I recently got a phone call from a high school classmate who called me “Dylan.” As in Bob Dylan, as in folk singer, humdinger and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In high school, you see, I strummed on the guitar and wrote protest songs and had what was known back then as an “identity crisis” — or maybe it was a case of “mistaken identity.” I thought I was Bob Dylan.
“How many roads must a man walk down before they call him … Bob Dylan?”
That sort of confusion is prevalent among young people. The good thing is that today I know who I am for the most part … unless someone mistakes me for Hugh Jackman or Brad Pitt, and then it can get really confusing.
On the other hand, it could get really costly if I wanted to be Kim Kardashian. Instead of buying a folk guitar, I’d be spending my hard-earned cash on butt implants like all those Kim impersonators. Or if I thought I was Justin Bieber, I’d have tattoos up and down my arms and in other unsavory places. One fellow who wanted to Bieberize himself spent almost $100,000 for hair transplants, Botox and cosmetic surgery.
Obsessed fans — maybe they’re possessed — spend thousands of dollars so they’ll resemble their favorite super-stars. One Texas woman invested $25,000 in procedures to look like Jennifer Lawrence, and another had a nose job, breast implants and hair dye so she could resemble Britney Spears. The strangest of all is Valeria Lukyanova, whose claim to fame is a creepy resemblance to a Barbie doll.
People often say my wife looks like Meryl Streep. I wish they wouldn’t because the last thing I need is for her to jump up at church, storm the pulpit, push the priest aside and start denouncing Donald Trump.
There are disturbing consequences when we turn entertainers into idols. We lose our identity but worst of all, our moral compass malfunctions. One study concluded that 25 percent of teenagers are more influenced by celebrities than their families and friends.
Psychologist James Houran put it this way: “In our society, celebrities act like a drug.” And during the Oscars season, we all overdose when stars start praising one another for their “art” and spouting views on everything from colon cleansing to politics and drug use.
We have to get back to the REAL real world. There are heroes among us who don’t have millions of Twitter followers like, say, Taylor Swift and Beyonce do. They risk their lives, they sacrifice their time, they suffer ridicule for doing what’s right.
Very often, they’re unassuming and anonymous in the good works they do. You won’t find them in People magazine, and they’re more virtuous than anyone you’ll find on the cover of Vogue or Rolling Stone.
The individuals I consider truly “great” are all common, ordinary men and women who stood for something noble, and they didn’t do it for the publicity. One un-championed hero is an office secretary who’s been giving money to a coworker who doesn’t have enough to live. The secretary doesn’t make six-figures, but she never hesitates to reach into her purse and pull out $20, which as a percentage of her income is more than Pamela Anderson gives to PETA.
Another fellow began a single-handed crusade to clean up a severely polluted river, years before environmental action was fashionable and Leonardo DiCaprio took up the cause. He pulled about 1000 tires out of the water, and there were no TV cameras around when he did it.
Then, there are women like my late grandmother, who was a “nobody” on earth, but is probably a super-star in heaven, where the measures of success are entirely different. Up there, the one-percenters are the people who gave 99 percent for others when they were down here.
Back before the term “single mom” was common usage, my grandmother, who was widowed at a young age, raised nine kids singlehandedly during the Great Depression on the East Side of Bridgeport in a second-floor apartment without the help of social service agencies or government assistance. All she had was faith, determination, a set of rosary beads and a strong will to keep her kids fed and out of trouble. And today many grandmothers are raising their grandchildren without complaint.
There’s absolutely no one on the red carpet who can compare to them.
Contact Joe Pisani at email@example.com.