Stardom isn’t normal. It’s familiar, even commonplace—ever-present not only in the realm of actors, singers, and other pop entertainers, but also in the overlapping circles of athletes, politicians, tech “visionaries,” and ambiguously skilled celebrities-as-celebrities whom Americans love to ogle, aggrandize, belittle, and resent. The impulse to idolize is as old as the gods, of course. Jesus was a superstar some time before Andrew Lloyd Webber came around.
Despite the temptation, I'm not going to write about the new Spider-Man musical without seeing it. I just really, really, really do not want to pay several days' salary to watch three hours of staging stunts accompanied by rock show tunes by Bono and the Edge. As I recall, a critic once lost a lawsuit brought by David Soul, the beloved costar of Starsky and Hutch, for a critical review of a play starring Soul, which the writer said took place on a night the theater was dark.
Johnny Mercer, one of the master artisans of pre-rock popular music, was driving with some friends to the Newport Jazz Festival one summer in the early 1960s when a Chuck Berry song came on the radio. Mercer listened closely and grinned, as one of his car mates, the film-maker Jean Bach, recalls. Soon he was singing along, beaming. Mercer leaned his face into the rushing air and slapped out the beat of the song on the side of the car that Bach's husband had rented for the weekend--a big red convertible, ideally suited to the moment.