"I'm going to wear a blond wig, a leisure suit and sing a syrupy Barry Manilow tune. If that doesn't get me onto America Idol, Simon Cowell can eat his own head."
"Ah, yes, you sum up America's fascination with fame and celebrity. Both are explored in Fame Junkies, an interesting new book by Jake Halpern."
"Did you know that more people watch American Idol than all three network news broadcasts combined?"
"It's no wonder. Things haven't been the same since Rather hit the road."
"Did you know that, according to a study by Harvard and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 31 percent of teens are convinced they'll be famous? They believe they're entitled to fame — that it will solve all their problems."
"It'll solve my problems. After I get my mug on the tube, that waitress at the diner will finally go out with me."
"Halpern interviewed 653 middle-school students in Rochester, N.Y. He asked them if they'd rather be a personal assistant to a celebrity or a corporate CEO, an Ivy League president, a Navy Seal or a U.S. senator. Nearly 44 percent of girls chose 'celebrity assistant.'"
"I'd rather do chores for a celebrity than be a senator. Though I have to admit: rubbing cream on Rosie O'Donnell's bunions is getting a little old."
"When given the option of becoming famous, beautiful, stronger or smarter, boys chose fame almost as often as intelligence. Girls chose fame more often than intelligence."
"That isn't a fair question. Fame has nothing to do with intelligence. Isn't that made clear every time Hollywood actors open their yaps?"
"Our longing for fame is a recent phenomenon. In 1963, according to Gallup, Americans most admired Lyndon Johnson, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King. In 2005, Bono and Donald Trump topped the list."
"Hey, common sense: you're fired!"
"Halpern told me that two types of kids long for fame the most: those raised by parents who taught them they were the center of the universe, and those who were under-appreciated by their parents."
"Talk about under-appreciated. My mother used to hang a Budweiser around my neck so the old man would read to me."
"The longing for fame correlates to the self-esteem movement of the 1970's. By praising everything children did, adults unwittingly created teens and young adults who can't take criticism and who demand the praise they think fame will bring."
"Ah, the good old days. We weren't permitted to compete in kickball, yet everybody got a trophy!"
"The result is that we've created a society of young narcissists. Five psychologists released an interesting study last month. It found that today's college kids are more self-centered and narcissistic than previous generations. Narcissists tend to lack empathy. They're consumed with self-love. Narcissists crave fame because they want the adulation of millions."
"I don't need to be adored by millions. But a few hundred thousand would be nice."
"Freud had a term for what is going on: wishful thinking. We've created a generation of kids who are lost in some fantasy world. They see themselves as they'd like to be, rather than as they really are. You have to wonder what happens when people who crave fame fail to achieve it — or when people who achieve it realize it doesn't solve their problems and ends up creating even more."
"Why don't you ask Britney Spears?."
"It makes me realize how lucky I was to grow up as I did. We only had three television channels — no celebrity shows were on. And I was part of a big family. We learned to share and laugh and be considerate of others — or else. Narcissistic behavior would have gotten us grounded for months."
"Look, as interesting as this discussion is, you still haven't answered my question. You think the blond wig, leisure suit and syrupy Barry Manilow tune will get me to the big time?"
"Why not. It worked for Barry Manilow."