Back in my art school days I decided to do my hair up (when I had some) like they did it back in the 1950s, sideburns and all. I was really into 1950s Americana, you know? Hot rods, car hops and authentic Rockabilly music. It didn’t hurt either that my dad, Uncle Charlie and my big brother Ron were all very much into the hot rod and drag racing scene. But for these guys it wasn’t a passing fad. It still isn’t.
The younger sister of a girl I was dating at the time was the first to make the observation. Next, I was approached quite often from complete strangers with, “Say, has anybody ever told you that you look like James Dean?” The next thing you know I was entering the look-alike contest held every year in Fairmount, Ind., and even did some small-time local modeling to boot.
Sounds like I could have been a bit stuck on myself at the time, right? Well, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that my family and I had a really good time with my 15 minutes of “fame.” Being paid to appear at a car show or at a Halloween or birthday party was fun. In the early and mid-‘90s, newspapers were still actually being printed on paper, and occasionally I’d be interviewed for an article. I never posed for Calvin Klein, but I did get my mug in some Sunday edition ads for the young men’s department at Swallen’s. People would ask me for autographs or to pose for pictures. I had the opportunity to meet folks well known in car-culture circles in part because of my then likeness to the eternal American teenager—folks I would’ve never had the chance to speak with otherwise. Yup, it was a good time while it lasted.
Now take that tiny taste of recognition and multiply it by about a bajillion or so and maybe that puts into perspective what Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian or Justin Beiber experience 24/7/365. It’s addictive. Getting approval and admiration from complete strangers is almost like a drug, I suppose. Even for me, it was pretty cool to see the reaction I’d get from people closer to my folks’ age than my own: They’d see me and their faces would brighten, and they’d reminisce about their “good ol’ days.”
I recently read an article from Fox News that asked the question, “Do Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus have super self-confidence, or a personality disorder?” Miley went on a bit of a photo posting binge to show the world her newly cropped locks that are now dyed a platinum blonde. And as for Kim, she seems to like showing herself in all manner of undress. Regularly. Good thing for me that James Dean kept his clothes on.
If people are honest, those that have experienced even some semblance of fame would admit that a taste of it and the recognition that follows feels good. Everyone likes to be liked and admired. We all seek acceptance.
I’m not a human behavior expert so I can’t properly diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). But I can tell you that once people have placed you on a pedestal, no matter how high or low, it’s hard to relinquish that position and get your feet back on terra firma.
But you wanna know what fame can lead to? I saw a fellow James Dean look-alike at the annual festival in Fairmount personally handing out flyers of himself that ended up being trampled on. That was the last time I ever went to Fairmount.
Looking back now, my “15 minutes” was just about that—a mere blink, a quick flick that was there and then it wasn’t. Oh and after that, I tried to pull off the Caesar haircut but it didn’t really work out.