I once asked a number of my friends if they’d ever met a celebrity. The answers were intriguing.

My friend Leslye Simak once met Hillary Clinton, who seemed to act a little wary as Leslye approached her. But, it may be inferred, once Mrs. Clinton felt safe that Leslye wasn’t part of a vast right-wing conspiracy, she was quite pleasant to Leslye.

My friend Dawn Owens met President Clinton, and she says she has pictures to prove it.

Another friend, Henry Saas, acted in a play with John Goodman of Roseanne fame, which made me wonder:  "If John had just invited Henry to play the part of Roseanne’s sister’s boyfriend, maybe Henry could be George Clooney by now!"

My friend Bob Holzworth ate lunch with Jodie Foster and Diane Weist; he says they ignored him, but he was there!

Amber Bennett met Sean Connery and Princess Anne on the same day in the town of Sleat on the Isle of Skye – all of which sounds so incredibly cool!

Mark Fitzgerald once met the late Dave Thomas of Wendy’s fame, Daryl and Gretchen Zimmer met NBA star David Robinson, Mike Johnson met Neil Armstrong, and Phil Schreiber met Steven Covey of the "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People."

And I once stood a mere four feet from Joe Piscopo at the Newark airport baggage claim, frantically wracking my brain to think of something more intelligent to say than, “Dude! You’re Joe Piscopo!” I never did.

All those celebrity moments among my little circle of friends: a princess, a president, a senator, an astronaut, actors, authors, and athletes. I was astonished. Amazed. Flabbergasted, even.

Less amazing is the fact that each of those people remembers those celebrity encounters. Some remember them like they happened just yesterday. Some may remember them until the day they die. Which illustrates another typically American idol, one I call the Rock Star Syndrome: celebrity worship.

A New Kind of Eminence

Pastor and author Tony Evans writes, in the introduction to his book "Who Is This King of Glory?":

We live in a day of celebrity worship. … Celebrities grab our attention. People want to get close to them, to get an autograph or even a glimpse of the famous person.1

And even before the dawn of "The Anna Nicole Show," Daniel Boorstin, the social historian, wrote:

Our age has produced a new kind of eminence. This is as characteristic of our culture and our century as was the divinity of Greek gods in the sixth century B.C.. … This new kind of eminence is “celebrity.” … The hero is made by folklore, sacred texts and history books but the celebrity is the creature of gossip … of magazines, newspapers and the ephemeral images of movie and television screen. … Anyone can become a celebrity if only he can get into the news and stay there.2

The number of magazines, Web sites, books, and television shows devoted to celebrities has exploded since the 1974 launch of People Magazine and the 1981 debut of "Entertainment Tonight." And our culture’s fascination with celebrities shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.

Not long ago Brooklyn high school students were asked in a questionnaire, “What would you like to be?” Two-thirds answered:  “a celebrity.” Not “astronaut.” Not “president.” Not even “rock star.” Just “a celebrity.”

Our worship of celebrities has recently reached new highs (or lows, depending on how you look at it): a bidder on eBay recently paid $455 for three tablespoons of water reportedly touched by Elvis Presley at a 1977 concert. Maria Puente, writing in USA
Today, reports:

In recent years, people have tried or succeeded in auctioning chewing gum said to have been discarded by Britney Spears; a cough drop supposedly spit out by Arnold Schwarzenegger; what are said to be the baby teeth of Jack Nicholson; and the dirty socks of Bryan Adams.3