Of course we love them. We ogle, dote and devote our time and interest. We buy their products and heed their advice. We mimic the style. Some celebrities inspire and uplift. Others deliver the lavish and the lewd, grand entertainments in trying times. A recent documentary, An Affair of the Heart, details the culture of one celebrity and his fans. Rick Springfield has created a community focused on a mantra, "It's not about me; it is about the fan." The film serves as a gracious model of good behavior for the contemporary superstar.
The opening titles introduce us to rocker and actor Rick Springfield. "In the 80's, he had seventeen Top-40 hits and sold nineteen million records. He was a sensation on General Hospital." If you do not recall Springfield, you do know his greatest hit, "Jesse's Girl," a clean, all American pop standard.
Today, the musician and his band are busy. They tour, spend some time on the state fair circuit and play the occasional European concert. Two big events are held annually to honor his most devoted fans. There is a Caribbean cruise, "Sun Dazed And Star Filled Nights with Rick Springfield and Friends" where the devoted decorate their cabin doors. Four days in Milwaukee offer intimate concerts, bowling and baseball. Rick is a regular guy. It appears he'd rather have a good time than inspire our youth with unrealistic goals and lifestyles. You won't catch Beyonce throwing a softball with the little folk.
While the film is ultimately all about Rick Springfield, the filmmaker tells the stories of his many devoted fans. Leaping inside homes, we see record collections, framed photographs and wall murals. The fervent fan base is primarily female. Springfield looks great in his early '60s. His head is full of hair, but the gals go for his tight abs. Many of the women have had to broker deals and understandings with their real life mates; Rick is the not-so-invisible third wheel. One male concertgoer wore a tee shirt that explained his compromise. The front read, "Real men listen to Rick Springfield." The back explained, "And get laid after the show."
Springfield makes himself accessible, stating "The fans want to see your heart." (Thankfully, the Kardashians do not share the same strategy. Some dark horrors should not be revealed.) Documentary director Sylvia Caminer was not initially a fan, but she was impressed with Springfield's energy, drive and devotion to his fan base. It inspired her to make the film. Her producing partner Melanie Lentz-Janney, a Rickster, dragged her to a concert and Caminer saw the light. Far from pop culture, her next doc Tanzania is a love poem to Africa as a young man returns to his tribe after a decade. An Affair of the Heart tells a story. Unlike the Kardashian's, Springfield has something more to offer than diversion. He gives it freely with the small price of a ticket.
The appeal is quiet and modest. As Springfield explains, "The world is getting scarier and scarier. People are feeling more and more unsafe... (My attraction) makes you feel good and safe and strong and true again. That's where the connection is, ultimately." Springfield takes a generation back to their innocence and romance of high school.
A fan squeals, "It's like a big family, a growing family!" Springfield has created a genuine community. He is intimate with his fans. Music heals and assuages pain. Some fans have been touched and comforted through very hard times by the entertainer and his music. Reverend Kate Dennis was "healed after I was attacked. I was assaulted and gang raped." The song Don't Talk to Strangers offered a way to work through anger. Laurie Graham found solace in his music. Afflicted with multiple congenital heart defects as a kid, Springfield's Working Class Dogs was "a source of comfort through the most painful part of my life." Dustin, a 13-year-old guitar player has had a difficult family life and Springfield has brought him onstage to play every year since the kid was three. When another fan was widowed, the rocker sent a note.
In the glare of our celebrity culture, Springfield's behavior is refreshing. He is no fool either. He works hard, producing songs, an autobiography and now a novel. He performs frequently. One cannot do that without a fan base.
Given our Lohans, Rihannas and Jay-Zs, Rick Springfield's example forces us to ask the question, "Who do we celebrate and why?" Graciousness, longevity and dignity are all about giving back.
An Affair of the Heart is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD.