Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Priorities In Order

We spent much of the weekend with my parents and assorted other family members celebrating my mother’s birthday, which was yesterday. Turned into something of a two-day event this year – we all went into the city on Sunday for brunch and a little walking around, using my sister’s apartment as a base of operations. Yesterday everyone came to our house for another meal and more cake. My parents took the girls and their cousin Jack for a sleepover Sunday night, so Gwen and I were able to hang around Manhattan, have a great leisurely meal at one of our favorite restaurants (Rosa Mexicano), and then sleep off the tequila in relative peace the next morning before the gang reconvened.

I have to confess I was mildly annoyed at my mother, a real person from our actual lives, having a birthday that required celebrating right in the middle of the wall-to-wall television coverage surrounding Anna Nicole Smith’s death and whatever it is that is happening these days with Britney Spears.

I saw this conflict coming about a week ago, and called Mom to suggest that we postpone her party for at least a few months so some of the tabloid dust could settle and we could all focus on her Big Day with clear heads and our priories in order. “We’ll still get you just as nice a gift,” I promised. She wasn’t having it. Mom’s selfish like that, so we soldiered on, smiling through gritted teeth as our family matriarch opened her presents and forced the rest of us to wonder what “bombshell development,” or “shocking new revelation,” related to people we didn't know and would never meet we might be missing as a result of this frivolous calendar-bound tradition.

At some point yesterday, between dinner and dessert, I was able to slip away to the basement long enough to turn on a television and hear MSNBC breathlessly teasing the “exclusive first live interview” with the owner of the salon where Spears had recently cut off all of her hair. Unsure how I would be able to proceed in my life without the benefit of this rare and valuable eyewitness account, I raced back upstairs, grabbed the coffee out of my grandmother’s hand – it always makes her jittery anyway – and told everyone it was time to go.

Luckily enough, this is all just beginning. Spears, if she finds a way to survive, may be able to provide us with decades of tabloid and mainstream media coverage. Smith is the “celebrity news” gift that keeps on giving. Editors must truly be pinching themselves as they look out over the horizon and see an endless parade of anticipated “newsworthy” and material developments on the way, to go along with an apparently unlimited supply of buxom blonde b-roll footage.

We’ve had full media saturation on Smith for more than a week and we haven’t even gotten to the funeral – actually, we don’t even know at this point who specifically gets to plan the funeral. That’s a good 5 to 7 days right there, with ample opportunities for live network coverage, then cut to the continuing battle over the late-husband’s money, the eventual paternity test, the father rejoining (or, more likely, meeting) his infant daughter, and who knows what else. Chances are excellent that at least one or two of the prospective “Daddies” have already signed on with E! for a “Bringing Up Anna's Baby” reality series.

Maybe Mom was right to forge ahead with this year’s birthday celebration, we could be tied up here for a while.

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