AMERICA as a culture and civilization has centered itself around celebrities, for good and ill. Electronic gods coming to us through our televisions and computer screens. Who are these facsimiles of people? What are these personalities– these manufactured(?) personas– actually like?
Our new feature, “Jerry and Me” — by long-time Hollywood writer, director, and producer Alan Swyer— looks at one of the leading Hollywood-and-Vegas celebrities of the 20th century, comedian Jerry Lewis– best remembered today as forever host of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethons. A comic genius, but at the same time an extremely complicated, many-faceted individual. A contradictory personality which Swyer well captures in his up-close-and-personal memoir of the man.
His agents did nothing but, as he put it, “blow smoke up my ass,” telling him incessantly what he wanted to hear, which was how wonderful he was. Even worse were the staffers at his office in Century City, whose primary functions, other than fawning relentlessly, were doing his bidding and, when he felt the need to vent over something real or imagined, bearing the brunt of his wrath.
WHICH raises the question of celebrity in the literary scene. Is there a place for it? Does the art lose by not creating larger-than-life figures who can stand as blazing symbols attracting new readers to a marginalized cultural form? Is this possible? Desirable?
Those are questions we at New Pop Lit are determined to answer.
(Art: “Animal Clown” by James Pollock; “Marilyn Monroe” by Andy Warhol.)