From “Sunset Boulevard” to Madison Avenue: You’ve come a long way, baby

How do you resurrect a decade long moribund singing and/or acting career?

You don’t.

You simply move on.

That business called show, has come a long way since the fictional Norma Desmond shuttered herself in a Sunset Boulevard mansion, with only a supremely faithful butler and a pet monkey to comfort the pain of the irrelevance imposed onto a once glorious star by the vagaries of the ever changing buying public.

Yes, much has changed in the 61 years since the release of the Billy Wilder classic film, starring Gloria Swanson as the mad woman and William Holden as her reluctant boy toy: Your star turn doesn’t have to end pathetically and tragically as Norma’s did when she looks into the camera and emotes “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

These days, you don’t have to cage yourself in on Sunset Boulevard if you’re willing to hawk yourself on Madison Avenue. No, your star turn can end pathetically, tragically–and here, is the kicker–and lucratively when you pack on the pounds and  look into the camera for your Jenny Craig commercial.

Or, in the case which fascinates me most at the moment, look into the camera for Gucci and Gillette–with your children in tow.

If you’re Jennifer Lopez, you move on by becoming a judge on American Idol and a brand ambassador, as it is now tres chic to call paid female celebrities whose career was headed into the “Sunset Boulevard” years but for the power of Madison Avenue.

This of course will bring a smile to the faces of those of you familiar with Alexis de Tocqueville’s masterwork Democracy In America.

The entirely democratic desire to go beyond your sphere often leads men in democracies to want to enhance a very coarse profession by a Greek or Latin name. The lower an occupation and the more removed from knowledge, the more pompous and erudite is the name. This is how our tightrope walkers have transformed themselves into acrobats and funambulists.

I don’t now about you, but I was completely taken aback by the  Gucci ad campaign featuring Jennifer Lopez and her children. Haven’t we, you might rightly ask, become culturally committed to condemning Kate plus 8 moms and Octomoms and Charlie Sheen babymoms for dragging their children into the limelight for a buck or two? Isn’t the argument–and hasn’t it been up till now–that what matters most is what’s best for the children?

Well, it turns out, Jennifer and the good folks at Gucci were one step ahead of us. Neither party was willing to leave the ads to speak for themselves as a purely commercial transaction between Ms. Lopez and the launch of the Gucci children’s collection. No, that would have been a bit crass. What made it a bit less crass, classy almost, was the declaration by both parties that the  partnership was– get this– an act of resounding charity.

In order to make the ads go down smoothly, Gucci loudly agreed to make charitable donations to UNICEF and to the Maribel Foundation, which was founded by  Ms. Lopez and her sister. Watch the video here from the Gucci website promoting the acts of charity, if you want to see how even more  surreal and twisted the fashion industry can be than the drunken ravings of John Galliano.

You gotta love the current celebrity fascination with drafting African children into their money laundering schemes. Could it be that they  think Africans are so dumb that they won’t notice they’re mere pawns in  s(l)ick  self serving marketing campaigns that appeal to liberal white guilt?

Just asking because the same clebs, Oprah chief among them, find it much easier to justify vanity projects in Africa than  real hard work on the 3rd world conditions here in the US, including prison reform for black men who somehow get life imprisonment for minor drug dealings when the overwhelming drug consumer is affluent and white. The criminal justice system since the Reagan administration is the  Holocaust of the black community but apparently among  fashionable people of any color, that’s an unfashionable truth. African babies can at least be shopped for as if they were Ralph Lauren paint shades. And what’s more fun than duty free shopping?

And just when I though I had been a good boy by biting  my tongue on the whole matter since October, yesterday out comes Ms. Lopez’s new “Mr. DeMille moment” for Gillette.

You should be particularly struck here by the only rationalization that could trump charity: religion.

“With Venus, Reveal the goddess in you!” may actually be rather pagan religiosity, but religiosity nonetheless. And who could argue with you about using your children to resurrect  your career when you invoke religion just around Easter?

See how all of this works? And you thought the scene in Sunset Boulevard where Norma Desmond stages an elaborate funeral for the monkey was the height of absurdity.

You were wrong. The height of absurdity is Jennifer Lopez pitching you a drugstore product that intimates that you too can have her legs, her beauty, her sexiness, her commercial appeal (not to mention her trainer, her makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist, nanny, etc) all while you truck your kids from ballet to soccer in your minivan after work, wearing Lulu Lemon ( on a good day) and thinking how the hell to convince your kids you are more than a personal assistant, let alone a goddess.

Now that’s some monkey on your back, isn’t it?

Tom Kolovos is the Editor In Chief of aControlledSubstance.

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One Comment to “From “Sunset Boulevard” to Madison Avenue: You’ve come a long way, baby”

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