Heh. Heh. Heh.
Just finished reading a story on the Daily Herald's Back Page about Justin Bieber driving his Ferrari at expressway speeds through the streets of his gated community in Los Angeles.
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I have to admit I wouldn't know a Justin Bieber song if the lyrics were, "I'm Justin Bieber and this is one of my songs," repeated over and over for three minutes to a catchy beat amid an array of fireworks and suggestive dancers on "American Idol." Yet, here I was reading an entire 10-inch story about this rich, young numskull supposedly driving like a maniac through his suburban neighborhood.
Some things about readership interest just can't be explained, but here are the themes that captured my attention on the Bieber story: actions contrary to his fading clean-cut image; curiosity about the lifestyle of a fabulously wealthy teenager -- including the gated community, the famous neighbors, the Ferrari, and the security detail; images of NFL star Keyshawn Johnson out on the sidewalk with his 3-year-old daughter like any regular suburbanite, then chasing down the offending driver, Bieber, to confront him as could happen in almost any middle class suburban neighborhood; Bieber's apparent cowardly skedaddle into the safety of his home and security detail.
Somehow, all these things told me some things about my society and maybe even about myself, though I'm not sure I want to rush to find what those things are. Do they make for significant "news"? Of course not. That's why they were on the Back Page, for goodness' sake. But I can see how they can sometimes qualify for making it into the paper.
The nice thing about the newspaper, and our website as well, is that such items hardly qualify as the fare on which we would stake our reputation or our living. They're like garnish compared with the regular news from the front page throughout the rest of the paper, or perhaps a cool sorbet to neutralize the mental taste buds between courses of more hardy intellectual cuisine.
And they do seem to come with some abundance, though it occurs to me as I write this and think about the Bieber story that they almost always represent variations on the same themes. Sweet little Reese Witherspoon upbraids an Atlanta cop in a profane tirade when she and her husband are stopped on suspicion of DUI. Former teen idol Amanda Bynes rants about sexual harassment during an arrest on drug charges she claims to be trumped up. What's it like to be young, glamorous, wealthy and constantly on public display? Not all that different from being middle aged, frumpy and constantly struggling to pay the mortgage, as it turns out.
"Everybody's got something to hide," said one-time teen heartthrob-cum-midlife heroin addict John Lennon, "'cept for me and my monkey." And I guess we all -- even those of us whose lives wouldn't be diminished or enhanced one scintilla by the private or public acts of a Britney Spears or a Lindsay Lohan or a (insert your choice of first name here) Kardashian -- occasionally feel the urge, if not the need, to reflect vicariously on the truth within that lyric.
I'm not sure that justifies the cottage industry -- or perhaps "blood sport," as I've also seen it characterized, is a better term -- that celebrity gossip has become. That's a topic for someone to dwell on who knows the music of Justin Bieber -- who, I know, has had monkey issues of his own -- or the movies of Amanda Bynes. But it does help explain how such news makes it to the table with the more filling and more nutritious dishes.
• Jim Slusher, firstname.lastname@example.org, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.