Monday was a really sad night for me: Holly Madison and Hugh Hefner broke up, and I cared because I feel like I know them.
I have a sick fascination with The Girls Next Door, and
no, gentle readers, I am not a 22-year-old frat boy. How can I love a
show and hate everyone on it, you may ask? [That’s not entirely true: I
do enjoy Hef, who strikes a kind of ideal imbalance of obsession and apathy.]
I watch the show (and, in the interest of full disclosure, have Seasons
1 and 2 on DVD) because I, and, spoiler alert, many others, crave backstage passes to other people’s lives.
Given circa 15 minutes
and a fast wireless connection, you could probably find out what
Lindsay Lohan had for breakfast this morning. Given days/months, you
probably couldn’t find out what Joshua Bell had for breakfast, what
he’s doing at this moment, where he likes to eat dinner, if/who he’s
dating, so on, so forth. Why do we know everything about mainstream
celebrities, and nothing about classical musician “celebrities”?
of the classical celebrities I know want to be mainstream celebrities,
but I think they exist in a celebrity utopia: people generally
know who they are, but no one cares what they had for breakfast. The
grass is always greener, though, and because they can’t get on Letterman, they’re not famous enough.
2008, you can be a mainstream celebrity for doing absolutely nothing;
the three girls “next door” date(d) an American icon…that’s it. Not
only did three randoms become famous, but the show saved the Playboy brand by exposing the (sanitized) behind-the-scenes elements of Hefner’s life. Pre-show, I would have never said anything nice about Playboy, and now I’m buying DVDs about Hef’s girlfriends? I’m calling him “Hef” like we’re old friends?
[Side-thought, is The Girls Next Door anti-feminist or post-feminist?]
point: classical musicians need to expose their personal lives if they
expect to achieve mainstream levels of fame. In doing so, they may/will
lose their privacy/happiness.
We did a YouTube Q&A
with Hilary on Schoenberg’s birthday, and a lot of the commenters said
they were surprised that she was so quirky and funny. Yup, she’s
totally low-key, a bit strange (but aren’t we all?) and ridiculously smart, and yet has (had?) a
reputation for being an icy and stand-offish. When I saw the Marilyn
Monroe “Happy Birthday, Mr. Schoenberg” she recorded, I told her no,
come on…that’s too weird! Hilary’s response? “Well, that’s me! Take
it or leave it.” Fair enough. She took a risk by answering strangers’
questions and exposing her real personality online, but the channel has
gotten over 6,000 views in the past few weeks, and hopefully current
and future fans feel like they know her a little better, and will
consequently enjoy her concerts and recordings more.
I meet my
fair share of classical musicians, and most are really interesting and
surprisingly down-to-earth. I love that I have to schedule my meetings
with David Lang around his picking up his kids from school, for
example, and that Eric Owens tells a story about how his aunt wrote a scathing letter to the
editor when he got a bad review in Miami at the start of his career.
Every classical musician doesn’t need a reality TV show, but gestures toward exposing personalities and lifestyles must be made.
Of course this is just one sliver of a larger discussion. Even if an artist was willing to expose his or her personal life and personality to the public, who are the interested parties and what are the media platforms on which to do it? I sat next to a woman from Inside Edition at a party a couple weeks back, and of course I launched into, “There is so much classical music gossip you could cover! Violinists forget their Strads in the trunks of cars because they’re trying to hook up with girls!” Her response? “((smile/nod/blink, smile/nod/blink)).” Okee. And would publicizing classical music gossip garner new audiences, or just intrigue the current ones?
When Doug asked me if I wanted to write an ArtsJournal blog, I told him what I really wanted to do was anonymously host a gossip and rumor site about the classical music industry a la Perez Hilton – people would send me tips, and it would be amazing and juicy and exploitative. Then I chickened out and did this instead. And now if I do it, you’ll all know it’s me! I might do it anyway, in the name of saving the industry from itself.
Is this blog more (less?) meaningful because you now know that I watch trashy TV?