Being Bill O'Reilly

Some celebrities seem born with a natural star power that radiates from them like an angelic halo. Alcibiades had this kind of "charisma" that made him adored even by people who disliked him. To be a celebrity, as Willy Loman would say, it is not enough to be liked: You must be well liked. Musicians like Liszt or Paganini had this effect on people; however, since the bland culture of North America cannot produce virtuosi but only technicians, booking agents and record producers have to manufacture the celebrity that is apparently not native to the soil. The nearest thing to a North American star pianist was probably the Canadian Glen Gould, whose sole charm—apart from technical competence was the fact that he was so amazingly mad that he managed to turn being finicky—the only merit of most American pianists —into an obsession. Back in the 70's, an effort was made to turn the unexceptional pianist Gary Grafman into a star, but from all that I could gather, Mr. Grafman was an exemplary product of the exclusively technical education provided by music schools. Not to worry: The p.r. boys interviewed him and discovered he had hobbies and interests. From a collection of straw baskets or an enthusiasm for jasmine tea, these clones of Col. Tom Parker can create (if only temporarily, in Mr. Grafman's case) the illusion of celebrity.

Journalists are rarely natural-born celebrities; if they were, they would...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here