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  • Lance Mannion
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« The Restaurant at the End of History | Main | Sometimes he had to put aside his "great reserve" »


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Cryptic Ned

How is fame not the same as celebrity?

Kevin Wolf

Marvelous, Lance.


"As dreamy as Thomas Jefferson"? I can see Jefferson as being a dreamer, but dreamy??? I am now picturing with a mop top wig on ala those nutty Beatles. TJ! You're the dreamiest!


Jennifer, I think the different connotation we give to the word is the result of one of us having been a teenybopper once upon a time and the other a kid whose teachers were constantly yelling at him to stop daydreaming in class.


I was going to add "prone to daydreaming" in with dreamer, but I'm sorry... dreamy... no matter how much it might mean "pleasantly distracted from immediate reality" and no matter what that reality might be, I will still think of it in terms of a cute boy. I will now never be able to look at TJ the same and will no doubt giggle and blush. Personally I think you were just trying to work in a highbrow way to call yourself dreamy. :-)


Hey! I'm not old enough to have been a teeny-bopper! And I was accused of dreaming plenty in class...

I liked your post though and that is said without the least bit of sycophancy.

Shakespeare's Sister

I'm as short-tempered and arrogant as George Washington, as dreamy and bad with money as Thomas Jefferson, and as self-pitying, full of myself, and gabby as John Adams.

And you look as foxy in a stovepipe hap as Lincoln.

blue girl

I haven't read this post yet -- but, from the comments -- all this foxy, dreamy stuff -- it's making me curious. So far I'm with Jennifer on the dreamy definition...

Gotta love the word "foxy" -- !

No, Mannion. I don't normally read the comments BEFORE the post. Just this one time. Swear.

blue girl

Sometimes I feel about as dreamy as Abigail Adams, but that’s only when I’ve spent the night before acting like Betty Ford.


I think Franklin's reputed flaws would be the most fun.


I agree with Njorl!


Throughout the stage play 1776 (and the movie adaptation), there's an amusing repitition of the fact that Adams is "obnoxious and disliked". Not exactly accurate history, but worth seeing if you ever get the chance.


Cryptic Ned: "How is fame not the same as celebrity?"

Ned, I'd say that Paris Hilton is a celebrity, and Stephen Hawking is famous. In certain circles, Hawking is also a celebrity. John Adams would say that in no circles should Paris be thought famous because she hasn't earned fame. Fame is the just reknown and respect that a person earns through his or her achievements in their profession, craft, or field. Therefore, fame can only be bestowed by those who know and understand the skill and effort and knowledge that went into those achievements. Celebrity is the adulation that the larger public showers upon the famous, the infamous, and the notorious alike. Celebrity is fleeting. Fame outlasts the person.

There were celebrities in Adams and Washington's day. Both men knew what celebrity was and actively discouraged their own celebrity. Adams did such a good job he almost persuaded people he didn't deserve his fame either.

Geoduck, I'm pretty sure "obnoxious and disliked" is really Adams' own description of himself. And many passages of Adams' and Abagail's dialogue in the play are taken from their letters, either straight or slightly adapted. "I live like a nun in a cloister," Abagail sings at one point. She wrote that to him. I love re-reading their letters.

Anne Laurie

Actually, I understand that Tom Jefferson considered himself pretty damned "dreamy", in the Tiger Beat sense! He was vain, not so much of his person, but of his own celebrity -- totally enamoured of his own brilliance. In a twist on Austen's foolish baronet, Jefferson "considered the blessing of beauty [& aristocratic birth] inferior only to the blessing of [brains & talent], and the Thomas Jefferson who united these gifts was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion". Washington was one of a kind, but in Adams and Jefferson we can see the first battles between their new nation's "Northern" and "Southern" tendencies. Adams was plain, pragmatic, bossy, reductive, pessimistic, and forever monitoring himself & everyone around him for any hint of slacking off or failing to make the best possible use of every moment. Jefferson was attractive, romantic, enpowering, imaginative, optimistic, given to rushing into new enthusiasms and dropping old friends & other obligations as completely as he embraced new theories. On the other hand, Adams (for all his flaws, and nobody saw those flaws at greater magnification than our John did) made his own way in the world, married a woman that he adored & who adored him for the rest of their long lives, toiled hard and saw his labors rewarded (if never applauded enough for his starved self-esteem), loved the children he took great joy in educating, and made a prosperous home for his family in the unforgiving soil of Massachusetts. Jefferson, born to wealth & ease, cruised through a gentleman's education, made friends and lovers easily, lost his wife early & never replaced her, shown brilliantly in every endeavor but kept dropping tasks half-finished for newer & shinier roles, neglected his children, ran through his inherited fortune, lived shamelessly off an endless stream of benefactors & acolytes, and (despite his self-advertised skills) failed as a farmer on some of the richest agricultural territory available and with all the advantages of slave labor. From the evidence of their peers, as well as their own work, it seems that Adams was hard to like, but easy to love, while Jefferson was easy to like, but difficult to love. It's been too many years since I read Abigail Adams' letters, but I got the impression that she saw both men very clearly... and that she wouldn't have traded one day with John, for all his flaws, for any portion of Tom's essentially heartless fame and glory.

The Sycophant

You are the best.

The Sycophant

Better than than the best.


In my youthfull rebellion I lost tack with those I was constantly told to emulate as a child, Washington, Lincoln, but I never could shake Ben Franklin as one of my truest heroes and I have never stopped wanting to emulate him - the archetype reneissance man. A part of me remains the skeptic, I have a hard time trusting any politician - dead for centuries or not but I absolutely admire the ideals these men represent to us and that makes them invaluble.

Exiled in NJ

Neither Adams nor Franklin would be invited to play Celebrity Poker, or even to take a position at Hollywood Squares, though I bet Franklin could have filled the spot lost when the late, wonderful Paul Lynde shuffled off.

God, I hate celebrities. They never go away. The oddity is that fame and celebrity do not co-exist if fame is attained by infamous means: Lorena Bobbitt, Joey Buttafuoco, Kenneth Lay. Their infamy will pass and they will be forgotten. They have no possibility of making comebacks, or getting publicity from trips to substance abuse clinics.

Two-three years ago I was writing an article that was to reference 'Birdman' Phelan, a 1960's killer-for-hire, and found nothing about him on Google. He was what we call today a sociopath, a frightening man who killed with no remorse, but his name has passed from the scene. But he could not make the talk show circuits. Not even Merv Griffin, who was popular then, would take him on. Without celebrity, fame goes away.

Tom W.

Good post - nice to know so many of us share an obsession with our Founding Fathers. And hell yeah, John Adams was truly a great man, as well as the most introspective of the bunch. Hell of a writer as well - feisty, clear, not afraid of an actual opinion - would have been the best blogger of his day.

harry near indy

iirc, daniel boorstein defined celebrity very well. he said celebrity is when a person is famous for being famous. a good example --if not that good a person, iirc -- is paris hilton.

fame, otoh, comes from accomplishment in your field.
a good example is napoleon.

he's so famous, you refer to him by his first name only and most people know who you mean.

Corrections Officer Gary Staggers

Hello Frank Birdman Phelan is at SCI-FAYETTE prison in Labelle,Pa he's a legend someone should come to the Prison and interview him about his life and write a Book about him this guys a real bad ass!

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