Friday, December 11, 2009

managing fame

A friend posted a query to Facebook, to paraphrase, she wondered why she was the only woman who hadn't slept with Tiger Woods. Perhaps by now she has. Certainly this man was both arrogant and incredibly stupid. Had he never turned on a TV set? He must have, considering how many commercials he was featured in.

We follow our celebrities' indiscretions with a compulsive and obsessive national glee. We're so pleased to note how far the great have fallen! Human beings are all about elevating their idols, then shattering them and history is filled with the wrecks. Yet Amelia avoided this fate. It had something to do with the times, you could control your image and she did that with impeccable grace and style. But it was more than her stringency. Reading her biographies, I'm always struck by what's missing. Her core is always absent, even as the details are there. Each biographer has a theory; she was a pawn in her husband's publicity game. Or she was the one in charge, aggressive and impulsive. As for her sexuality? There is no proof she was a lesbian, though there are those who are certain she hid that side of herself away. What there is proof of, is that she slept with other men, particularly with Gene Vidal. We have Gore Vidal's testimony. And that hairbrush he saw with her initials on it in his father's hotel room.

I believe it isn't just how she died that draws us in, it's how she lived. She managed to stay above the fray always. She managed that trick that almost no one can, she was elusive, her personal life and personality always masked. Only certain iconic figures today are able to pull that one off. I think Amelia started practicing for escape early on. Her father's alcoholism, her mother's anger, their endlessly compromised living situation, the slide into instability and poverty, all were lessons. She wanted a private life, and she needed to be solvent. But she didn't crave safety, perhaps she saw the cost that came from demanding it, the blame that was leveled at those who couldn't provide. Or perhaps she was just born with that special spark, the one that makes us willing to try what can be tried, to push herself further because she saw what might happen if she succeeded, the rewards were too great. She understood that life can be bitter, and maybe that's the point. If the worst can happen, then you might as well attempt the best. Even if you fail, you've failed nobly. Non, je ne regrette rien.

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