Did any of you watch it? I was mesmerized but not because I thought it was good. I love celebrities as much as anyone but there's something about Oprah's specials that puts me on edge. It's the overkill factor. Too much fame in the room too much celebration of said fame. At least with Oscar there's a sea of tiny beloved faces and nobody gets more than a couple of minutes to be worshipped. It's a fame free-for-all. In TV specials like this one, the stars are expected to be worshipped in detail: their every banal statement should be received as profundity. They bathe together in celebrity fabulousness, wash each others backs with collective ego, towel off with comforting wealth and then exfoliate their pampered beauty with a loofah full of self entitlement. On their way out the door...perhaps a gift bag? They deserve it.
There were two really fascinating things in the special though.
The first was the ability to see two types of stardom thrown into sharp relief. The first interview paired Julia Roberts and George Clooney, both of the charm offensive school of celebrity: self assured (haters might say "cocky"), prone to laughter, warm and amicable --easily radiating the illusion that they're friendly enough to let you hang around. This type of celebrity is personality based (even if they also happen to be talented) and is, unsurprisingly, wildly loved. The second interview was like a splash of cold water in comparison. It paired two chilly charismatic stars Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman from an entirely different school of celebrity. This kind of star the public finds fascinating but also possibly intimidating and more than a little unknowable: aliens as it were. This type of fame is based on talent or at least on the specificity of careers. Crowe is seen as a belligerent difficult genius. Kidman as an enigmatic beauty. Neither would have ever become stars solely by chatting up the press (Julia and George on the other hand...) One can't imagine kicking back and talking through the night with them. The appeal is decidedly non-verbal.
The shock of that transition... With Roberts and Clooney one wants, no EXPECTS, to sit in the room as they chatter away with conciliatory nudges and winks. With Kidman and Crowe, the primary feeling when you get this close is discomfort. It's just as easy to imagine them world famous in the 20s, when the magnitude of stardom was amplified by our remove. They don't sit as easily in today's 24-7 "celebrity" atmosphere. The familiarity of television didn't do Crowe and Kidman any favors but that coupled transition was still mighty interesting to witness.
The last interview brought Sidney Poitier and Jamie Foxx together with Oprah joining in at the end. The takeaway here was watching Poitier try to hold his humility and dignity in place while Jamie and Oprah tried numerous times to place him on the pedestal that he is prone to gracefully, gingerly sidestep. He's one of the greats but unlike Halle "the vessel" Berry he seems to understand his significant place in history without ever demanding all the credit for it or royalties from everything good that ever happened to anyone thereafter. He's a class act but deep down maybe he's an odd fit for Oprah's way with the endless back-patting.