Writer’s Workshop: Fame and/or Fortune

We always hear about people going off to seek “fame and fortune,” but I don’t think anyone does. Go off to seek fortune, yes. I mean, to quote Mickey Bergman, Danny DeVito’s character from the movie Heist with Gene Hackman,

Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.

(I love that line. It’s such nonsense, it actually makes sense.)

But fame? I think most of us could do without it. Sure, there are those who seek fame, but fame doesn’t pay the bills. Unless you can parlay your fame into a fortune like Paris Hilton has. (Her great-grandfather is Conrad Hilton, who started the Hilton Hotels. One night, he was a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Johnny asked him if he had any advice for people who were traveling. He said, “Yes, put the shower curtain in the tub.”) And certainly we don’t want to become infamous, like Lindsay Lohan or Tonya Harding, or for that matter Charles Manson or John Gacy. Infamy is the wrong kind of fame.

Closely related to being infamous is being notorious, which started out meaning the same thing as famous, but over the years has come to mean the same thing as infamous. Notorious is usually applied to gangsters, like Al Capone or Sam Giancana or Joseph Bonnano, also known as “Joe Bananas.” A friend of mine and I went to dinner one night when we were in Chicago on business. The restaurant was next door to the Biograph Theater, where the notorious gangster John Dillinger was shot to death by the FBI. The woman he was with tipped off the Feebs by wearing a red dress, just like in the song.

Where was I? Oh, yeah…

The point is, fame and fortune go together, but if most people had a choice, they’d take the latter. I know I would.

And that’s all I have. Don’t forget to put the shower curtain in the tub.

18 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Fame and/or Fortune

  1. I find it amazing how some people love the fame because we see that from so many reality shows where people will do anything to be on the camera. I have also seen many people sell their souls for money and still love the fame and the paparazzi. I have to admit I would love some fortune…who wouldn’t? I always make sure the shower curtain is in.


    1. That’s like winning the lottery: Apparently there are some lotteries where your receiving the money is contingent on you allowing them to publicize it. I think I’d turn down the money before I let that happen. (Well, probably not, but…) The notion of humiliating myself on TV for no other reason than it means I get on TV is ridiculous.

      We have sliding Plexiglas doors on our shower that I always make sure to close before turning the water on.


  2. Have you ever noticed how often the word “notoriety” is misused? You will often see or hear a sentence read something like, ” He gained notoriety as the head chef at XYZ restaurant.” —Meant to be a complement, but it’s not.


    1. Five hundred years ago, that would have been all right, evidently, but it’s changed a lot since then. I almost got into a discussion of “connotation” and “denotation” when I was writing this, where the denotation of the word is either good or bad but the connotation is just bad. English is a funny language like that.


  3. My kids never put the shower curtain in the tub and our bathroom turns into a swamp every time! You would think I’d have learned by now and would provide some assistance before they get in there, but nope. And I think being famous looks pretty awful. These celebrities who can’t even go to a grocery store…I would hate that.


    1. That’s why a lot of them have personal assistants. I think that would be worse, needing to send someone to the store while you stayed at home hiding from the papparazzi. When I was working retail in college, occasionally a celebrity would come in (usually local, but occasionally national). As tempting as it was to say something, I just treated them like any other customer. I think they appreciated that. Sometimes you just want to be a guy buying socks or ordering breakfast.

      They’re how old and still leaving the curtain out of the tub? I’d make them clean it up…


  4. I remember reading something about Barbara Bush lamenting her fame as first lady. She just wanted to go Christmas shopping for the grandkids! I would welcome a fortune without anyone caring who I was.
    I love how old Conrad answers the question from the hotel’s point of view!


    1. I was watching C-SPAN about 30 years ago, and they were broadcasting commencement addresses. George Will is the one who told the story about Hilton in his address, and when he finished he said “When you have as many bathtubs as Hilton has, you worry about things like that.”

      When you’re famous you’re onstage all the time, even when you’re working out or at the store. I’d hate that.


  5. I couldn’t imagine compromising my privacy for something as fleeting as fame. (I also can’t imagine not putting the shower curtain in the tub!)


  6. When I’m published I’ll want my books to find fame (at least, be super popular) but I don’t want the fame hence the pen name. Fortune though? Absolutely!


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