WBEZ | Celebrities http://www.wbez.org/tags/celebrities Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago play takes on celebrity culture http://www.wbez.org/chicago-play-takes-celebrity-culture-107744 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/tomkatproject_photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Six actors file into a black-box theater dressed all in black.&nbsp;</p><p>Julie Dahlinger, who portrays Hollywood star Katie Holmes, acts out verbatim dialogue from a Seventeen magazine interview, as her overprotective family from Toledo, Ohio, tells the audience how Holmes got the leading role in the late 90s teen drama<em> Dawson&rsquo;s Creek</em>.</p><p>Walt Delaney, as a scrawnier version of Cruise, is heartbroken after the end of his relationship with Spanish actress Penelope Cruz. He&rsquo;s always had bad luck with women, Cruise and his agent explain, and he blames it on his abusive father.</p><p>These quick-paced vignettes kick off <em>The TomKat Project</em>, a two-act play that takes on the most public of Hollywood relationships: the marriage and divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (known as TomKat in the tabloids).</p><p>The satirical play isn&rsquo;t just trying to be funny. <em>The TomKat Project</em> is trying to send a message about our obsession with celebrity.</p><p>The different characters in the play &ndash; 54 in total &ndash; are played by seven actors. One moment, an actress is playing Nicole Kidman. The next, she&rsquo;s playing Oprah for the public revelation of the TomKat relationship that comes, of course, through the infamous couch-jumping incident.</p><p>This world of celebrity gossip is all too familiar to the play&rsquo;s writer and narrator, Brandon Ogborn. He&rsquo;s an improv actor and aspiring TV and film writer with encyclopedic knowledge of the movie business. Tabloid chatter is like a newsfeed for his career.</p><p>But when news of the TomKat relationship flooded every media outlet, he got drawn into it as entertainment, like so many of us do.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll have, like, Yasmina Reza plays in my bag and instead of reading those while I&rsquo;m waiting somewhere, I&rsquo;ll be reading <em>US</em> magazine about Tom and Katie,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp;</p><p>When Ogborn started writing a play about TomKat, he thought the couple would make good comedy. The eerie Scientology rumors that surrounded the TomKat relationship gave Ogborn plenty of material to work with.</p><p>The TomKat Project is complete with humorous reenactments of auditing sessions, the routine therapeutic meetings in Scientology in which Cruise supposedly revealed very personal details to fellow church members. Ogborn made David Miscavige, the head of the Church of Scientology, one of the main characters in the play.</p><p>But halfway through writing it, Ogborn had a realization that changed his approach to his subject: He started to question why 14-year-old girls and 45-year-old women end up having opinions about things like TomKat and Justin Bieber&rsquo;s haircut. And Ogborn realized he was making the same mistake as some of the public&mdash;he was buying into a tabloid version of events that probably wasn&rsquo;t true, or at least was greatly exaggerated.</p><p>&ldquo;You might be an A-hole for thinking what you&rsquo;ve read in tabloids over the years is true about these people, and about most other human beings that happen to have jobs in film and television and also happen to be attractive,&rdquo; Ogborn said.</p><p>Ogborn takes that dilemma onstage in the second act, as he plays himself. He shows himself as the narrator and writer of <em>The TomKat Project</em>, questioning why he believes what he reads in the tabloids and why he even wrote a play about the VIP couple in the first place.</p><p>He physically tussles with the character of Maureen Orth (played by Allison Yolo), the Vanity Fair contributor who wrote a controversial cover story about TomKat last year. Ogborn accuses Orth of trying to make a name for herself by writing about celebrities. She accuses him of trying to turn lowbrow nonfiction into highbrow theater. Ogborn escorts her out of the theater.</p><p>Ironically, Ogborn himself is making a name out of writing about famous people. The play sold out most of its run at Lakeview&rsquo;s Playground Theater, and took the stage last weekend at Just for Laughs Chicago. Now it&rsquo;s heading to Second City&rsquo;s UP Comedy Club on June 20, then moving on to New York&rsquo;s Fringe Festival in August.</p><p>A DePaul University sociology professor who specializes in celebrity culture doesn&rsquo;t share Ogborn&rsquo;s conflicted feelings on dishing about them. Deena Weinstein recognizes the stars are easy targets&mdash;she calls writing a play on the TomKat relationship &ldquo;kind of like shooting fish in a barrel.&rdquo;</p><p>But she says gossip about other people is a tradition that goes way back in time, and she sees meaning in it.</p><p>&ldquo;When we lived in small societies, we could gossip about people we know. Living in the metropolitan area, we don&rsquo;t know very many people about whom we can gossip but we all feel we know celebrities,&rdquo; Weinstein said.</p><p>She said many people today are increasingly isolated. They live farther from their families, and they may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but only know a few of them well.</p><p>Weinstein says talking about Hollywood stars can provide a false sense of intimacy, and that can help some people feel less isolated.</p><p><em>Diana Buendía is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/buendiag" target="_blank">@buendiag</a></em></p></p> Tue, 18 Jun 2013 09:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/chicago-play-takes-celebrity-culture-107744 Unfamous Kids Named After Famous People http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/unfamous-kids-named-after-famous-people-104821 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3467493336_73218b3d4a.jpg" style="float: right; height: 257px; width: 300px;" title="Flickr/Keith Allison" /><span id="internal-source-marker_0.4461371744547439">About a month ago, Drew Magary published an astounding little post on </span><a href="http://deadspin.com/5967948/2012s-definitive-list-of-unusual-baby-names-will-destroy-your-soul?tag=dadspin">Deadspin</a> about some of the most unusual names in 2012. My favorite is &ldquo;Donathan,&rdquo; just because it kind of makes sense, yet doesn&rsquo;t, sort of like &ldquo;Denjamin&rdquo; or &ldquo;Staniel&rdquo; or &ldquo;Misterpher.&rdquo;</div><p>Anyway, this got me thinking on the ways people name their kids. Our son is named &ldquo;Paul&rdquo; which is a pretty straightforward name, except my underlying rationale for doing so is maybe a little weird. He&rsquo;s named for a baseball player.<br /><br />My affection for Paul Konerko has been documented online before, although what used to be a crush has leveled off to a rational appreciation for his hard work, good attitude and odd ability to have a successful yet scandal-free athletic career. So the name &ldquo;Paul&rdquo; to me became imbued with those good qualities (incidentally, while the White Sox did lose the night my Paul was born, Paulie K. homered.)<br /><br />The more I thought about it, I was able to come up with even more good famous Pauls who have brought me happiness throughout my life: Paul McCartney, <a href="http://www.zulkey.com/2008/06/the_paul_f_tompkins_interview.php">Paul F. Tompkins</a>, <a href="http://www.zulkey.com/2008/09/httpwwwyoutubecomwatchv0qvqsza.php">Paul Scheer</a>, Paul Rudd, RuPaul. So why not a Paul for me? A good precedent had been set by the Pauls who had come before him.<br /><br />I&rsquo;m not completely alone. A friend of mine named Stephanie was nicknamed &ldquo;Stevie&rdquo; at birth due to her parents&rsquo; affection for the Fleetwood Mac singer Ms. Nicks. I know a child of some Bears fans who is named Keller because that&rsquo;s Mike Ditka&rsquo;s middle name.<br /><br />I must know other kids out there who were named after athletes and various other famous people, but my coffee intake is low and so I can&rsquo;t summon them at this time. So please share with me: who were your (or your friends&rsquo; or family&rsquo;s) kids named for that&rsquo;s in the pop culture realm, and why? Feel free to be totally judgmental of your peer&rsquo;s decisions.</p></p> Thu, 10 Jan 2013 09:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/unfamous-kids-named-after-famous-people-104821 A Queen in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/queen-chicago-103712 <p><p>Americans make such a big deal about royalty. Remember Princess Diana? But before her, there was Queen Marie of Romania. She made a tour of the United States in 1926, and it was front-page news every place she went. Especially here in Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-13--Marie%20portrait%20%28Wiki%29.jpg" style="float: right; height: 332px; width: 250px;" title="Queen Marie (wiki)" /></div><p>Marie wasn&rsquo;t Romanian. She was part of the British royal family and was married to the king of Romania. He was a cipher. Queen Marie ran things. Remember, in those days, in most countries, women didn&rsquo;t even vote.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">When she came to America, Marie was 51 years old. Her reputation preceded her. She&rsquo;d had some well-publicized love affairs, so people wanted to get a look at this powerful, notorious woman.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">She arrived at Union Station on November 13<sup>th</sup>, and it was the usual circus. Mayor Dever was at the train station, along with a few million spectators and a few million reporters taking pictures. Then Marie moved on to the Drake for dinner with some of the Important People. She smoked a few cigarettes&ndash;which showed she was a &ldquo;liberated&rdquo; woman&ndash;and told stories, and joked around, and charmed everyone.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The next day, they took her on a tour. She visited some sights and had tea with more Important People. At Lincoln Park she got out of her car and chatted with a few Romanian women, which put the whole tour way behind schedule. She did a radio broadcast. That night there was another banquet. The third day was more of the same, and then she left.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11-13--Queen%20Marie.jpg" style="float: left; width: 258px; height: 335px;" title="A Queen in Chicago (Chicago Tribune, 11-14-1926)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Queen Marie never came back to Chicago. Her husband died, and her son turned out to be a disaster as king. She died in 1938.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Marie wasn&rsquo;t like the other royal snobs of those days. She seemed down-to-earth and human, and she knew how to make the right gesture for the right occasion.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I&#39;m thinking about the photographers here. When Marie first arrived in Chicago, she very sweetly asked them not to take flash photos of her when she was walking down stairs, because it blinded her and she was afraid of falling. That was reasonable, so the photographers honored her request.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now, many Important People would have just let it go at that. Not Marie. At the closing banquet at the Blackstone, she was called on to make a toast. So she stood up, raised her glass, and said &ldquo;To the Chicago newspaper photographers!&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">That was Queen Marie for you.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 13 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/queen-chicago-103712