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Everyone's a Winner 

Check the calendar. We are flush in the midst of The Season. Which one, you may ask: deer? basketball? Well, yes and yes, but they are strictly back-bench these days. The Season is clearly the season of awards shows.

Which means that every place where you can roll out a red carpet and get Robin Williams to emcee, we have some sort of superlative, e.g. The People's Choice World and Associated Properties Hip-Hop Literary Championship. The "Inkies." Look, Bonnie, at the gutta percha cameo brooch that Nora Ephron is sporting this evening.

Which means it's time again for us to collectively honor this year's designees as best actor (in both film and school play), baritone, emcee, rapper, diva, chef, comedian and bilingual bisexual. There are a few awards shows confined to inanimate subjects (e.g. Year's Best Ad-Libs), but these are dominated by the same actors, rappers, et al. that we saw Monday night. You remember, with Jon Stewart and Joan Rivers.

All of this is too deeply rooted in the struggle against anonymity which began at the start of the 20th century, when huge numbers of men and women of absolutely no importance began to demand notice. The French novelist Jules Romains noted this demand in his 1911 story The Death of a Nobody:

He panted of ubiquity. There was pain in the thought that anything existed where he was not, and that time was like a wire Ñ all length and no breadth.

The appetite for ubiquitous existence is developed early: have you ever been unlucky enough to endure an awards banquet for a football team of 7 year olds? Everybody on the team, all 19 of the lil' darlings, gets at least one 6-foot trophy, plus a ribbon for every half-hour spent in uniform and a gold medal for being on the field when a tackle was made. Nowadays, we all require the bath of positive self-esteem whether we are dirty or not, or even if the bathwater's spilling all over.

So Nero learns to love his fiddle and narcissism grows apace. The only problem is that the narcissist suffers from too much inner dialogue, reports a well-known narcissist, and if he's not careful, he'll have trouble hearing all the outside cheering.

Enter the Celebrity Industry, whose job is to penetrate the narcissist's splendid isolation enough to make him believe there are people out there who love him -- and teach him to love their love.

One of the earliest of the celebrity creators was One-eyed Connolly, the great gate-crasher of the 1920s. Connolly became famous for being able to sneak into galas from coronations to championship fights without being recognized, though it's not certain (a) how a one-eyed man stayed unrecognized, and (b) how a world-famous one-eyed man stayed unrecognized.

But that sort of celebrity hunger began to awaken the appetites of ordinary Americans, and soon we were finding new heroes where heroes had never been found before. In the 1920s, baseball god Babe Ruth became the first player to be awarded the princely salary of $70,000 per annum. When a reporter noted that Ruth now had a larger salary than President Calvin Coolidge, the Babe noted right back that "I had a better year than he did."

Baseball, being America's game, furnished the first example of hyperbole, that language trick so necessary to celebrity, celebrity worship and celebrity awards. A trick used by baseball when it unashamedly proclaimed the "World Series," even if it was confined to a dozen or so cities, all north of St. Louis or east of Chicago.

But at least baseballers, if not genuine heroes like, say, Diomedes, could be successfully marketed as faux-heroes. A tougher sell would be a pretty-faced, vacuum-headed person who gets paid huge sums to act like someone else, a person like, say, Orlando Bloom or Angelina Jolie.

Such a sale would have been close to impossible without the contrivance of those who like to call themselves "media" because it sounds vaguely Latin or Greek. Norman Mailer, who spends half his time ridiculing the media and the other half being part of it, once explained its role in the celebrity culture thusly:

"A private glimpse of the great becomes the alchemy of the media, the fool's gold of the century of communication."

So here come the private glimpses of the great and the forgettable. Tonight, to whet our voyeur's walkup to the Golden Globe Awards, we have our clicker-choice between something called the Golden Karma Awards, Jessica Biel presiding, and The Funniest Commercials of the Year, Kevin Nealon presiding. I pay particular attention to the latter, especially the commercials. Who ever gets enough of those?

Thus will the season go until further notice. Tonight we come to you live from the Chateau Marmont Hotel. Say, there's Hilary Duff with her new lightning-white veneers -- don't they make her smile sparkle! And who's this lighting up the red carpet with that tangerine Dolce & Gabana gown? Is that Gwen Stefani -- or is it Ryan Seacrest? Does it even matter?

Thus will the season go as our media pals create ever more celebrities. Celebrities to the left of us. Celebrities to the right of us. And each greater than last year's celebrities.

Unless we rein in our hero-worship now. So let's hearken back to when there were only a few superlatives per year. And the greatest of what there was was the World Series. Play Ball!

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