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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


February 23, 2007

Famous for Being....

Roy Meachum

Being in the trade, I understand the media's fascination with Anna Nicole Smith. After all, it has been common practice for newspapers, in particular, to employ any ruse to run pictures of well-endowed females - especially when their endowments threaten to break their containing clothing at any minute. Ms. Smith fitted snugly into that category.

My introduction to the adulation for those who have little public record came in Rome nearly 40 years ago. The war in Vietnam seemed ready to absorb every American youth; the draft still hung around.

For the life of me I can't remember the last name of Roberto, as the Italians called him. He joined the U.S. Marines but decided when ordered to the war that flight was the better part of valor. He dropped in literally from the sky; he had abducted a TWA passenger jet and ordered the crew to land at Rome's Fiumicino Airport.

His youth helped, many Italians viewed him as an example of how callously the United States treated ragazzi (Italian boys). At least in those days, many natives of the "boot" held decidedly an inferiority attitude towards most things American. His plea to mothers was not lost to the nation's matriarchal society.

Roberto went off to Rome's famous Regina Coeli prison, followed by many a "poverino," Italian for poor little boy. His case granted him an abundance that the 15 minutes of fame deemed later by Andy Warhol as everybody's right.

The young Marine's fate was not decided before my departure back to Washington, whose newspapers were filled with how Arabs were hijacking planes, all the time. I never learned the ending for the tale of the young Italian-American.

The story caused me to write upon how millions, like Roberto, looked for any cause that might lift their anonymity, particularly in a culture that idolized the famous: Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and any hero from "futball," which we call soccer.

I had witnessed the phenomenon earlier while traveling with singer Eddie Fisher. We served in the United States Army Band; I was the first announcer/narrator for the renowned outfit. When Eddie sang for Washington concerts; they were standing room only.

But in New York, where we did recruiting radio shows, I found myself in the middle of a maelstrom generated by females of all ages. Frank Sinatra startled the world by becoming the idol of hundreds of "bobbysoxers," who thronged his public appearances.

In his brief moment on entertainment history's stage, the kid from South Philly matched his elder from Hoboken. Eddie went one better by exciting their big sisters, mother and even grandmothers.

The "big girls" were particularly audacious; some were not shy about taking his hand, as if to shake or merely hold. But some could quickly change and take fingers in their mouths, which they proceeded to suck. This happened mostly at Grossinger's, the Catskills resort that acted as a launch pad for his career.

After the first sucking encounter, Eddie registered disgust; but in time he accepted what could not be changed.

>From my viewpoint, fans' attitude towards celebrities has increased to the point that being a public figure breeds not only contempt, but a sense of ownership. Outside their circle dwells those, like Roberto, who invoke a brief notoriety merely by being the celebrity of the moment.

Anna Nicole Smith's fame had seemingly everything but substance; she never did a thing to earn her exalted image. She first caught media attention by converting her sleazy stripper's role at a raunchy Texas saloon into the bride of a multi-billionaire. Her body's upper structure made her a natural for paparazzi, who happily satisfied the former sharecropper daughter's yearning for publicity.

Ms. Smith added to her "hot" reputation by engaging in a semi-public sex life that included, apparently, the Bahamian minister responsible for granting her residency.

At her death, no less than five men scrambled for the role of her daughter's father. In the baby's case, paternity meant having access to the millions left over from her mother's late husband's estate. The lucky man should almost certainly acquire control over millions. We'll see!

If alive Roberto could now be reaching for 60, unnoted and unknown. The media have (cq) decreed a different outcome for Ms. Smith; she has joined other celebrated blondes, like Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe whose hair color came from a bottle. Their professional reputation rested more on their bosoms than their talents.

Don't believe predictions that Anna Nicole Smith's star will quickly vanish. Both her dying, at 39, of mysterious cause and the ensuing speculation guarantee her fame will not fade nor "lose possession of the fair (she) own'st."

Although I seriously doubt that the lady read Shakespeare's sonnets.



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