Celebrity news

Pandemic concerns muted KimYe, other celeb news

Last week, the world’s most powerful celebrity couple announced they were divorcing.

For once, America did not tremble.

Why is that? Two years ago, the news of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian calling it quits would have been the No. 1 water cooler topic. He is one of the biggest stars in music. She is the most powerful force in the history of reality television. Together, they have hundreds of millions of social media followers. And their every move, post and photograph has been scrutinized around the world. Remember when Kim’s bare butt photo nearly broke the internet?

Yet nowadays, we don’t gather around water coolers. And news of KimYe’s split last week was quickly glossed over for news about Ted Cruz’s Cancun getaway or Andrew Cuomo’s hot water situation in New York. Heck, even landing on Mars got a bigger billing.

The celebrity industry has cooled down in this country. He’s taken a huge hit from COVID-19. And no one should feel sorry about that. On the contrary. You could say it’s one of the few good things to come out of the year of the coronavirus.

Think about it. When was the last time you heard or cared about a movie star dating another movie star, or marrying one, or cheating on one? When was the last time a crazy promotional stunt had the whole country talking about a rapper or actor?

Gossip feels as stupid as it is. And the lack of new cinematic buzz, celebrity appearances, concert tours, or Coachella-style festivals has robbed the spotlight of relevance — and therefore dominance. People like Dr. Anthony Fauci, an 80-year-old white-haired infectious disease specialist, have taken their place.

Talk about turntables.

Do they feel your pain?

When COVID-19 sent Americans rushing home a year ago, some thought the celebrity world was going to explode. After all, with everyone locked down with nothing to do but watch TV or be online, wasn’t it a perfect scenario for the entertainment class to monopolize the stage? Didn’t movie stars become larger than life during World War II?

That was then. In this war, artists were also locked up. Who really wanted to watch a late-night host like Jimmy Fallon poke fun at an actor via a Zoom screen? It was dull and often goofy. It didn’t seem to matter because it didn’t.

On top of that, celebrities made a series of thumping moves during the early months of COVID-19. Remember Madonna in her luxurious bathtub telling the world that the virus was wonderful in that it “made us all equal”. Or Gwyneth Paltrow peddling expensive skirts and sex toys as millions lost their jobs? Ellen DeGeneres compared quarantine in her multi-million dollar home to ‘jail’. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued warnings from his spa.

Perhaps the biggest mess of all was when Gal Gadot of “Wonder Woman” fame staged a digital celebrity song of John Lennon’s “Imagine” to ease everyone’s pain. It was worse than it looks. And that doesn’t sound good.

These efforts, while appreciated by some die-hard fans, were massively scorned by an audience that was in no mood for wealthy, pampered stars to tell us how we’re all in this together. When media mogul David Geffen posted a beauty shot of his $600 million yacht and wrote “Isolated in the Grenadines, avoiding the virus. I hope everyone stays safe” well, you could hear the sound of people’s hands slapping their foreheads from here to the Indian Ocean.

FILE - In this March 5, 2020 file photo, Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the annual Endeavor Fund Awards in London.  Harry says it took him many years and the experience of living with his wife, former American actress Meghan Markle, to understand how her privileged upbringing shielded him from the reality of unconscious bias.

The virus is the new star

The cumulative effect has been a divorce from our obsession with entertainment. And you know what? We’ve done just fine with no stars on couches peddling their films, or no headlines gasping for weekend box office numbers. Nobody missed the bad boy behavior of rock bands on the road. In fact, we didn’t need Instagram posts from parties that “influencers” were paid to attend.

When everyone is shrouded in fear, trying to avoid an enemy at the door, glory for glory’s sake seems woefully insignificant. The “we’re all in this together” message doesn’t work as an audience builder. All he does is remind people, “Hey, that guy’s no better than me.” Or “this woman does not deserve special medical treatment”.

On the contrary, the virus has leveled the reverence between ordinary people and the celebrity class. It’s one thing to pay to see a beautiful person on a big screen. It’s another thing to let that person get ahead of you for a vaccine.

You could argue that America is better off for putting aside its obsession with the rich and famous. Not that he’s completely gone. The recent reworkings of “The Bachelor” or a Britney Spears documentary prove it.

And once COVID-19 is under control and the movies, concerts, sporting events and all their glitz are back, it’s likely that enthusiastic fans will return as well.

But for now, why should anyone care about Harry and Meghan? Or who will get how much when Kim and Kanye sign their papers?

The old expression says “if a tree falls in the woods but no one is there to hear it, has it made a sound?” The same goes for fame during a pandemic. If audiences are concerned about saving their home, their job, their life, who connects or separates doesn’t – or doesn’t deserve – a look.

Contact Mitch Albom: malbom@freepress.com. Find the latest updates with his charities, books and events on MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast every Monday and Thursday on demand via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.