The great journalist Horace Greeley once said that "fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character." But Horace Greeley never starred in his own TV reality show, so what would he know?
It's been nearly 140 years since Greeley and his character were buried in New York City, and America has evolved to the point at which character means someone who wears colanders on her head. ("Oh, my crazy Aunt Matilda. Such a character she is!") We've learned that fame, though perhaps vaporous, is a very important vapor that all of us should try to bottle and keep on our shelves so we can spray it on like a fine French perfume every now and then.
We all know that honor, duty and principle won't get us on the cover of Us Weekly. Fame, on the other hand, will. And we know that snagging an Us Weekly cover will then extend that fame. It's the great thing about celebrity: The more famous you are, the more famous you get—even if you're famous for absolutely no reason at all.
So, knowing that fame must be the thing you long for most in your life, and having learned from David Letterman that lists of things attract extra attention, I will now present—as a free and generous gift—a step-by-step breakdown of how you too can become famous.
Step 1: Have the right sort of parents
If your parents are rich and famous, you can likely capitalize on their fame and find a measure of your own. Willow Smith, daughter of superstar singer/actor Will Smith, is already famous at the tender age of 10. Her celebrity has ostensibly come for her song "Whip My Hair." But we all know that had Willow Smith been the daughter of the accountant Will Smith in Yonkers, none of us would've ever heard of her.
If your parents are merely rich, you can still become famous—but only if you act out in the right sorts of clubs. Read the Wikipedia entry on Paris Hilton for more information about the other sorts of things that are required.
Step 2: Get a little crazy … or at least pretend to
Reality shows—great pathways to fame these days—are always looking for contestants. But "normal people," the sorts of folks who pay their bills on time, say "please" and "thank you," and wear underwear, are typically not who they're looking for. Reality shows are looking for "colorful" characters, caricatures, really, who aren't afraid to "speak their minds" or "mix it up" or "punch their mothers in the mouth" if it might mean better ratings. A police record is, obviously, a plus.
Step 3: Get GTB'd
Ozzy Osbourne aside, it's incredibly hard to become a celebrity without doing what the Jersey Shore cast does: Go to the gym and get a tan. Oh, and ask doctors to stick lots of Botox needles into those unsightly wrinkles of yours. If you're going to be famous, you're going to have to look your best. Which, I will hasten to add, doesn't mean you'll necessarily feel your best.
If you're a woman with aspirations of looking good for the camera, you'll need to subsist on honey'd water, lemons and single granules of Rice Krispies. (Cheating on this diet involves occasionally splurging on a crouton.) Men have it a little easier, but let's face it: If you don't have a muscular structure that looks as if there are well-proportioned river rocks embedded in your abdomen, your celebrity won't last much beyond your first shirtless spread in Vanity Fair.
Plastic surgery is a must—not just for its aftereffects, but for the publicity itself. The days of pretending you didn't buy yourself a new nose are so 1991. Heidi Montag's biggest PR coup came from undergoing 10 concurrent cosmetic procedures—turning her, essentially, into the world's first life-size Barbie doll.
Step 4: Remember that paparazzi are friends, not food
Yes, there are certain celebrities who claim to despise the photographers who set up shanty towns outside their doors. Some even manage to increase their fame by throwing fists, feet and sometimes phones in the general direction of their lenses. But these people, you must remember, are already famous, and most of them—Sean Penn, Russell Crowe, George Clooney—do have a measure of talent. Those of us longing to become famous without spending all that time getting good at something can't be threatening the very folks who can help us.
Bonus tip: Some media-savvy starlets allegedly call the paparazzi and cough up their daily itineraries—what mall they'll be shopping in, what club they'll be getting thrown out of, etc.
Step 5: Pull yourself up by your own flip flops
Reality stars and Disney phenoms are given massive stages right away. But we can't all land projects on E! straight out of the gate. If you can't cut it on America's Got Talent, create your own reality show: Get your friends to record you clowning on their handheld cams or phones, then post yourself on YouTube. Repeatedly. If you're having trouble getting the paparazzi to stalk you at the grocery store (a problem you most likely have because you live in some forgotten fly-over region of the country—move, already!), hire some cameramen to go grocery shopping with you. Be sure to splatter them with a can of spray cheese and jam your hand over their lenses from time to time so people will assume you're annoyed by all the attention.
No one hounding you for autographs? Start signing the shirts of random strangers. Don't feel bad when they yell at you for ruining their $120 threads: They'll thank you when you actually do become famous. And don't get discouraged if producers forget to send you reality show scripts right away. If you're persistent with this strategy, you'll surely attract some sort of attention.
Step 6: Don't forget the little people
No one likes a stuck-up celeb. So when you realize your dream, when you become the celebrity you always knew you could be, remember those who helped you get there—namely me. Send me checks. Mention my name to Oprah. Thank me during your acceptance speeches. You see, the celebrity game is a bit like a pyramid scheme: The more famous you become, the more famous you'll make me and then, when I'm famous, I in turn can help other people reach their true celebrity potential.
But please, don't overdo it. I don't want to take all the credit myself. If you land in jail or a rehab facility, or if, on the incredibly slim chance that you find celebrity to not be quite as rewarding as you'd thought, feel free to forget about giving me credit and instead offer a word or two of "thanks" to the person who really made all this possible:
My celebtastic editor.
Celebtastic 1: We Are All Celebrities Now
Celebtastic 2: Teach Your (Celebrity) Children Well
Celebtastic 3: Six Easy Steps to Becoming a Celebrity