Some friends of ours bought a house on the cul-de-sac where Tim McGraw and Faith Hill used to live. Every day, a couple of times a day, a tour bus would lurch up the hill, idle in front of our friends’ house for a couple of minutes, then turn around and bump back down the hill. One reason a person buys a house in a cul-de-sac, of course, is to enjoy a little quiet and privacy. So one day our friend flagged down the tour bus as it came up the hill. “Don’t you realize that this isn’t Tim and Faith’s house anymore?” he asked the tour guide.
“Of course we realize it,” the tour guide said. “But their new house is too far out in the country. It’s easier just to come to this one.”

Which brings up any number of questions, one of which is this: if Tim and Faith’s old house is almost as tourworthy as Tim and Faith’s current house, why not just show the paying customers a house that’s similar to Tim and Faith’s house? Maybe one that doesn’t require pulling up a hill or turning the bus around in a cul-de-sac. I should mention that the house in question, while fabulous, wasn’t more fabulous than the house owned by the surgeon next door or the house owned by the record producer next door to that. There are a hundred cul-de-sacs just like it in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Celebrity is surely a peculiar thing. On the radio the other day I heard about a survey in which middle schoolers were asked what they would like to be when they grow up. They had five choices to choose from:

  • CEO of a Fortune 500 company
  • Navy Seal
  • U.S. Senator
  • college president
  • “personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.”

43% of the middle schoolers interviewed chose “personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star.” Mind you, they weren’t choosing to be the celebrity, only to carry the celebrity’s suitcase. The next-closest choice (college president) only garnered 24% of the vote. It’s a mystery, this desire to be close to celebrity. But in light of these survey results, perhaps it’s no shock that people are willing to pay good money to see Tim and Faith’s old house.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the middle school fame survey at Jake Halpern’s website. I’m warning you, though: it’s a little depressing.

  • Aaron Roughton
    2:14 PM, 2 November 2010

    No joke, out of those 5 options I would choose personal assistant also. That’s like asking a kid if he wants spankings, shots, lectures, exercise, or candy. I mean really, who shoots for being a university president? It’s the same job as prison warden. You’re ruling a place that most people just want out of. And there’s all the itchy tweed.
    But some of those statistics were pretty sad in that survey. I thought it was interesting how he pointed out how loneliness plays into some of the fame choices.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:21 PM, 2 November 2010

      You make a good point, Aaron. Perhaps those other 4 jobs weren’t the best choices for the survey. Maybe personal assistant was the only one that a sixth grader could imagine being able to do. I was surprised that university president came in second.

  • Patrick
    4:37 PM, 2 November 2010

    Having education in psychology and statistics I couldn’t read very far into the fame survey. There’s nothing scientific about it, and therefore- highly inaccurate. I would like to respond to the 4 job choices though, since that is what this post focuses on. Currently in our culture Politicians, Company CEO’s, and School Administrators all get targeted with the “Bad Guy” label. The Military doesn’t fare much better because they are under the authority of the political bad guys… and they kill people. If you ask a 6th grader what they want to be when they grow up these are not the sort of responses they would give. It would be more likely: Doctor, Teacher, Nurse, Police Officer, Fire Fighter… titles of people that are a visible part of their every day lives. The first 4 choices are not even viewed as attainable goals for people in their early 20’s let alone 6th Graders. They all require education, training, and experience far beyond what they can comprehend. If “Working at McDonalds” was on this list instead of “personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star” I personally believe that option would have done just as well. It has nothing to do with fame.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:12 AM, 3 November 2010

      Thanks, Patrick, for pointing out the shortcomings of the survey. Your points are well-taken. Perhaps we shouldn’t get too wound up about our middle-schoolers’ career preferences just yet. It’s what I get for trying to add a moral to an amusing anecdote. (That’s funny, don’t you think–the bus driver admitting that he knew it wasn’t actually a celebrity home he was showing?)Canaan Bound and Aaron, were you coming to the middle-schoolers’ defense, or just pointing out that you think like middle schoolers?
      And congratulations, Canaan Bound, for eating the same food as Indiana Jones. I assume this was a Moroccan restaurant?

  • Canaan Bound
    2:03 AM, 3 November 2010

    Haha. Aaron, my sentiments exactly. Those other four choices are boring, even to me.I also think Jonathan makes a good point about celebrity in this day and age. Don’t know why, but we do tend to get a bit star struck every now and then, especially when it comes to actors and musicians.
    I saw Harrison Ford in a restaurant just a matter of months ago, and the giddy feeling still hasn’t quite warn off. I know it matters not in the grand scheme of things. And I see now how utterly pathetic it is that I boasted of the sighting to everyone I know for at least a week. And yet, I have to admit that there’s a thrill and excitement in realizing that Indianna Jones eats–much less, the same food I do.

  • Patrick
    4:27 AM, 3 November 2010

    Oh yeah, seems we took a tangent with the survey when it was really a story about the Tour Bus. Sorry about that. Fame is pretty irrelevant to me. They all eat, use the toilet, put their pants on one leg at a time, and are mortal humans just like the rest of us. It is sad to me how much money we put into the entertainment industry- given to actors, musicians, athletes… and how little we invest in our schools, our children, giving to those in need. Fame is ridiculous nonsense that wastes resources and distracts people from doing what they should to be successful in their own lives.
    The Bus Driver is a Charlatan, and this is his gimmick. He can keep making a profit on it as long as people believe in the power of the famous turning everything they touch into irrationally valuable treasures.

  • Aaron Roughton
    2:13 PM, 3 November 2010

    I think I identify with middle schoolers in more ways than one. Have I ever run my theory that I call The Peak Of Stupidity by you? And by the way, I’m still giddy about the Harrison Ford sighting that I just read about.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:32 PM, 3 November 2010

      No, Aaron, you haven’t run your theory past us. Here’s your chance.

  • sally apokedak
    2:40 PM, 3 November 2010

    I have a couple of teens and I worked for a couple of years with kids in the youth group at church. I don’t think that survey is too far off the mark. Most middle graders are insecure. That’s why peer pressure is so huge at that age. Zit-faced middle graders want to be loved. They want to feel important, but they are sure everyone else in the world is more popular than they are. They don’t necessarily admit that they want to be rich and famous or be best friends with the rich and famous, but most fantasize about it, I bet.
    The sad thing is that many adults never grow out of that middle grade mentality. And sadder still is to pay to ride a bus to a celebrity’s old house. These “tour bus type” people, if they can’t be friends with the rich and famous, want to at least gaze upon the rich and famous. And if they can’t do that, why, then they’ll settle for looking at the walkway where their idols’ feet once fell. It reminds me of the old women going up the Scala Santa on their knees, only Jesus Christ is a bit more important than Tim McGraw. (Even so, I don’t think he’s impressed with pilgrims traveling thousands of miles to worship stairs.)

    We are star-struck. Remember Sissy Spacek testifying at a congressional committee on farming? And, much more recently, Sigourney Weaver testifying on ocean acidification? What about Robert Young’s “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV” line? The people who spend millions of dollars studying us so they can sell us things know we love celebrities as much today as we did in Marcus Welby’s day. How much is Tiger Woods paid to sell us stuff? Why? Because he can swing a golf-club we assume he is knowledgeable about products that have nothing to do with golfing and we also believe he’s trustworthy. It makes no sense.

    That said, maybe your audience participation Friday topic should be celebrity sightings. I kissed Willy Nelson once. 🙂

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:50 PM, 3 November 2010

      Done and done, Sally. Friday shall be celebrity sighting day, and if the only entry is your story of kissing Willie Nelson, we will count the day a success. Hopefully Canaan Bound can tell us all about his run-in with Indiana Jones, and Aaron can tell about the time he met me.

  • Aaron Roughton
    3:11 PM, 3 November 2010

    Males reach the peak of stupidity around age 20. Everyone knows this, but my theory is unique in that it points to another phenomenon which amplifies the stupidity. I identify a curve of “perceived intelligence” and an (almost always inverse) curve of “actual intelligence.” At age 20, perceived intelligence is at its absolute maximum, whereas actual intelligence is at its absolute minimum, often a negative value. Perceived intelligence counts against actual intelligence, so total intelligence is measured by subtracting perceived intelligence from actual intelligence. Therefore at age 20, males will have a negative intelligence, or be positively stupid. Luckily for the human species, this condition is not always fatal, and generally lessens with age. Usually by age 30 (or sooner if you have children) there is a zero crossing. That is, perceived intelligence and actual intelligence are the same. Or in other words, you realize you don’t know jack, and your realization is correct. And this is also the first step toward wisdom. As I have not achieved wisdom yet, I don’t have any empirical evidence to support further theories. I also don’t have much evidence to support a corresponding theory for females, but my daughters are helping me with my research. Early signs point to a similar intelligence curve with a peak that happens closer to age 14-16 for females.

  • Amy
    6:50 PM, 3 November 2010

    when our boys were in middle school they wanted to grow up to be famous soccer players. You smile, pat them on the back, walk away and roll your eyes when they can’t see you. It’s okay. I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I was in middle school…I am sure it was equally comical.
    With 2 of my boys nearing age 20, I am disillusioned by Aaron’s post, and would like a refund.

    Jonathan, if your house is ever on a tour….

  • Aaron Roughton
    6:52 PM, 3 November 2010

    Amy, you can add data to my research. Let me know how the 20’s pan out for you! And know that there is hope on the other side of the peak!

  • Aaron Roughton
    6:52 PM, 3 November 2010

    And that should say “…imaginary research.”

  • Worshiping Tahereh | Sally Apokedak
    10:18 PM, 20 April 2011

    […] to do that. Younger people, though…they might make decisions a little differently than I do. Younger people want to brush up against famous people. So authors these days are scrambling to tweet it up with their fans. It’s the new way to […]

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