The phenomenal affection for our celebrity idols
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-07-19

Have you ever wondered why many folks all over the world are affected by the passing of celebrities, especially their favorite musical artists and entertainers like Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Michael Jackson?

In some cases, folks are more affected by the passing of a celebrity or a musical entertainer than they would be saddened if their own cousin passed away. Many folks would not even bother to attend the funeral of a cousin after having visited the wake but would suffer all sorts of inconvenience with the big crowd and heavy traffic just to be at the funeral of a celebrity idol.

It’s been over 32 years since Elvis Presley had passed away under mysterious circumstances similar to that of King of Pop Michael Jackson. Yet, up to now, people still visit Graceland, the home and now Elvis shrine.

Memphis, where Graceland is located, is hardly the MUST-visit place in the US, unlike Disney World or Yosemite National Park. Yet, Baby Boomers and even new generations who have learned to appreciate the music of Elvis still bother to visit Graceland.

Because of the success of Graceland, Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch (which is already in a state of disrepair) is now being considered for development as the King of Pop’s version of Elvis’ Graceland.

The affinity we feel with our celebrity idol, especially our favorite musical entertainer, has a lot to do with their becoming a treasured landmark in our memory bank. All of us have a sense of our personal history and phases of our personal history are marked by the periods when our favorite celebrity idols were providing us the bounty of their talents.

Our behaviors are even shaped to some extent by our celebrity idols. Baby Boomers grew up admiring screen heroes like Charlton Heston, Glenn Ford, John Wayne, James Dean, Deborah Kerr and so forth. Heston and Wayne played larger than life heroes on the screen. James Dean was the rebel without a cause. Those who would hero worship James Dean would likely act like rebels without a cause — performing mischief in order to attract attention and to be perceived as James Dean.

For Baby Boomers like your Chair Wrecker - Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, and Ricky Nelson formed a good part of our earliest favorite musical entertainers. After we became teenagers, our preferences shifted to The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits and The Rolling Stones for the more adventurous rock and roller.

When we were still amateurs in the game of love, too self-conscious and fumbling, The Cascades and The Lettermen provided the perfect soft music backdrop to inspire the right words to come out of our mouths. In many instances, we were bungling cupids attempting to ape Adonis but could not shoot a love arrow straight into the heart of our beloved Venus.

Twenty, 30 years later, we re-live those good ole days whenever we hear the songs of our favorite entertainers. It is inconceivable to hold a class reunion without playing the music of the yesteryears when we were together. Tap into the conversations during a reunion and you’ll see how a tune would trigger discussions of past events that we cherish.

Our celebrity idols do not just provide us trigger mechanisms to recall the best of times but also the worst, funniest, saddest of times. At a most trying time of my young adult life and early career in advertising, the Frank Sinatra classic “Cycles” was prominently playing all over the place. Under my particular circumstance at that time, the song had both an even more depressing effect but at the same time it proved inspiring.

These days, after having overcome my early career setbacks, after I’ve accomplished much of what I’ve set out to do in life - I would listen to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Cycles” with fondness and deep reflection. I’ve since learned the meaningful lesson that the sweet tastes best after we’ve tried what is bitter.

Our celebrity idols have become part and parcel of our personal history which is why we have kept a revered place in our hearts for them. That’s why we feel a personal loss when we hear that they have left us in this world for their bigger performance in the sky.

Michael Jackson was reported to be in dire financial straits before he died. His financial circumstances were said to be under a big deficit following his many out of court settlements. After his death, Michael Jackson items are the hottest selling products on the shelves and they are estimating that he might end up making more in death than had he lived and performed for five or ten more years.

Take the case of many Michael Jackson fans who bought tickets to his now aborted concerts in London. Given the option to be refunded or keep the tickets as souvenirs - a lot of them are saying that they would rather keep the memento. We must wonder if they would be as willing to keep a memento of their departed kin especially if doing so equates to a stiff cost.

Considering the bad economic times the world is in, one would think that people would easily opt to get back their money for the aborted Michael Jackson concert. If you were to be rational about it, the stiff cost may be worth seeing Michael Jackson perform in person but not really value for money just to be able to keep the ticket as a memento.

You see that is the psychology of premium pricing. It is more of our emotions that compel us to pay a higher price for something even if there are similar goods or services available for a much lesser price.

In many instances, it is not the production inputs or components but the high price that accounts for the craving to acquire the product. If the smart seller can project a justification for a high price, then he can get away with selling an ordinary product at an extraordinary price.

It is doubtful if what went into the making of a mid-size Lexus made it really overly superior to a Camry. But the Lexus price and its promise of membership in the elite club proved irresistible to folks who have that emotional need to satisfy.

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