What would YOU give up for fame?

May 14, 2015

fame-whoreHave you ever wanted to be famous?  Some people are driven to it and will put just about everything on the line to get it.  Everything. Sometimes, too much.  Sometimes, they’re called this:

Fame whore

When I see that going on with public figures I’m as fascinated as an anthropologist encountering a strange new tribe. Because the need to be famous at all costs is something I don’t have personal experience with.

And so begins our cautionary tale: How much would YOU be willing to give up for fame?

Frequent readers know that a few of the “real housewives” shows are my guilty pleasure. New York City is a favorite, because it’s a life I might have lived if things had gone differently with M and me the first time around. Plus, the women are fascinating, sometimes in a train-wreck kind of way, but always in a “lesson-to-be-learned” way.

Such is the case with one of the first Housewives of New York City, Bethenny Frankel, whose drive for fame exceeds her drive for fortune, which is also significant.  But let me tell you a bit about her.

Remember my name! Fame! I’m gonna live forever!

She’s a wise-cracking, fast-talking, alleged bulimic who is said to have craved fame from the start and got her first taste of it on that short-lived Martha Stewart Apprentice show in 2005. She came in second and Stewart said it was because she was a “pest.”  I think Stewart was being kind. Frankel is kinetic, obnoxious and vulgar, which of course, makes good TV here in the 21st century. But doesn’t make her someone we’d want to root for. She’s quite a drama queen.

So it was no surprise when she was chosen for the Real Housewives of NYC in 2008, even though she wasn’t a housewife at all. She was divorced, but desperate to be remarried. Hold that thought.

On the NYC show, her electric energy and smartass, staccato remarks were characterized by a complete lack of filter. She’d blurt anything out, no matter how hurtful. On the show, we learned that she’d had a terrible upbringing, with parents she said were largely absent. Frankel claims her childhood was filled with eating disorders, mental illness and alcoholism. Her mother calls her  “a vicious and horrible liar” who would do anything for ratings. Yes, her mother said that, and more. She reports that she hasn’t spoken to her daughter in a decade because of the lies and says she never will. In fact, she’s never seen her granddaughter. Hold that thought, too.

bethenny-frankel-us-magazine-largeFrankel’s behavior on Housewives showed her to be quite troubled.  But driven as she is, she parlayed that reality show into one of her very own: Bethenny’s Getting Married? That’s right. She found a man, Jason Hoppy and agreed to a reality show that depicted her engagement and marriage.  Hoppy’s professional life was vague, but he seemed to be way  more grounded than she. Normal, even. It didn’t seem like the world’s greatest match, but then again, you never know.

Since one year of fame wasn’t enough, that show morphed Bethenny Ever After, which chronicled her marriage, pregnancy and quick motherhood. Yes, the two had a daughter quite soon after their marriage.

Now, if anything is a recipe for marital failure it would be putting one’s marriage on camera and open to the world’s comment. And as you might expect, the show featured its share of arguments between the couple. It also showed Bethenny’s unfamiliarity with normal family life. Jason’s parents wanted to see their granddaughter often and invited the couple to their very normal Pennsylvania home frequently. They acted like any of our parents would.

Bethenny resented their involvement in her married life and had no interest in frequent visits to their very normal household. I remember her telling Jason that she “wasn’t used to this kind of thing,” which may bear out her claims of a crazy family life. But those were some of the most uncomfortable parts of the show to view, because she was just so clueless about how bad her attitude toward her in-laws were. And how inappropriate. She came off like a self-centered bitch.

As I watched these squabbles unfold on TV, it was clear that the marriage wasn’t going to make “ever after.”  And Bethenny did herself no favors by revealing so much of her personal life on the show, which also featured segments from her therapy sessions, which is always a bad idea, in my opinion. How much of a fame whore do you have to be to feature your therapy sessions and your shrink on a reality show?  To be so tone deaf to how badly you are coming off to viewers? I know your answer.

But see, that kind of train-wreck television draws viewers. Maybe they all watched as I did, with furrowed brow and the eye of a social psychologist (I was in a grad program for that once.) But probably not. Today’s TV audiences are a bloodthirsty group.

And then, Bethenny got a talk show of her very own. So it must have worked. Jason seemed to have plenty of time to visit the talk show and also to argue over whether they should buy a house in LA or not. His employment status remained vague. Tension remained thick.

-1Bethenny was cancelled after a single season. She said it was hard work and there were big parts of it she didn’t enjoy. Like being filtered and unable to say vagina or orgasm on TV.  “I am a free spirit…”

Uh-huh.  She said that she was “over herself” and wouldn’t blame viewers for “being over me.”  Sounds like a break would be next, right? You would think.

Luckily, she didn’t have to worry about making a living. Halfway through the marriage, Bethenny sold a line of cocktails she developed for a reported $100+ million. She got her fortune.

She also got a divorce. I suspect Jason’s settlement will be a good one, although the ink isn’t dry on that part of their dissolution.

After all that, you’d think maybe she’d want to kick back and be a mom for a while.

Nope. People in the know say she immediately began pitching a new reality show based on her life after divorce. Seriously? Yes.  No word on that so far, but she did rejoin the Real Housewives of NYC. It took only one episode for me to know that I was way over her.  Wayyy over her.

So let’s rack up the Fame Whore credits: (since 2005. In the 90s she had a couple of small film appearances.)

*   Martha Stewart Apprentice
*   Real Housewives of NYC
*   Bethenny Getting Married?
*   Bethenny Ever After
*   Bethenny talk show
*   Back to Real Housewives of NYC
*   Possible talks for her own reality show again

Me? If I were Bethenny, I would’ve stopped after the fortune. Because nothing good could come of showing the world more of my dysfunctional life. Not for viewers and certainly not for Bethenny. Or that poor daughter of hers.

There’s something super-dysfunctional going on when someone makes their fortune and still wants to bare all on reality TV. Some narcissm, perhaps, some insecurity, neediness–name it.  This is a woman so troubled she doesn’t even get how troubled she is. How toxic.

Now, maybe I’ve got it wrong, I don’t know. I ask you: How much would you be willing to give up for fame and fortune?  I’d like to think that Bethenny actually valued some of the things she gave up: a happy marriage, a wholesome family life for her daughter, privacy.  But you know what? I don’t think she valued them at all. Her need for attention is just too great. Which is sad.

Your thoughts on fame and fortune?

33 comments on “What would YOU give up for fame?
  1. Two words: screw ’em.

    The only kind of fame I would ever accept (not want) is if I did something to deserve it. Like write a best-seller.

    Fortune, I want to either earn or attain through chance (lottery), not for being like this awful human being you describe.

    I wouldn’t give up a damned thing.

    And people like Bethenny are why I loathe “Reality TV.” I would never willingly be in the presence of anyone like that for more time than it takes to make an excuse to leave. What a horrible person.

  2. I gotta be honest: I dislike all of the “Housewives” (so funny they are called that – I’ve never watched the show but do they really do any housework?) It’s all disgusting to me. Sorry to disagree, Carol!

    I would never, ever want to be famous. I just want to be good at my craft and happy that I add something positive to the world. A little money along with that wouldn’t hurt. But when my time comes I’d like to be known as someone who has made a difference. Not made the cover of some magazine!

  3. Sherry says:

    Wow, what a woman. I don’t watch any of the housewife shows though I sit down to watch Atlanta once, not having a clue what the show was really about. As my former employer was out of Atlanta and I spent some time there, I thought it might allow me to reminisce a little. Got that wrong! Definitely none of them were real housewives. Feel sorry for Bethenny’s daughter. Very well written post.

  4. Andrea B. says:

    There’s a difference between being famous for being talented, and for being famous for being – just – being. I think of Bethenny in the latter category, and I’m not a fan. (I didn’t even know how to spell her name, even after reading it several times in your post!)

    I don’t know that I’d give up stuff in exchange, but I do know that several people I know – myself included – would love to be recognized for success, and for achievements, and if that’s fame, then that doesn’t sound too bad. I don’t know. It’s a lot to think about, though!

  5. This is why I can’t watch reality TV – it feeds the beast. Yikes.

  6. I have never watched any of the reality shows like hers. The Voice is about it for me. After all the bullshit with the Kardashian’s can we admit this is just bullshit? There’s no ‘reality’ in those types of ‘reality’ shows. They should be called Narcissistic Marathons.

  7. I feel sorry for the little girl. I didn’t know her own mother doesn’t want anything to do with her. I watched her when she was on Housewives the first time but I haven’t watched in a while. Then she posted the pic of her wearing the 4 year old’s clothes like it was something to be proud of. She should take her money and just go away…far far away.

  8. I don’t watch those kind of shows. Saying that it was an interesting post. I agree with Andra, I would like to be recognized for success, and for achievements but its not the same thing. Some take it way to far.

  9. Lance says:

    Weird, pre-wife and kids I would’ve said “a lot”. But now, I’d say, “not much”.

    Is it just me or is “fame” different than it was when we were kids? I mean it seemed most kinds of fame were tied to something talent-ish, like rock star, actor, astronaut, whatever.

    Meh, now I sound a million years old.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I never watch these type of shows.
    It’s a sad commentary on our society, that people become celebrities by leaking porn tapes, simply being rich, or loud and nasty.
    Why? If no one watched, they wouldn’t have fame.

  11. Mina Joshi says:

    I am not too keen on reality kind of shows so am not aware of Bethenny Frankel. On the other hand if the audience want to watch her than why shouldn’t she make use of her talents?

  12. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I would give up nothing. I don’t want to be famous – I am happy with my life being private.

  13. Chuck says:

    Durante said it: “fame, if you win it, comes and goes in a minute” although Warhol thought you might get 15 minutes. The problem, if you win it even for contribution or true achievement is that it is intoxicating. Even Nobel prize winners succumb, statistically some 79% of them have serious complications later. Bethany is just a caricature of a serious addictive process

  14. Diane says:

    A small part of me would love to have someone point at me and say, “OOOh So you know who that is? She wrote that bestseller . . .!” Okay, I lied. A large part of me would love that. For a tiny while. Fame is so deceptive. Something most famous people wanted until they got it. Someone who craves it at the expense of everyone around her (like the woman described) definitely is missing a bale or two from their hayride. She suffers, not from one disorder, but several of them. I refuse to give her the respect of my attention.
    P.S. I love your insights!

  15. Jeanine says:

    I never want to be famous. I like who I am and what I do. I will say though I like Bethenny and have always watched her shows. Can’t always believe what we see. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes. So as for all this about her, I don’t know and it isn’t my business. I did love her talk show A Lot!

  16. Honestly, I have no desire whatsoever to be famous. Unless it’s in literary circles, and they have no reality TV shows and quick avenues to fame and fortune.

  17. Hi Carol! You just wrote a blog post about why I never, EVER watch those kind of shows….did I say NEVER! I tend to think that anyone addicted and driven by that need for fame is sadly in need of therapy. I hope she finds it. Thank you for letting me know so very clearly why I don’t watch those kinds of shows!!! Of course…with that said….I do watch Chopped on the food network so I guess we all have our ideas of entertainment! ~Kathy

  18. I’ve never watched a “Housewives” show, but can only imagine the shock jock drama that swirls during that kind of programming. I grew up loving the real MTV…remember the music videos?…until they significantly hurt society with the onslaught of “Reality TV”. lol I think Famers like Bethenny Frankel are lost souls, pathetically looking for some love and attention from anywhere, plus I think they are incredibly dollar smart…and all of it is faked, played up, dramatized, to make a buck. 🙂 I wouldn’t be surprised if her marriage, pregnancy, divorce, etc were all part of an elaborate plan to make some more money. 🙂

  19. Rich or Famous? Rich. Fame is like crack. I often times wonder what so many of today’s ‘celebrities’ will think of their antics when they’re older? What will their children think?

  20. Alana says:

    I don’t want fame. Period. I don’t want to be recognized everywhere I go. I don’t want people flocking to my Twitter account and leaving death threats if I say the wrong thing. I don’t want my privacy to be violated. I want to be able to take a walk without people following me around. I don’t want to be on TV. I don’t watch reality shows (unless you count Shark Tank as a reality show) because I could care less.

  21. M from The Stay-at-Home Life says:

    I wouldn’t give anything up. it’s not worth it.

  22. I wouldn’t give up anything. I’m much too private a person. I suppose recognition, from afar, might be okay. If I wrote a best seller, I’d just bask in watching my retirement fund grow. I wouldn’t do a TV show, a writer’s convention, or even a book signing. I don’t need the attention.

    I don’t watch much reality TV so I’m not familiar with this Bethenny person. I’m sorry she had a rough childhood, but who she is today (I suspect) has little, if anything, to do with that.

  23. Fame was never a goal of mine, and I can’t imagine giving up anything important for it. I would be interested in fortune, though 🙂

  24. There is fame and fortune and then there is crash and burn. Bethaney seems to be the latter. But still most of fame is fleeting.

  25. Lana says:

    I confess to loving all of the Housewives shows too. I do think that we are now getting an “over the top” version of these people, because that’s what brings in the ratings. Bethenny is just a disaster. I’ve never been interested in being famous, although the fortune would be nice!

  26. Sarah says:

    Interesting one

  27. Sarah says:

    Hey Carol

    Fame isn’t something everyone chooses. Sports stars love their sport and are dedicated to it. Fame is a by-product and can be a double edged sword.

    I wouldn’t want to give up my privacy. Blogging/vlogging is very public and if those platforms work, they can catapult you into the public arena. I guess one has to work from passion, keep to the work plan and hope that life treats you well because of it.

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