The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Fame, Fortune and Other Foolishness

By Scott Ross
The 700 Club The Grammys are over, and now it's on to the next big parade of celebrities -- the Oscars.

Few people in this world are granted the fame and fortune of a Grammy or Oscar winner. Those who are, often get more than they bargained for. Those who aren't, gaze in awe at these so-called cultural icons, often granting them an undue measure of respect and admiration. The glamorous world of fame and fortune has an enormous impact on each of us.

The following are several conversations I have had with popular culture experts Richard Schickel, of Time Magazine, TV/radio/USA Today commentator, Michael Medved, boxer Evander Holyfield, singer/actress and former talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, and musician and former Entertainment Tonight host John Tesh. I talk to them about the ups and downs of their experiences with celebrity.

Each year thousands of pilgrims from all over the nation and the world come to Hollywood, California, seeking fame or seeking the famous. Celebrity has become a national obsession. So, why this obsession with celebrity? And what is it that makes us feel like we know people we have never actually met? Time Magazine film reviewer Richard Schickel refers to the famous as Intimate Strangers. In his book of the same name he blames much of this familiarity on the pervasive medium of television.

Schickel: A movie star say of the 30s and 40s was in no way in close relationship with his fans when there was no television. They might make a personal appearance tour from stage to stage, you know. But television changes that whole balance because first of all the screen is small. We actually dominate the screen. Many people have the illusion that they have an intimate relationship with these people when they appear on the news or on David Letterman or Jay Leno.

Sometimes that confusion between the realms of illusion and reality can have deadly consequences. It was John Hinckley, Jr.'s obsession with actress Jodie Foster that led to his attempted assassination of President Reagan. His warped mind believed he could win the actress' love through what he called an "historic deed." Ironically, while it did not win her love, it did make Hinckley into a celebrity himself.

Another obsession with perhaps less harmful effects is the immortalizing of dead celebrities, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, JFK, and of course, "The King." Believe it or not, there is now even a church of Elvis.

Scott: Why? Why? What's the fascination?

Schickel: It's the cutting off untimely. It would be true of Presley, you know, drugged out as he was by the end of his career, the fact is that he was still a relatively young man. There's some sense among the worshipful that even though he has been taken from us physically, that he will not be taken from them in an untimely fashion, if that makes sense. It was untimely in the world, but as far as they are concerned, he is immortal and he will stay immortal; they make sure he stays immortal by their reverence.

Scott: The world of politics is not immune to this cult of celebrity. Since the election of 1960, the first election year in which television was fully in place, a subtle change has take place in our minds that has made celebrity symbols or images more important to us than ideas or substance.

Schickel: What does it say about this image business of what's presented on screen and what is in fact a substantive leader. We're looking for leadership. People are looking for real leaders. Are there any real leaders left anymore? They say they are looking for real leaders but, in fact, they have been so seduced by television and by television's standards of self-presentation that they are not looking for leaders, they are looking for a person that they can comfortably welcome into their living rooms for the next four years.


Part of any decent hero worship is the attempt to emulate or imitate those we adore. The effects of this can be something as harmless as wearing a T-shirt or developing some new vocabulary. But along with replacing substance for image, some experts feel that celebrity affects us in other negative ways. Film critic Michael Medved's controversial book, Hollywood vs. America, claims that the entertainment industry is waging war against traditional family values, and that we are affected by our favorite celebrities.

Michael: Just look at the way that people imitate things that they see from their icons. They imitate the lines that they hear Bart Simpson delivering. Occasionally people, teenagers all over the country would try to dress up like Madonna. I think the real power of Hollywood for many of us in redefining normal. And they have done that in a number of very destructive ways. One of the things I know many parents are concerned about is the language. We are now getting the message across in all feature films virtually and increasingly in television shows that it is normal, even for little children, to use foul language.

Scott: What does it say about all of us as a nation when the fame, the fortune and all the other foolishness really do in many ways reflect a good part of our culture? We're buying this. It's reflecting something. Are we in trouble, do you think?

Michael: It's chipped away, but most Americans are not buying it right now. But what I worry about, and this is scientifically proven, is the steady drip, drip, drip. Because you can say oh, yeah, I know better than MTV and MTV's going to have no effect on me. But you don't know. Images get planted in the subconscious, and people change, the society changes.


We've looked at some of the good and bad effects of celebrity on us so-called "normal" folk, but how do fame and fortune shape the celebrities themselves? Some seem to handle the glory well; others become egomaniacal or resign themselves to the control of their agents and managers. His boxing career earned Evander Holyfield multi-millions of dollars and the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Scott: Because there's something about his game and the boxing sport that is about as basic as it gets, two man in combat, really. And when you are a world champion as you were, how do you keep your head from getting inflated.

Evander: Well, mainly I pray about it. You've got to start out praying and stay in prayer. So then I really can't let the ego become bigger, then the ego would control me.

Scott: What's important to you in life, other than sports, other than boxing?

Evander: I think love. You know I love the people I'm around. You know when I see other people do well it makes me feel good, and when I can go out and help someone it makes me feel good.

Scott: From the pinnacle of success, a few punches and then you are no longer a world champion. How are you handling what some people might term failure?

Evander: Well, you know, what people don't understand is that you never can fail when you go out and do your best. You win regardless of what the decision is. And I don't feel I'm a failure. A failure is a person who quits. I never quit anything in my life. I have had setbacks and I wouldn't really say losing a fight is a setback. It could possibly be a blessing in disguise for me to move on to something else that is better.

Scott: Tell me what's foolish about fame.

Evander: The only thing that can be foolish is how you take it. You can take it and use it to your advantage to get over on people, then that is foolish. As long as you take it and use it he right way to help people, then it is not foolish.

Scott: One other "F- word," the future, what about it?

Evander: You know I look forward to trying to continue to live for the Lord. And look forward to spending more time with the kids, and trying to keep my eye open for the next blessing that comes along.


I also had the opportunity to spend time with Kathie Lee Gifford before she left her morning show, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, to pursue other interests.

Scott: Let me ask you about this. You had really been catapulted to fame. What did that do to you?

Kathie Lee: Well, I'm exhausted. Honestly, I really am. I'm more mindful of my need for God's presence in my life because I know it is bigger than I am and bigger than I can handle. There is not a day that goes by that before I get my feet out of bed I say a prayer that the Lord will protect me from hurting other people with my mouth.

Scott: What about fortune? Here, I don't know what kind of money you were making 20 years ago. All that money can distort people's true value system. You can get out of touch with a certain amount of reality.

Kathie Lee: The nice thing about money is what it enables you to do for people you love. I built my mom and dad a home. I'm able to give far more to charity than I have ever been able to do. Now when I watch something on TV that moves me, I'm able to go to my checkbook and not worry about paying my bills. I know I can help. Whether its something I see on 60 Minutes or something I see -- I mean that's a tremendous luxury to have.

Scott: Looking across the spectrum of life in the context in which you were functioning on TV, you were sitting in a position where many people were watching you every day. You are a role model, like it or not.

Kathie Lee: Yeah, I don't like that.

Scott: No. Why?

Kathie Lee: Well, because I know myself too well. I would want people to have a much greater role model than I am. I know what I'm capable of. I know what I have done. I know my heart wants to serve the Lord. My heart wants to be, you know, a pure person, but there are many times when I'm not. And I hope that people would look to a Mother Teresa type or somebody like that who truly spent her entire life serving her God and the destitute. That, to me, is a role model.


John Tesh, the multi-talented former co-host of Entertainment Tonight, became a role model to some when the tabloids picked up on the fact that he and his wife, Connie Selleca, had decided to abstain from sex before their marriage. We asked him how he handled this intrusion into his privacy.

John: I was really upset when it first came out, but I get people coming up to me all the time saying things like, "It was a real testimony for me and my children." Not that I'm trying to proselytize, but I'm just saying that's what worked for us.

Scott: All right, John, you are a very busy man. You also have a very busy and very attractive wife. You're a stepfather. How do you determine your priorities?

John: Oh, it had to be family first. I mean there's almost a satanic lure out there to be successful and make money and to get yourself almost in denial where you go to work so you don't have to pay attention to anything. I have those opportunities to work 24-hours-a-day, but I learned through a failed marriage, and as a struggling single person, that family is very very important. That's why I think you're seeing a lot of burned out Hollywood celebrities who don't live here anymore. They live on ranches somewhere.


Final question to the famous: "Are you willing to become a stagehand to the main character in this drama of life?" Luke 3.16 (The Message)

Below the Bottom Line

"The beauty of art cannot conceal the deformity of sin." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Psalm 118.9 - "Far better to take refuge in God, than trust in celebrities." (The Message)

Psalm 82.6-7 - You may have lived "like gods...but (you will) die like men." (Living Bible)

Ecclesiastes.9.5 - "The dead know nothing, they have no more fame."(The Message)

Proverbs. 13.7 -"A pretentious showy life is an empty life. A plain & simple life is a full life." (The Message)

* John Updike -Self-Consciousness.


Scott Ross welcomes your feedback.

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