Sunday, 19 September 2010

mark david chapman, fame monster

Mark David Chapman, fame monster: Newly released transcripts of John Lennon's killer reveal his surprising insights into modern celebrity culture
Before the Internet, it was a lot harder for crazy people to get attention. On a December night in 1980, Mark David Chapman stood outside an Upper West Side apartment building and put four bullets into a Beatle. His admitted motive – one that has not wavered in all the ensuing years – seemed a peculiarly cruel anomaly then. He was chasing fame. Thirty years later, who isn't?
Speaking to Larry King a decade ago, Chapman talked about the "rock bottom" self-esteem of celebrity stalkers, noting, "They feel that by writing fan letters or actually coming in close contact with a celebrity, they feel important. If you have nothing to start with, and your life consists of fantasizing about celebrities or being with them, that can become very dangerous. And that is a phenomenon in this country now that has to be addressed." This may sound strange, but that psycho killer has a good point.
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The fact that movie stars are not routinely gunned down makes it clear that Chapman's particular brand of mental illness hasn't become epidemic. But his weird notion that getting on TV or a mention on the news is the eminently desirable has taken off like gangbusters. The difference between today and 1980 is that you don't have to kill to get a celebrity to notice you. You can just buy that. But as John Lennon's killer explains, "Somebodies are people that have worked for their fame [and] achieved something special." Chapman knows, despite his ability to get in the papers, "I am not anybody special."
- Salon, 17 September. My memory of the time is that the talk then was of split personality and that he'd believed he had become John Lennon. Reading this made me think of the Peter Gabriel song, Family Snapshot (which Wikipedia entry brings as news to me, though it shouldn't, that XTC's Dave Gregory played guitar on that, and presumably throughout the album).