Ben's writing debut for Flaunt Mag

War, What is it Good For?
-- Ben Affleck (Flaunt, Premiere Issue 1999)

Andrew Jackson won the greatest naval battle of the War of 1812 two weeks after the peace treaty had been signed but before the armies could be informed. We've certainly come a long way since Old Hickory whacked all those Limeys at the Battle of New Orleans -- and not such a great way, if you ask me.

Don't be alarmed, you haven't picked up a copy of "George" with the wrong cover on it. The editors of "Flaunt" have asked me to offer my thoughts on the nature and essence of celebrity, and I think this historical metaphor bears some significance on the topic. You see, it's all about "Springer" these days. We live in "Montel"'s world, where a whip-quick media-Internet conglomerate runs the Weather Channel 24 hours a day. We have a national daily paper, and a celebrity gossip program runs several different shows a day on a dedicated entertainment-gossip station. What's about to happen is already old news. And if the news is your trade, you better stay six steps ahead of what's happening tomorrow if you want to feed your kids. With all these heads talking and not all that much that truly warrants talking about, even Warhol would be amazed. Almost everybody is famous. A tone-deaf, cross-dressing, Satan-worshipping, modern-day minstrel (who couldn't turn out a buck-twenty on a subway platform) names himself after a model and a serial killer and becomes an international star and a multi-millionaire overnight. Forget being the next Sojourner Truth, Thomas Paine, or even Horace Mann. All you have to do is get stuck in a hole in the ground and you're a lock in the morning paper. Do a Diet Coke commercial and you can end up in "People" where 30 million loyal weekly readers can hear all about the lean years and your dog named "Ralph." Sleep with your teacher, write a jingle, get a movie made with your buddy from back home -- it doesn't take much. Rikki Lake owns the world and most of us are lucky if we can make the rent.

The line between celebrity and actual achievement got deeply blurred -- and somewhere along the line Oprah rubbed it out. There's a whole truckload of tabloids and local WB affiliates bickering and hardscrabbling over a smaller and smaller piece of the bored-housewife-who-can't-have-an-orgasm pie. The size, smell, and shape of the presidential semen stain can only get you so far. Unless it vaguely resembles Jesus in the Shroud of Turin in a 3-D poster kind of way, there really isn't too much more to say. This may help explain the modern form of yellow journalism. Our freedom-of-the-press advocates wave copies of Voltaire and declare the public has a terribly important right to know about what's really going on with Frank and Kathy Lee, Rosie's kid's discipline problems, and who slept over at Clooney's last night. Remember the Maine, indeed.

The problem is, once we've hastily ushered all these folks up onto public stage, they have to merit the attention. So what do we do with 'em? That's what Jerry figured out. Keep a few spare lesbian pygmy brawlers at the ready and get 'em out there before the last cuckolded Floridians have stopped bawling -- or brawling. Because after conferring deity-dom on these folks (who, after all, are just the same hapless chumps we all are -- or went to high school with) all there is to do is find old pictures of them and marvel at how they've "had some work done." That's why everyone listens to Howard Stern. He's the kid in HeadStart who, after the other kids spend all that time building the Lego house, comes careening madly in and gleefully brings the whole thing crashing down. And isn't that really the fun part?

So what if famous people aren't really special after all, but just the same goofy kids with snot in their noses we knew in sixth grade? (For further evidence, see the photo of Julia Roberts in the first issue of this magazine.) With phlegm in the nose and head in the stars, we've got our eye on our "celebs." 'Cause let's face it, the best part is when he finds out she's really a "he" and pummels that snot right out of him.

Somewhere out there Old Hickory is surely shaking his old gray head. But hey, at least he's watching.

NOTE: This article was reprinted with out permission for fan appreciation ONLY! Property of Flaunt Magazine. Scoop from Newaskew!