How would you like to have Snoop Dogg say hello for you on your answering machine?
Or send your friends a celebrity greeting from Kendall Jenner? Birthday or anniversary wishes from James Stewart? (The motorcross racer, not the movie star.)
I wouldn’t either, but it’s a new and perhaps not-surprising trend being marketed by several companies, such as this one. In this day of digital files it’s a pretty simple idea, and I’m surprised it isn’t more wide-spread: getting celebrities to customize greetings or messages from you, mentioning your name, acting as though they’re hanging with you. I’d expect to hear the voices of Morgan Freeman (“You’ve reached Kevin’s answering machine. But Kevin is out somewhere, we don’t know where or when he’ll return. Some bids are not meant to be caged. Their feathers are too bright…”) or Gwyneth Paltrow (“Hi, you’ve reached Gwynnie, but I’m busy cooking with celebrity chef Mario Batali right now, so leave a macrobiotic message and I’ll call you when I’m finished redecorating the spare room in my fabulous New York apartment.”)
However, neither of those celebrities is part of the website. In fact, I think it’s a stretch to call a lot of these people (University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, rapper Ice-T, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Phaedra Parks, television “personality” Coco) honest celebrities at all. And there are a lot of stale or fallen celebs, such as Catherine Bach from The Dukes of Hazard and disgraced baseball star Pete Rose, whom I’ve blogged about before, incredibly. And of course, there are a couple of Jenners/Kardashians, because, well, there always seem to be Jenners/Kardashians.
But you can get messages from the likes of Justin Bieber, who was a genuine celebrity even before he started making orange the new black. I imagine a greeting from him might go like, “Yo, this is the Beebs, answering Jim’s machine because they paid me lots of money to. Jim’s not here, but give me your number and I’ll call back and spit on you.” Actually, though, you can just click on the sound samples to hear some possible messages.
I wonder what the turn-around is for these things (they are supposedly customized). I also wonder how many people on the receiving end will just assume it’s a celebrity impersonator and not be all that impressed. Many years ago, back in the early 90s, I misdialed a number and got someone doing a perfect Jack Nicholson on their machine. It was so impressive I remembered the number and would call back once in a while just for a laugh. (The guy never seemed to be home.)
It’s amazing the hold celebrities have on people that they would want one to talk on their voicemail, especially since most of them don’t leave particularly amusing or funny messages, judging by the samples. I also wonder why anyone would be impressed at this point by Charlie Sheen or Justin Bieber to pay money for their voice, even if it’s only four bucks per recording. As for some of the others…well, Dr. Phil? I think anyone who wants some of these people on their answering machine needs someone like Dr. Phil. But a real doctor. Not a celebrity. Just my opinion, and what do I know? I don’t even have my own voice greeting on my phone. I just kept the generic one that came with the machine, which has all the personality of, well, a machine: Hel-lo. Leave a mes-sage at the tone—BEEEEEP.
Recently I was in Las Vegas, someplace I never thought I’d find myself (more fun than I expected, however). I was walking through the shopping area of one of the casino/hotels when I saw him: sitting at a table, quaffing a Starbucks coffee, at least fifty pounds overweight (I’m being kind) and looking very defeated, like he’d rather be in a dentist’s chair.
I hate to admit this, but I’m old enough to remember back to the late ’70s, when Pete Rose (“Charlie Hustle”) was the hottest thing in baseball. It seemed there were no limits to the heights he could reach. How quickly he collapsed, fell to earth, like Icarus in a microwave. The man who seemed the ideal baseball player had in the eyes of many sullied the game. A quick history lesson for those who don’t know: Pete Rose was one of the most intense players the game ever had, but it turned out he had engaged in all sorts of illegal better on games, including his own, while he was both player and manager (of the Cincinnati Reds). He may even have bet against his own team. Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Although he denied the charges at first, he eventually settled with Major League Baseball without a court hearing, accepting a permanent banishment from Major League Baseball. Baseball’s Hall of Fame also voted to exclude anyone with such a banished status, meaning the man with a .303 lifetime batting average, 4,256 hits and a slew of awards is now basically named Mudd.
And on that day in Vegas, Mr. Rose was sitting alone at a table, with huge signs outside announcing his presence, while a manager of the store was trying desperately to shoo people in and no one was coming. A Rose by any other name apparently didn’t smell too good. And he knew it.
Celebrity is a mysterious thing. It can last forever or disappear in a minute. And often what sinks one celebrity bounces off the Teflon skin of another.
Looking just briefly at him sitting there, with body language that seemed defensive, I was struck that there were two Pete Roses: the one on the poster outside, triumphant, catching a ball, in uniform, fierce expression on his face, and one inside, overweight, run down and depressed, shamefaced. I imaged the line for his autograph would have extended across the mall for the old Pete Rose. But the Pete Rose I saw that day was just a broken man, Mr. Charlie Hustle now hustling for a buck like the common hucksters outside selling tickets to stripclubs.
When we look at a celebrity, what do we see, the dream, the manufactured icon, or a human being, a person, very flawed and very vulnerable? Very rarely in a career do we see only the former. No matter how much one soars, eventually they fall back to earth to become the latter. That’s what I saw when I peered at Mr. Rose, sitting there that day, a celebrity with no fans, looking very flawed and vulnerable indeed.