The Fame Game: 7 Billion Served

Posted on November 1, 2011


This morning I read two depressing news stories and saw an even more depressing connection.  I don’t want to give you bad news so early in the morning, especially when you may be suffering from a post-Halloween sugar hangover, so allow me to preface the bad news with a cute picture of a tiger and a monkey.

Downer Story #1: Demographers predicted the population of the world surpassed 7 billion people yesterday.  This means the lines at Disneyland will be even longer, the number of other men your girlfriend finds more attractive than you is at an all-time high, and the chances are even better of someone wearing the exact same blouse as you to the party.  These same experts also predicted the world’s population will reach 9.3 billion by 2050 and estimated at least 1 billion of those new people will send me emails trying to add me as a contact on

Downer Story #2: Reality TV star, Kim Kardashian, announced she was divorcing NBA-er Kris Humphries after only ten weeks of marriage.  It’s sad news for the rest of us because if a team of producers, managers, stylists, and publicists can spend a year cynically planning how to squeeze every penny from a pretend relationship and fake wedding, and after all that work at manipulation can only make the fake relationship last for seventy-two days, what hope do the rest of us have of making our real relationships last?

And here’s the depressing connection: How is it that we’ve got a pool of 7 billion people to choose from but it’s people like Kim Kardashian who become famous?

Here’s a picture of a monkey hugging a pigeon.

Here’s what keeps me up at night: We all want our children to have better opportunities than we had, and if fame is so important, how are my kids going to have an opportunity to be famous in a world of 7 billion people?

How do I give my kids the rote parental speech that if they work hard enough and develop their talents and intelligence, they can achieve any dream, even if their dream is being famous, when they know the Kardashians became rich and famous without any intellectual, artistic, or humanitarian contribution to the world, but rather through scripted reality TV, fake relationships, fake break-ups, Photoshopped magazine covers, and photo-ops at fake charities?

How long before my kids realize with 7 billion people in the world, fame is just a lottery.

In 1800 there were only 1 billion people, and the world didn’t reach 2 billion until 1927.  I’m certain if we interviewed people from earlier eras, they would prefer our dental care but would express much more satisfaction with their time period’s opportunities to become famous.  Back then it was much easier to be somebody or be the best at something.  Former US President Theodore Roosevelt was famous for being an expert in multiple areas including author, explorer, naturalist, politician, and killer of thousands of animals, but his ability to be the best is far less impressive when you consider he had seven times less competition–a fact I keep pointing out to my wife whenever she says she wishes she’d married Teddy Roosevelt’s ghost.

And with so many fewer people milling around, it was so easy to be friends with celebrities; they were bumping into each other all the time.  Walt Disney and McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, served in the same Red Cross unit during World War I.

Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones were roommates at Harvard in 1890.

Kirk Douglas met his son Michael Douglas at a hospital in 1944, long before either of them were famous.

When Moses met the Pharaoh of Egypt, it turned out the two of them went way, way back.

Moses met famous people at work, but I’ve never met anybody famous during my 9 to 5, maybe because I work from home.

I bet people were much more fame-fulfilled as cavemen thousands of years ago when there were only fifty people living in the valley, and all you had to do to be famous was invent fire.

Here’s a picture from a monkey rodeo.