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Fame, fortune: It’s every artiste’s dream

Clive “Mono” Mukundu

In the groove with Fred Zindi

I have just finished reading Clive “Mono” Mukundu’s 226-page paperback titled Poor and Famous. Although Mono gave me a complimentary copy of the book as far back as March 2018, due to my busy schedule, it has taken me a whole year to read it through.

The book is quite an eye-opener as it reveals the ignorance shown by some young artistes who are talented, but struggling as musicians. Some of them want to behave like superstars before they reach that status as they begin to treat others as inferior. In short, the book is about popular and well-known musicians who do not have money to sustain their fame.

Everywhere, many young musicians and actors yearn for success, but how many of them realise that rewards always come at a cost? Many have had to trade their privacy for fame. They expose themselves to radio and television and give away details of their private life to the public. To climb the success ladder, musicians and other celebrities risk an imbalance in life and work.

I have had the opportunity of observing some young would-be musicians and actors who really want to get famous at all cost. They believe that in order to achieve this, they should engage in something extra-ordinary. Some will go out of their way to exhibit raunchy dance routines while on stage. Others will film their private sex lives or nude pictures and expose these to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp or Twitter.

However, in my opinion, fame-seeking behaviour is unhealthy as it hinders personal growth or physical health. In the past, it was indeed famous people who were favoured with riches. So, fame used to be a by-product of success.

It is not known at the present time how prevalent the desire for fame might be in the general population. It could, of course, be that everyone harbours an intense wish to be famous but only a few realise that goal. It is more likely that a small subset of the population is inflamed with such a desire, and a substantial proportion of them have their wishes granted. But there is no one-to-one correspondence between the desire for fame and its attainment, because so much fame is unwanted and there are noted cases where the thirst for fame is unquenched and will lead some to extraordinary lengths to achieve it.

People who feel ignored or neglected when they are young, can have the tendency to chase recognition and approval once they become adults as that is their way of getting attention and the love they did not get as young children. In particular, those who felt rejected and abandoned as children or those whose parents died when they were still young and were raised by abusive relatives, feel that way.

For anyone picked on, teased or humiliated as a child, becoming a celebrity is the ultimate in-your-face triumph.

What is seldom clear is the nature of the relationship between the desire for fame and its attainment. All the evidence we possess for such a relationship are the retrospective accounts by famous people of how they came to be famous, and these may be of dubious accuracy.

Hindsight can reinterpret an all-consuming thirst for fame at all costs into a spiritual or philanthropic mission. Alternatively there may be some prestige value in claiming that fame was achieved systematically. Moreover, talk of wanting fame has declined in the 21st century, since fame has acquired a vulgarity through the perceived low value of modern celebrity, especially in a country like Zimbabwe where being a celebrity is overshadowed by being poor and famous.

Mark David Chapman (born May 10, 1955) is an American criminal who murdered John Lennon, a popular member of the world-famous Beatles band, at the entrance to the Dakota apartment building in New York City on December 8, 1980. He fired five shots at Lennon from a Charter Arms .38 calibre revolver, hitting him four times in the back. Chapman was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. When asked why he did it, he simply said that he wanted to get attention. There was an outcry from the whole world. People wondered to what extent people would go out of their way to seek attention.

Research has shown that many mass shooters have explicitly admitted they want fame and have directly reached out to media organisations to get it. These fame-seeking offenders found mainly in the United States of America, are particularly dangerous because they kill and wound significantly more victims than other active shooters. They often compete for attention by attempting to maximise victim fatalities, and they can inspire contagion and copycat effects.

However, if the media changes how they cover mass shooters, they may be able to deny many offenders the attention they seek and deter some future perpetrators from attacking. (I am sorry I even mentioned Chapman as that gives him the attention he has always wanted). A lot of schoolchildren in the US have died as a result of the media coverage given to the perpetrators of such crimes. The criminals are given sentences which do not deter other attention-seekers from doing the same.

We propose that media organisations should no longer publish the names or photos of mass shooters (except during ongoing searches for escaped suspects), but report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired. Similarly, media houses should avoid the publicity of immoral acts by musical acts who will do anything, including stripping naked, just to get attention. As a matter of fact, such stunts often kill the musical appeal of those acts.

I remember attending a Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, London. in the late 1970s. On the stage was a guy who called himself Johnny Rotten and another who called himself Sid Vicious. They had their hair painted red, yellow and black. They were dressed in weird and controversial outfits. Their faces were decorated with nose rings and razor blades.

Each time you looked at them, they would give you a “stare that could kill”. They called their music Punk Rock. To make matters worse, they couldn’t sing.
However, to get more attention on stage, they started spitting at each other in the face. I found that disgusting and walked out of the gig. The next day they were all over the newspapers and on television. I am told some record company even paid attention to them and gave them a recording contract in which they recorded a controversial single called God Save The Queen. They cashed in on the advance of 80 000 British pounds and became relatively famous. Sometimes such gimmicks work, but not all the time. As Bob Marley once sang, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”. However, the Sex Pistols did not last long.

What is it about fame that has made it so attractive to people throughout history? The main response I get for this question is that everyone wants to be some kind of celebrity. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a celebrity is a person who has a prominent profile and commands some degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media.

In America, the term is often synonymous with wealth (commonly denoted as a person with fame and fortune), implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognised by the general public.

In Zimbabwe, we have a lot of so-called celebrities who are broke but because of their daily appearances on television or in the press, we hold them with deep and affectionate respect as celebrities. These are the persons targeted by Mukundu’s book, Poor and Famous — a must-read.


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