Monday, December 17, 2012


Have you yearned, prayed, wished you were famous?

I did, when I was a very little girl.

I poured over a book about Anna Pavlova, a great ballerina. I pasted pictures of a teenager who was studying with Balanchine on my wall. I devoured the stories about Isadora Duncan, a barefoot dancer who danced to "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony," had lots of lovers, and danced all over the world.

It occurred to me that the spirit of Isadora was in me. At the library, I took out books about transmigration of the soul, reincarnation, and palmistry, and studied the lines.
Wowy! My head, heart, success, travel, and relationship lines were great. I kissed my hand. The big, strong, deep crease smack-dab in the center of my palm, my fate line, said, "GO FOR IT" 

I went for it.

Later, after I became a dancer, something of  a name -- I was rising in the dance world;  my picture had been on the dance page of the NY Times, as well as Dance Magazine -- I put my mind on what I could do to become a big name.

I'd been in an automobile accident, broken my back, and recovered from partial paraplegia. What about using that?  

No -- I didn't want people to come to my performances with binoculars. Dance lovers often bring binoculars so they can scrutinize your legs, feet, and height of your arabesque -- details about a dancer that you note in photographs.  I felt the details distracted from what dancing really is, which is d a n c i n g -- movement that conveys joy, sorrow, curiosity, laughter, wonderment, fear -- any, or all of those feelings.

My husband, John Cullum, was already a name on Broadway.  Yes, we said, when Newsweek contacted us, and photographed and featured us in a half-page article. It was progress. We weren't famous but our parents and relatives were very impressed.
"Encore --The Private and Professional Life of Emily Frankel," the book that a sports writer wrote about my recovery, was published. I hired a press agent. She arranged a dozen interviews with T.V and radio hosts, and my appearance with Lauren Bacall on Bacall's opening night. My PR agent told me to gave away a lot of books.  I did, and did a "benefit" for the Lincoln Center Library -- danced --  performed for two nights at Lincoln Center.

It didn't make me famous. It made me feel ... what? Lucky to be alive, lucky to be able to use my husband's earnings to pay for a press agent -- lucky to be a dancer, who'd danced at Lincoln Center.

Okay, just recently, in Newsweek-Beast, I saw this "HOW TO WIN A GRAMMY" page. It was about a new group, "Alabama Shakes," that was suddenly hot, top of the charts.

Telling their tale, the article and it's black-balloons said, "write about kids;"  "wow a reviewer;" "blow up at CMI," (the band's management); "appear on 'Grey's Anatomy"  or 'Gossip girl;'" "rock on 'Saturday Night Live;"  snag a "spin" cover.

If you want fame, don't be naive, be skeptical. It took that band years to get where they are now. Are they famous? My dictionary says: "famous, (1) known by many people. (2) honored for an achievement. (3) informal, magnificent; synonyms: renowned, celebrated, noted, notorious, distinguished, eminent, illustrious."  I never heard of them. Have you? 

If you want to be really famous, put your mind on shocking us -- doing something utterly outrageous in an utterly inappropriate place. Consider being naked in a Lady Gaga half-on-half-off outfit, or screaming something shocking, or horrifyingly scary in a public gathering, and creating a panic. That will get you for 15 minutes of fame, which is probably less than a minute on TV's "Entertainment Tonight," and more than likely a fine, possibly jail time.

Advice, from a un-famous, would-be famouser: Do your work. Do one of your dreams -- build, make, create something --  or be magnificent, amaze yourself -- just jump in and help someone or some project with all your heart and soul and physical energy.

That's all you have to do. The rest is selling, promoting, hoping for good luck -- being at the right place at the right time.  And hoping.

Hey, I'm still hoping.
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