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.


Peggy Bechko said...

Great advice, Em!

Anonymous said...

Great blog and good advice Em. Enjoyed reading the informative blog and hearing how you and JC became renowned as you are now. Knowing I can help you with your blogs and posts is enough fame for me. I am happy being helpful to a famous friend-YOU! KAM

Unknown said...

good advice, but it seems for me it will never happen hard as I try. I wish others the best in what ever they do. I hope one day someone will see my one book as a good one to make a HBO movie, nothing big. It is a family movie directed toward all ages.

Louise Sorensen said...

Ahh. Fame. How many people live forever?
William Shakespeare. Almost everyone in the whole wide world has heard of him. Yet it doesn't give him one more second of life.
Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Heinlein, Remington> my heroes> all dead. To me they're admirable, famous. But many people haven't heard of them.
People we consider well known, famous, are only so in our culture.
Other continents and cultures have their own famous people. To us, they are completely unknown.
When I was little I DID want to be famous. And I would Still like to be well known. I'd like to be the next Stephen King of writing. Not for the fame, so much, as for the excellence in his craft. Yet many people would disagree with me on the excellence part. I'm happy that he has been somewhat compensated for the lack of literary respect, by money, although that isn't my goal either.
I've always pursued my bliss as well as I could, all things considered.
In the art world, I have noticed that many people were not appreciated until after their deaths. Van Gogh, Matisse, many more.
The only people who made money on their paintings were art dealers and auction houses.
This knowledge dampened my fervor for fame.
I think the desire for fame in a lot of ways is tied into never getting enough attention when we're young. We never get over it, and constantly seek approval, validation. No matter how much we get, it's never enough.
How big does one want to be?
It could just be a genetic anomaly.
Or the result of entrepreneurs creating a market for dead poets and painters.
I had another point I thought was really great, but Bareep kitty came in out of the rain with chest fur full of burrs, and by the time I'd deburred him, I'd forgotten my last, most salient, brilliant and poignant point.
Gangam style. Justin Bieber. 50 Shades of Gray.
Some things find fame, some don't.
I don't think you can find it by going for it. I think it either comes, or it doesn't.
Fame means you lose your anonimity. Crazies stalk you.
If more people understood exactly what's it's all about, maybe fewer would want it.
I always feel famous when I look into my kitties' eyes.
Maybe that's the best. : )
Louise Sorensen
louise3anne twitter

Billy Ray Chitwood said...

Good job, Em! I'm into my writing but the old bones won't allow too much 'pedal to the metal!' Guess my chance for fame came and went. Enjoyed briefly acting, TV commercials, plays, but was also working full-time to support a family. Think there was some talent there alongside self-doubt, but guess I just never made the concentrated efforts to take my dreams to reality. Wonder how many 'right places/right times' were passed up along the way.

Like you, Em, I'm still hoping.

Carola said...

I never wanted to be famous. I like being well-known within whatever environment I am in (e.g. workplace, school), but that's the extent of it.

Linda Phillips said...

It's funny. Fame was never my goal. From age 3 on I wanted to be an actress. I was, but fame had nothing to do with it. I simply wanted to act.

Okay, I have to admit that as a teen I would practice my acceptance speech,all teary eyed, at the Academy Awards, but I also did that with the Miss America Pageant. I think I just wanted to win awards, but fame had nothing to do with it....just the awards! ;-)

Gus said...

Em dearest, of all the things I wish I can be, 'famous' just isn't one of them. In fact, I cannot understand why people want to become famous at all. Do you notice how children of famous really suffer? Paul Newman's son;Sylvester Stallone's son in the US. Ronnie Barker's son, Ian Botham's son UK. Fame is a cross to bear. I only wish the Xfactor and other fast telly show bunch realized that it's far better to have a quiet career of one's own than having to share EVERYTHING with the entire world.

OR said...

Em, I do so love 'Cheers' with Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman and rest of the crew. As the theme track goes, I wish that I could go to "a place where everybody knows my name". Now that's fame! :)

alien said...

Thanks for your gracious reply Emily,upon reflection I realized that since learning the true meaning of Christmas,(some thirty plus years past) my own yearning for fame and fortune took flight.Long ago a Romany lady by the name Rose Lee told my mother I would be Prime Minister of England,needless to say like so much prophecy it has failed to come to pass,yet.Given the remote possibility the world will end tomorrow I just want to wish you and yours a blessed,safe merry Christmas.

kitjoegia said...

It is amazing how some people get their 15 mins.The Daily Mail seems to propel people to unwanted fame.

Anonymous said...

I dont really dwell on it now and try to keep it moving:-)
As long as you are content about yourself why be concerned or dwell on it.

It's ok to dream about fame as long as one doesn't become obsessed with it in my opinion. I did dream about fame when I was a little boy.
Julian Speed