeler Jack Lambert making a touchdown-saving tackle or Penguin Mario Lemieux magically flicking the puck into the net.

Also, many athletes serve in the USO or served in the military. The late Pat Tillman gave up a multimillion-dollar football contract to join the military after 9/11. The Steelers’ own Rocky Bleier served honorably in Vietnam, was wounded in action and became an important part of the Steelers’ first four Super Bowl victories.

These are the athletes to be celebrated, not the egotistical, self-indulgent “glamour” boys of sports.

Many entertainers support our military in various ways, and some even served in the military – including Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Tom Selleck.

Comedian Bob Hope entertained the military for decades, especially around Christmas, during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Bandleader Glenn Miller left a lucrative music career to join the Army to provide a musical lift for our troops in World War II, and lost his life during the war.

Our servicemen and women need that respite from front-line action. They need it emotionally, psychologically and physically.

All that said, it is important to remember my buddy PR’s message, about who the real heroes are.

PR is our conscience on Facebook. He writes in unvarnished, sometimes brutally honest yet articulate language about where our real priorities should lie.

The countless men and women who serve in our military and civilian forces, who daily protect our lives and freedom, should never be taken for granted.

They and their families make sacrifices every day to keep our military and other services up and running. They are the heroes to be celebrated and cherished.

May we never forget them or their many sacrifices.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown native. You can read his blog at http://thebillvilleblog.wordpress.com.

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