Listen to Jancee Dunn - she's the author of But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous, a long-time contributor to Rolling Stone, The New York Times and O, The Oprah Magazine - basically a top-tier authority on fame in America.
Things are different. Fans have changed. There's lots of hugging, and you'll never guess who is her top celebrity pick for self- awareness.
"I've been doing this for almost 20 years," she says, "And the biggest change I've seen is that fans have gotten so totally familiar with celebrities through the internet that when they see a celebrity in person there's no barrier anymore. People really truly feel like they know these famous people and the weirdest thing I see all the time is that fans want a HUG. It's such a Catch-22 for the celebrity - if they refuse they seem cold and someone will immediately blog about it, but seriously can you imagine hugging a total stranger just because they asked you?" She adds, "It's relentless! There is an expectation of physical contact because they've seen pictures of these people taking out their trash and going to the dry cleaners - there are a million ways to access information on your celebrity. It's a little creepy."
Hardly an old-timer, her profiles of present day rock stars and celebrities continue to set a gold standard, yet she actually looks back to easier times. "I would be out with a celebrity and doing my thing and people would not approach," she recalls, "Of course they'd do the fake head-swivel to hide that they were really gawking but would NOT approach or at least wait until the end of the meal and timidly come forward...there is no private space anymore."
Being famous changes people, no question. Imagine knowing everyone in the room is looking at you. Dunn remembers one celebrity admitting, "When I'm out at a restaurant I never taste the food."
She's got her own list of A- listers who handle their celebrity well. "There's a certain kind of celebrity who blends in, particularly in New York. Take Sarah Jessica Parker - I've walked around with her several times and no one gave her a second look. She doesn't wear the 'don't look at me' celebrity sunglasses which have the opposite effect - she's just wearing maybe a hat, not being furtive, walking around and doing her thing. It's like there's a certain respectful barrier around her. Nothing happens."
Another top-pick is Beyonce. "I've interviewed her five times, when she was younger and under the watchful eye of her folks, her parents and aunts and uncles and younger sister. This was in her hometown in Houston, Texas and I saw she was part of a community - the hair salon and the church - they brought her down to earth, they teased her, it made her level-headed." She adds, "Not like these drifting orphan types you often see, who are so frequently so damaged."
And Jancee Dunn's pick for celebrity most aware of the price and game of fame? Rosie O'Donnell. "She's the person I've seen handle it best. She has the clearest perspective on fame of anyone I have ever profiled - about how it can be so poisonous and how to use it to your advantage." She continues. "The one thing she said I never forgot and that I think about whenever I see a celebrity is "how much ice cream can you eat'? It's why she gives money away yet she also addressed the dark and selfish need to do all those giveaways on her show. She had a real perspective on how unhealthy it is to be consumed by fame even as she herself was consumed by it."
And Rosie's coming back with a new show next year. "I don't think she can stay away," says Dunn, "Yet she knows that."
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