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Ask Yourself--Is This the Hall of Fame for Me?

Honors* With so many institutions enshrining their immortals, you're bound to get into one of them. Maybe you're a swell airplane sleeper?

September 08, 2002|MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Andy Warhol was close but wrong. It's not a mere 15 minutes that awaits us, but an entire hall of fame.

Ages ago, when pride still mattered, enshrinement meant you actually had to do something important like kick, catch, throw, hit or pass a ball. The ability to punch someone in the nose effectively also wouldn't hurt your chances. But these days, with more than 200 halls in existence and more on the way, the criteria for immortalization have broadened considerably.

* The Accounting Hall of Fame (One of several, but this one is sponsored by the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University. Arthur Andersen is an inductee.)

* The International Polka Hall of Fame (Don't dare call it national).

* The National Women's Hall of Fame. (Janet Reno, Rosalynn Carter are in. Nancy Reagan still waiting.)

* The Alabama Music Hall of Fame. (It's a small building.)

* The Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame. (It's even smaller.)

* The Scottish Preachers' Hall of Fame. (Heaven isn't enough?)

And you don't even have to be human to spend eternity in a hall of fame. Ukuleles, Frisbees, cockroaches, real estate agents, they all have their respective halls.

Stiffer types may see the proliferation as bad. That is, the very existence of so many houses dedicated to preserving renown turns the whole concept of recognizing achievement into "a pathetically, sad cultural joke of the first order." Moreover, such an overabundance further cheapens and trivializes lifetime accomplishment and, frankly, is yet another signal of the imminent collapse of Western civilization.

OK, maybe all that's true. But what can we really do about it? Let's be honest: not much. So I say, when the hall of famers recruiters come knocking on your door, as they inevitably will, be prepared--or your bronze bust may spend eternity in the wrong hall.

To avoid that, you must embark on a fearless inventory of your talents. Think outside the box. In fact, maybe you're a colossal out-of-the-box thinker and that's your ticket to a hall of fame. Or maybe you're the consummate in-the-box thinker. Or maybe you couldn't think your way out of a brown paper bag but are a regular Einstein with the remote. Whatever it is, you can bet there's a hall of fame already built or in the works.

Some of you might have already noticed a potential conflict. What if you're an Einstein with the remote and a consummate in-the-box thinker, then which hall of fame should you choose? Though this may be a question for a colossal out-of-the-box thinker, some sound advice is to avoid any hall that courts your patronage with a trip to a restaurant that offers "super-sizes." Also, scratch any hall off your list that requires your death before entrance. All other factors being equal, however, always choose the hall that allows for the most natural light. Visitors go gaga for natural light.

Of course, once you've committed to a particular hall of fame, this is no time to bask in the glory and let your brain turn to mush. There will be plenty of time for that later. First, make certain you obtain an exit clause.

Let's say you're in the Can Sleep on an Airplane Hall of Fame. That's your skill, that's what you do, that's who you are. But then a few months later, the Gasbag Hall of Fame opens up down the street. And being a gasbag is really your skill, really what you do, and really who you are. If you don't have an exit clause, you're in a world of hurt.

Besides, what if the Gasbags haven't broken ground on their edifice yet and you're still in Can Sleep on an Airplane and some Johnny-come-lately rolls into the hall and grabs all the attention? You're not the flavor of the month anymore. You pretend it doesn't bother you. You pretend it doesn't hurt, but it does. Well, unless you've got an exit clause, your "threats" to leave will only cause the board of directors to choke on their laughter.

I guess there's a lot Andy didn't know about fame.

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