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Jack Smith

The Best, the Brightest and Most Boring

December 29, 1987|Jack Smith

This is the time of year I call the doldrums ("a state of inactivity, stagnation or slump"), because it falls between the excitement, sentiment and exhaustion of Christmas and the starting over of New Year's Day.

It is the time of year when we like to do our summing up, listing the best and the worst of the year, as if by assigning everything a number from one to 10 we could better understand it.

In its doldrums issue (Dec. 28-Jan. 4) People magazine, the chronicle of celebrity, names the "25 most intriguing people of 1987"; and in his annual pronunciamento, made on Dec. 14, Alan Caruba, 25, the self-appointed arbiter of boredom, named the "10 most boring celebrities of the year." Not surprisingly, some of People's "most intriguing" celebrities are on Caruba's list too.

Celebrity wears well on some people; for others it is like a roll downhill in a barrel--a thrill while it lasts, but when you hit bottom everything shatters. As Andy Warhol foresaw, in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. Celebrities are shot into the arena as if from a circus cannon, only to be carried out in pieces.

Caruba put Jim and Tammy Bakker at the top of his list as most boring, while People listed Tammy as one of their "most intriguing." That suggests that Tammy has more staying power than Jimmy. I think Caruba is right: both Jim and Tammy have had their 15 minutes.

Both also named Oliver North, though People conceded that Ollie had been only "a one-minute hero," and concluded that "his defiance in a dubious cause had left an unpleasant aftertaste."

Caruba named Donna Rice among his most boring, omitting her sisters in celebrity, Jessica Hahn and Fawn Hall. Did he mean to imply that Donna was more boring than Jessica and Fawn? Perhaps she was. Donna exploited her notoriety in the most banal way, merely taking a job modeling jeans and granting some demure and equivocal interviews; but Jessica went for the $1-million Playboy spread and valiantly defended her honor against a madam's recollection that she had been a hard-working prostitute. On the other hand, Fawn Hall's words about the prerogatives of patriotism may someday be engraved on the frieze of the Department of Justice building.

People lumped Donna, Jessica and Fawn together, as if they were one phenomenon--Donna Fawn Hahn. An ill-conceived device. It denied each of those three young women her individuality, and her separate contribution to contemporary history and mores.

Surprisingly, People did not list Madonna among its most intriguing 25, though hardly an issue fails to mention her. Also, it failed to list Princess Stephanie, another regular. Perhaps that was because they had to make room for Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) and Gaetan Dugas (1952-84), a major transmitter of AIDS.

Caruba listed Madonna and husband Sean Penn as a team, noting that "these two kids give a whole new meaning to 'flash in the pan.' "

That suggests that the Goddess of Pop may be on the skids. But The Times (Calendar, Dec. 20) listed Madonna (not Penn) as one of eight "taste makers" who left their mark on 1987 and will continue to influence us.

In the Calendar article, Madonna comes off as intelligent, insightful and independent. Who can doubt the independence of a young woman who responded to Pope John Paul's invitation to an audience (when she was touring in Rome): "If His Holiness wants to see me, he can come to my show."

People does not list Vanna White among its most intriguing, but Caruba puts her in second place on his most boring list. "Even she can't figure out why anyone is interested, and we agree," he says.

It's true; one wonders what quality of Miss White's it is that makes her a celebrity--even for 15 minutes. I suspect that people are intrigued by her very banality. Why, she could be the girl next door.

Caruba also lists tennis player John McEnroe, whom he epithetizes as Tantrums R Us.

One is hardly surprised to find Princess Diana on People's list, since she stars in almost every issue. But Caruba calls the British royals "the most boring family in the world."

My vote for the most boring dozen people in the country goes to the men who are running for President.

And Gary makes 13.

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