Sudden fame is a like an intense fever. Its symptoms vary from vertigo, dizzy spells to blurred vision and breathlessness. The perception and depth of field alter as the cranium swells beyond normal proportion.
Some people are afflicted by celebrity blindness, deafness, numbness and selective amnesia. They forget who they once were, and who were their old friends. They are impressed by new shiny ones (who may only be opportunists and fair-weather users).
Victor Hugo once wrote, “Popularity? It’s glory’s small change.”
When a new star shoots up from the shadows of obscurity to the dazzling limelight, he develops an attitude. The narcissistic syndrome “I, me, myself” overshadows whatever good qualities he may possess. He sees, hears and remembers nothing and nobody but himself.
Not a few individuals become thoroughly self-absorbed — to the exclusion of other people. Obsessed with projecting a glossy image, the new star attempts to reinvent himself or enhance his packaging. In extreme cases, his personal story is sometimes edited and embellished to include some minor details such as nonexistent medals, awards. Significant events in the past may have been “altered” to the point that history is told in a different perspective. In the recent past, this expert manipulation of the truth has been embellished or suppressed to favor the various stars. Whatever is conveniently packaged can be convincing to the innocent or gullible public.
In politics and showbiz, fame and immense popularity come at a high price. The ego gets a tremendous boost but there are corresponding psychic losses. The lack of privacy and the eventual loss of equilibrium and sense of balance.
The degree of arrogance or pompousness is determined by a simple formula. Roughly interpreted, the altitude of one’s flight of fancy and delusion would be equivalent to the number of levels (or classes) one has climbed.
Speed accelerates this self-inflation process. The star tends to think of himself as better than his peers, colleagues and rivals.
In keeping with the new status and self-aggrandized persona, he demands recognition, respect, deference or sycophancy.
Woe to the lesser mortals and underlings who cannot keep up with him. The height, speed and breath of a new star’s instant expansion and fame have a transforming or distorting effect.
When people do not immediately recognize him, the star temper flares.
“Don’t you know who I am?”
The infamous line is uttered by the arriviste who thinks that he deserves instant recognition and special attention, preferential treatment — in restaurants, airport terminals, hotels, public places where there is an audience.
Newly elected or appointed officials change when they assume a position of power. Just like film and movie stars, they expect special favors, extra courtesies, freebies as a matter of fact, as their right and privilege.
Supercilious stars intimidate others when they can get their way.
At the gate of an exclusive village, a visiting politician hollered at the guard when his limousine was not allowed to pass late at night. The policy of “no sticker, no entry” was being enforced. However, the star expected to be exempted because of his title and position.
When the star was stopped, he said, “Don’t you know who I am?”
He called his bodyguards to berate the guard. Later, he had him picked up and brought to the station. This incident was seen on CCTV. It was a tasteless, petty show of arrogance and power.
One interesting anecdote reveals the main difference between one who is important and one who is trying to look important.
A distinguished government official had an impromptu but unpleasant encounter with the officer of an exclusive club. The officer was shouting at a driver for a minor offense. The official (who was the boss of the driver concerned) intervened and offered to correct his driver.
The club officer imperiously asked, “Are you a member?” The official replied, “Yes.” Then he identified himself and his position in the judiciary.
The club officer did not recognize the low-key official and pompously asked, “Don’t you know who I am?” He stated his name and boasted his exalted position. “Remember, the name is _____!”
The unassuming official quietly replied, “I know your father and grandfather. And I am honored to have been associated with them.”
That gesture is what can be described as “Class.”
An avid observer of the social scene commented, “If one has to ask another person, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ It means that the other does not!” The person asking is not recognizable or is unknown to others.
There is a story about the famous award-winning actor Gregory Peck and his friend who could not find a table at a crowded restaurant. “Tell them who you are,” urged the companion, hoping to get VIP treatment.
“If you have to tell them who you are,” Gregory Peck reasoned, “you aren’t anybody.”
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.