Politics & Policy

Fame’s No Shame

Living it up the Martha Stewart way.

“The rich are different than you and me,” Fitzgerald said to Hemingway. Hemingway replied, “Yes, they have more money.” But nowadays it is celebrities who are so very different from the rest of us. And what makes them so different is fame, not fortune, and their ability to feel no shame. If someone is well-known enough and knows how to work it, no matter what they do, it just adds to the celeb-weekly glow that person emanates. The glow that comes from having flashbulbs constantly going off in his or her direction.

Case in point, Martha Stewart vs. the Runaway Bride, two women of the week. Martha, convicted felon, is one of People’s “Fifty Most Beautiful People, ” telling all the world how happy she is, how good she looks, and how she can now, after five months in the slammer, fit into her favorite Gucci jeans. She doesn’t quite say going to Alderson was, as a weight-loss program, “a good thing.” But it’s close, very, very close.

Describing her current out-of-jail exercise regimen she explains, “Three days a week with a trainer. She comes at 6:30 a.m. Then two days a week with a yoga instructor. She comes twice a week for an hour-and-a-half session. Then the trainer is an hour session. And lots and lots of walking. I do as much walking as I possibly can. I love to walk. It’s hilly here, so it’s a lot of good aerobic exercise.”

Who knew that home confinement, which according to the rules means you are not supposed to leave your house for more than 48 hours a week could be such a walk in the park-like setting of a 150-acre estate?

In the People piece, a classic of celebrity “pander-ism,” we also hear about how great Martha’ s skin looks these days. “Good masks are really important for good skin. I use five different masks–not all at the same time. But I just slather them on. I get up early and I let the dogs out. Then I slather a mask on. I lie down for another 15 minutes. Then I rinse it off in the shower. I think that helps a lot.”

And how great Martha’s hair looks: That’s because there were such good products on sale in the commissary at Camp Cupcake. “They had Avon products. Avon has some very good shampoos. They also had Neutrogena products, which were great.”

Nice little plug, Martha, for Avon and for one of Proctor & Gamble’s beauty companies. Wonder if they are yet back to advertising in Martha Stewart Living?

By the way, also during her house arrest, besides circumventing the rules by trotting out to Time Inc’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” party, Martha has intimate little at-home gatherings to woo back some of the advertisers who dropped the magazine. I hear a chef from Bouley does the cooking, and Martha just tries to charm and sell–she shows off her electronic anklet, tells marketing directors what it is really like behind prison doors, and explains why the American public still respects her in practically the same breath.

Contrast all this Martha malarkey with Jennifer Wilbanks, the Runaway Bride, now in a legal tangle. First of all, do I feel sorry for Jennifer? A little. Though she is 32, and one would think, with a close-knit family and 14 bridesmaids, she would have had someone with whom to confide her feelings of uncertainty and panic. And she was, of course, very wrong and very dumb to concoct that paper-thin kidnapping story that you didn’t need a police investigator to knock down, just any devoted follower of Law and Order.

And how sad she cut her hair–which is exactly what women have always done when they want to punish themselves–and boarded a Greyhound to Las Vegas, about the worst place in America to be absolutely alone.

Let’s acknowledge, as well, that once upon a time, this might have been nothing more than a bit of southern small-town gossip, but the media went mad for the mystery and for another middle-class photogenic young couple who like Scott and Laci might attract ratings.

Coming home to have to explain and deal with the consequences, Jennifer faced the cameras with a towel over her face. She seems a very ordinary girl who created a tremendous scandal by, for once, doing something out of character. Clearly, she will have to do a lot of soul-searching, a lot of apologizing, and probably have some financial and legal problems to handle. This sad episode will follow her for years.

In contrast Martha, went to jail because she behaved totally in character and continues to behave that way. No apologies from her. Ever. She, with the help of a celebrity-loving media, has even managed to make her prison experience sound like a no-frills spa, where she walked a lot, lifted weights, and where “my skin got nicer.” Obviously, her scandal has made her an even bigger celebrity. I doubt Jennifer could even conceive of being so shameless.

But–just a minute: Who knows? Maybe Jennifer and John will make up, get married, and those 14 bridesmaid dresses will not have been bought in vain. Just imagine the TV coverage for the extreme makeover of this love story. And wouldn’t it just be the perfect cover feature for Martha Stewart Weddings?

Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...

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