The lust for stardom
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - February 26, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  It seems to me that everybody nowadays has a lust for stardom, a desire not only to be known but to be adored as well. Perhaps the media is partly responsible. And economics is a primary motivating factor.

The fish vendor at the small market in my neighborhood has a teenage daughter she wants me to help get a break in showbiz. Almost every night the girl sings her lungs out at a roadside karaoke joint, spending away part of her mother’s hard-earned income. The mother doesn’t mind; she wants her songbird to become a star.

My friend working at a bookstore chain also asks me to try his son before the camera. He will make a good talk-show host, the father tells me. In fact, they always get the lad to emcee in their office parties – and he’s taking up Mass Communications at school.

It saddens me every time I’m asked to help someone become a star. Firstly, I’m no star maker. I do TV productions, yes; but my producers choose the people appearing in the shows, while I focus on the much broader tasks. Secondly, I myself have had a slight taste of stardom once and found it to do me more harm than good.

In the past, I worked as a radio deejay for five long years or so. This was at a time when there were fewer radio stations in the city, and you had to be really something to be allowed a chance to be heard on the air lanes. You had to have good speaking voice, good English, good grasp of the whole universe.

It was so difficult to get into radio then. The ones that survived through the various layers of screenings were deemed capable of blazing in the sky, so to speak. In the small galaxy of local radio in those days, only real stars would do.

At first, it was my utter pleasure being a ‘star’. My grade school teachers sent me admiring letters, and so did people – mostly young ones – I didn’t know. An uptown restaurant once refused to bill me for a dinner with my friends. I insisted but the owner was adamant; instead, he asked me to sign my name on the restaurant wall.

There were many other frills that came with my ‘stardom’. I watched movies and went discoing without buying tickets. During my final semester at school, the dean devised a special program for me so I could finish my course without having to regularly attend classroom classes. It was in consideration of my media job, she said.

I got invited everywhere. A school in a city in the Cebu southwest had to suspend classes the afternoon I visited their campus. The students dashed out of the classrooms to meet my group when we arrived.

The popular attention was soon making me uncomfortable going out alone. There had to be someone or a small group with me, always. I would no longer enter a store by myself. I did not want people to see me choosing toilet paper or underwear in the display racks. Damned me! Who did I think I was – Elvis Presley?

Many radio fans would visit the station often, to see how I looked like. Once, in a rock concert at a posh hotel, a girl noticed me and started giggling. She grabbed her friend towards me. It was like she had seen the Messiah. And I liked it.

She started adoring me out loud, but her friend was apparently oblivious. The other girl was getting confused about all the fuss her companion was making about me. She asked plainly, “Who’s he?” That was a blow to my enlarged ego.

The scene gave me a crazy feeling. I was embarrassed for the girl who was embarrassed that her friend didn’t even know who I was. Okay: I was embarrassed, period.       

One thing sure, stardom makes one feel self-important. And more than anything, self-important people are most hungry for attention, recognition and adoration. Strangely, the brighter the star, the deeper the hunger. 

If the madness could afflict a mere deejay of a small, local radio station, I can’t imagine how badly it can hit the real big stars. For sure, only very, very few – if any – can help it. The star status just gets to your head. Some handle it well, but only outwardly; in private, they are miserable wrecks just the same.

Those wishing to blast off to the heavens must be circumspect. Parents who want their own unrealized dreams for stardom pursued by their children, and the young people themselves who may have been fired up by their parents’ encouragement, must fully understand the price it takes.

You need to do all you can in order to shine: rest very little, bury yourself in work, hone your talents (if you’ve got any to begin with) when there’s no work, peddle yourself everywhere. Once you begin to twinkle, your privacy and precious personal freedom vanish. Worst of all, a blazing star can burn in its own fire.

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