(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
Why is there a picture in the New York Daily News every day of LeAnn Rimes wearing a bikini? Why are there always paparazzi present whenever LeAnn Rimes goes to a beach in a bikini? Why is anyone named “Kardashian” automatically considered a bona fide celebrity? Why did Charlie Sheen get more press than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined?
Why is onetime country singer Mindy McCready routinely identified as a “country music superstar” in national tabloids? Why did Paris Hilton appear regularly on newspaper front pages for years? What has she ever accomplished? What did Miley Cyrus do yesterday? What was she wearing? How many times a week do you require breathless updates on whatever Lindsay Lohan has done lately? Or updates on what she wears to court? Do you ever want to read anything more about Lindsay Lohan’s father and his foibles? Do you pay close attention to the Golden Globes? Do you actually care that The Jersey Shore may be made into a movie?
Why is it impossible to go online, to read a newspaper, to turn on the TV without being exposed to toxic phony celebrities? Why are certain people famous for being famous?
These and other similar questions bedevil ordinary citizens on a daily basis. What is the sure-fire cure for the cult of phony celebrity?
I hear serious word that some influential people from the worlds of cable, online, music, film, video and the like have been holding more-or-less secret meetings to discuss the formation of a Celebrity Licensing Bureau. They have been talking about instituting a set of criteria to determine who and who is, or is not, a genuine celebrity. Many of them felt that the bar is set far too low for celebritydom these days and that the genre is being, well trivialized. Higher celebrity standards, they felt, would make the public appreciate and respect true celebrities.
To that end, true celebrity-hood will be strictly limited to people who are actual superstars, as measured by movie ticket sales, concert ticket sales, music sales, enormous TV or cable ratings, or great athletic skill. Mere charisma will no longer suffice.
No one who is not a certified celebrity would be allowed on any red carpet, nor allowed to eat at The Ivy or Madeo, nor allowed to dance on tabletops in St. Tropez or Ibiza. Nor could they appear on such gossip sites as Perez Hilton or TMZ or Dlisted. Twitter access may be monitored and rationed for any one would-be celeb who is misusing Twitter.
I asked my friend who is on the celebrity licensing committee how this sort of licensing might specifically affect country music and Nashville. Some ideas that he said were floating around include strictly licensing songs as to the use in lyrics of such words as “George Jones,” “Hank,” “Ol’ Waylon,” “Willie,” “Man in Black,” “Dolly,” “Strait,” “AJ,” “Tim McGraw,” “Bocephus,” “Carrie,” “Taylor,” “Springsteen,” “Blake” and the like. As my friend explained it, the few genuine country music celebrities who do exist need to be protected from being exploited by mere wanna-be celebrity aspirants.
Some generic terms such as “Outlaw” will also be protected.
There is also talk, he said, of establishing a Celebrity Training Institute — sort of like The Biggest Loser’s campus, but totally secret. It’s where celebrities-in-training can be taught such simple subjects as: how to resist the urge to pick your nose in public, why room temperature vodka doesn’t go down well with shots of room temperature rum, how to drive a Bentley without wrecking it, why it is not a good idea to shout “Do you know who I am?” in restaurants and clubs, why Uggs are not appropriate airport wear and other such suitable topics as they apply to everyday life. They must always be taught that such gauche violations of celebrity standards could possibly lead to loss of license.
Doesn’t all this sort of smack of elitism, I wondered aloud to my friend. Sure it does, he said, but how else can you protect an endangered species? If things continue on their present course, true celebrities will go the way of such creatures as Dodo Birds, MySpace, Nupedia and Beenz. Extreme times call for extreme measures.