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Pico Iyer
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Fifteen Minutes of Fame

By V. Venkatesan

ANDY WARHOL once said that in the world of the future, everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. The enigmatic Pop artist himself got more than his fair share of stardom, yet even he realised that there was a downside to being overly famous: a self-proclaimed "radical feminist" let him have it from the business end of a .32 automatic, in furtherance of her objective of "destroying the male sex" in its entirety. But the cheery incident only served to add to Warhol's fund of fame -- and for rather more than just fifteen minutes.

Now, I've never messed with radical feminists, and on the rare occasions when I do get thrown in their midst, my social relations have always been modelled on those of a Trappist monk -- no sudden moves, and plenty of monosyllabic replies. No one, as far as I know, has therefore expressed a desire to scoop out my insides or pound me to pulp. Gratifying though this is, for one yearning for those fifteen minutes of fame it means one less avenue of making it to the front pages of newspapers -- or, in the age of advanced telecommunication, prime-time TV.

What particularly galls me is that everyone else in this great wide world appears to have little or no trouble making it to TV. The other day, tuning in to one of those numerous satellite TV channels, I was absolutely flummoxed by what I saw. What I initially mistook to be live coverage of a conference of jackasses, all braying as one jackass, turned out on more sustained viewing to be some sort of music competition sponsored, appropriately enough, by a cough syrup-manufacturing company. It was won, I remember, by a pimply-faced poop with a voice remarkably like a tin drum rolling down a stairway. Having earned his fifteen minutes of fame, though, he waddled out of camera range, never, I am certain, to be heard of again.

What's more, half the people I know have been accosted on the streets (or have had their homes invaded) by mini-skirted, giggly VJs wielding giant microphones like war trophies and asking them to name their favourite song. The rest have all been invited to TV game shows where outwardly sane-looking people do unimaginably imbecile things with amazing dexterity and make perfect asses of themselves -- all for just fifteen minutes of fame.

Nothing of the sort, however, has ever happened to me.

That the magnetic charm and talents of one so extraordinarily prodigious as I have been overlooked by all the TV producers is, of course, susceptible of a ready explanation. It is an established medical fact that most TV producers were dropped on their heads when they were young, as a consequence of which their ability to exercise their powers of discretion has been seriously impaired.

But one of Life's stern lessons is that if you want to get your fifteen minutes of fame, you must overlook the deficiencies in the mental faculties of TV producers and learn to tango with them. Certain that my incisive mind had opened a gateway to fame and limitless fortune, I sought out one of those satellite sultans and offered my services as a TV show host.

But after taking one long, lingering look at me, he patted me on the head and suggested, somewhat saucily, that a face so distinguished as mine was eminently better suited for radio shows. n

(Published in Business Line.)

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