Tag Archives: fame


…a fragment from an unfinished episode.

Of Rumor’s motives I’ve become suspicious
And found them things we frequently misjudge.
The gossip least correct and most pernicious
Is often spread by those who hold no grudge.
A lie’s propelled by people called “ambitious”
[Who sling a sewer full of slimy sludge].
It’s hard for hands to earn a lawful crown
But not for tongues to tear one’s wearer down


Colley Cibber

[from “In the Underworld” by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

We passed a man who seemed deprived of hope.
With trembling fingers through his powdered wig,
He wove its strands into a hanging rope.
My guide then said, “That poetasting prig
Was smoked by witty Alexander Pope
And roasted soundly as a suckling pig.
Though it’s been cent’ries since his body died,
His spirit’s always trying suicide.

You see, that’s Colley Cibber, mostly known
For being featured in The Dunciad.
In life, his wealth and stature overgrown
Were driving greater talents nearly mad.
In death, he occupies the shameful throne
Of Poets Known For Being Awfully Bad.
When Colley grows too weary of his crown,
He hangs until we come to cut him down.”


In Love and War, what’s foul is labeled “fair”
(At least that’s what a lot of people claim).
For love of Fame to cause a war’s not rare—
Desire can turn to wild what once was tame,
And winners often are the bold who dare
To play as though contestants in the game
Obeyed, at most, a single ruthless rule:
That mercy is the virtue of a fool.

The present episode will illustrate
How flames of envy’s fiercely raging fire
Can burn a friendship ‘til what’s left is hate.
To save myself from readers’ anxious ire,
I’ll start my tale and end your restless wait
To hear my song of anger and attire:
I’ll tell how dearest friends were turned to foes
When Fate arrayed the two in matching clothes.

Once Missy Priss and Kimberley McQueen—
The heroines who occupy this episode—
Were friends as close as Earth had ever seen
(Or poet praised in eulogizing ode).
But, as a tower never known to lean
One day might crack and suddenly implode,
Some friendships crash as quickly to the ground
As lightning seen ahead of thunder’s sound.

The cause that brought their lovely friendship down
And made eternal rivals of the pair
Was nothing other than a gaudy gown
The ladies both were seen one day to wear.
The Queen of Fashion’s chrome and golden crown
Was not an ornament they’d gladly share.
The choice of dress appeared to each to say,
“A fearsome fashion war is underway.”

Once Missy saw the latest breaking news—
Which showed McQueen enjoying drinks and lunch
While wearing Missy’s style of gown and shoes—
She quickly ate her bowl of Cocoa Crunch,
Then rushed to find McQueen at Eats and Brews
(To give her face a bruising power punch).
On reaching Kimmy, Priss did what she’d planned—
She gave her face a not-so-helpful hand.

Then, Missy shrieked, “How dare you steal my style
And strut around as though it were your own!
That masterpiece, designed by Leonard Lyle,
Was meant to beautify my form alone.
And now the world will think that, all the while,
I’ve tried to be your slavish fashion clone.”
The bruised and bloodied Kimberly McQueen
Replied that Missy’s skin was turning green

(Which, readers know, is often Envy’s shade).
Then Kimmy said, “It’d be a sorry waste
To only dress a plain but haughty maid
In clothing suited more to royal taste.
If gowns could choose, they certainly would trade
A girl ignored for one who’s wildly chased.
If gowns could talk, they’d say, “I don’t delight
In clothing bottoms full of cellulite.”

Offended, Missy gave her gut a kick
(Each moment seemed to make her rage increase),
Yet, Kimmy’s hands delivered not a lick,
[But not because she sought to keep the peace—
She fought with words and never stone or stick
And favored most the Nasty Press Release
Of any lethal weapon one could choose
Because it helps to shape the public’s views].

The rage of Ajax Telamon denied
His prize of armor great Achilles wore—
The rage which drove the man to suicide
And then to Hades’ life-forsaken shore—
Would match the ladies’ rage if multiplied
Perhaps a hundred thousand times or more.
…And feeding anger better left unfed
Were words the House’s chatty servants* said.

*The Press [servants in the House of Fame]

The servants formed a pair of warring camps
(A group on Kim’s and one on Missy’s side).
The words they wrote and spoke became the lamps
That served the voting public as a guide
To granting Popular Approval Stamps
To Missy or the foe with whom she vied.
Debates about who best had worn the gown
Incited fights on streets in ev’ry town.

And soon the people also would debate
About* whether Missy should forgive
Or whether Kimmy’s acts had earned her hate.
Some thought it best to make one’s heart a sieve
(Which filters dross to reach a purer state*),
But others wondered how McQueen could live
And shouted, “Kim McQueen deserves the chair
For wearing what she had no right to wear.”

*meter trumps grammatical correctness

*What passes through the sieve,–and not the sieve, itself—reaches a purer state

“McQueen’s among the worst who have betrayed.
Aeneas leaving Dido’s sandy shore
And Brutus piercing Ceasar with his blade
Are slight compared to Kimmy’s act of war.”
To bloody Mars the warring parties prayed.
They crossed their hearts devoutly and then swore:
“By God and everything in which I trust,
I know my cause to be the one that’s just.”

Behind computer screens, each raging horde
Prepared to give the foes their just desserts.
With barbs they borrowed from a comment board
And “I Adore McQueen” or “Missy” shirts,
They armed themselves before they wildly warred
And caused the blood to flow in crimson spurts.
[All thought that Kim and Missy’s bitter feud
Would only end if civil war ensued.]

…To tell of tears and blood the people shed
Surpasses any mortal poet’s skill.
To say that armies drowned in seas of red
Or piles of corpses made a human hill
(Or any metaphor a poet’s said)
Would not deserve the name of “overkill.”
Instead of seeking heights I can’t attain,
I’ll leave the rest to ev’ry reader’s brain.

I’ll only tell you what the war achieved:
As often happens when two armies strive
To win the crown for causes much believed,
The heroic leaders kept themselves alive
While soldiers’ friends and kin were much bereaved
That loving husband John did not survive.
And, once the course of war was fully run,
The parties both exclaimed, “Hurray, we’ve won!”

“Harry and the Paparazzi” [An Epic Episode]

an episode from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

Of action, we’ve not seen a lot so far.
Perhaps it’s time for faster moving scenes.
I’ll start with Harry sitting at a bar…
…The handsome actor (loved by mostly teens—
Though once a lowly pornographic star)
Now owns a house complete with putting greens.
The thrilling stanzas that are coming next
Will tell of Harry being sorely vexed.

Our mighty hero paid then left the seat*
In which he’d just enjoyed a manly meal.
With superhuman steps he walked the street
Still thinking of his lately eaten veal–
Oblivious to quiet creeping feet
Pursuing close behind his stepping heel.
Our story’s handsome hero didn’t know
He’d soon encounter Rick (his hated foe).

*He did not pay the seat. As usual, the meter has influenced me to write more ambiguously than I normally would.

Once ears perceived that dreaded cam’ra click,
He turned his head to meet a blinding flash
He knew had come from Tabloid Wizard Rick–
A foe with whom he always seemed to clash.
Our hero ran, but Rick’s pursuit was quick
[In college, Rick had won a racing dash].
Then, Ricky said, “I’ve heard you two were close.
How do you feel about her overdose?

Or would you rather talk of matrimony?
I hear you’ve spent some time in fam’ly court
(Since Missus rode your agent like a pony).
My fellow wizard’s latest news report
Reveals you’ll owe your ex no alimony,
Yet she’ll receive a wealth of child support.
Assist my quest to fill the people’s need
[For scandals are the food on which they feed].

Those words provoked the hero’s righteous rage
Awaking his desire to bravely smite
The vile, detested cam’ra-wielding mage
Who spoke these magic words: “I want no fight
But just to put you on the cover page.”
Our star replied, “Be gone, unwelcome sight!
…Or else I’ll smash your evil cam’ra’s lens
And run you over with my custom Benz.”

Replying, Ricky cast a common spell
That tabloid wizards know as “I Will Sue.”
With growing ire, the hero told him, “Go to Hell!”
Then tossed the cam’ra, breaking it in two.
And, when the pieces of the cam’ra fell,
He smashed them both beneath his shiny shoe.
Before a cuff restrained his raging wrist,
He pummeled Ricky ’til he’d hurt his fist.

Oh, Rage that dwells inside a human’s heart…
You vessel hard to empty but not fill…
You cycle slow to end but quick to start…
You who can move with ease but not be still.
You’re like a fully-loaded shopping cart
That’s started rolling swiftly down a hill.
Your reckless rolling won’t begin to end
Until you’ve crashed into a foe or friend.

To Rage, the wizard owes a hearty “Thanks!”
The piece he wrote on Harry’s acts of war
Against the Tabloid Wizards’ royal ranks
Ensured that tabloid sales would skyward soar
And fortified the warring Clan of Cranks
[Which tracked the star more closely than before.]*
Oh, Rage, you causer of an odd effect,
You bring about what people most reject.

“*Footnote about the Story Printed
To save the story from “Banality”—
A curse that’s also known as “What Occurred”—
The piece proclaimed, “The star’s brutality
Was sparked by what this writer disinterred
…that Harry’s fond of bestiality.
In other words, he loves what’s thickly-furred.
Afraid I might reveal the dirty truth,
He punched my face and chipped a lower tooth.”

Servants of Higher Culture [ENTERTAINMENT NEWS]

[“Servants* in the House of Fame”] from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

You’ll have attendants noting what you eat
And writing on how many times you chew
While others talk about your famous feet
And ponder how you tie a tennis shoe
Or what you wear when on the toilet’s seat
Or—if you’re British—going to the loo.
The House’s servants busily will strive
To analyze all moments you’re alive.

[Some servants buzz, as busily as bees,
about one’s style of skirt or party dress
and if it complements her waist and knees.
Another servant writes a merry mess
about her blouses and accessories–
or if she should apply more blush or less.
(Without the gossip that they write and say,
How would we ever make it through the day?)
And given slightest knowledge of details,
the servants analyze one’s luck in love:
“It seems a famous marriage always fails
–As though an order came from high above–
When Mister wears a coat that’s lacking tails,
And Missus wears a single gloomy glove.
By body language one is not misled.
Observe the way he holds his handsome head.”
These clever critics serve our planet’s cultures–
with witty charm and penetrating sight–
(…As carcasses are served by kindly vultures. )
Productive words they say on shows or write
Construct their classic, tow’ring verbal sculptures
(…Less salutary than a serpent’s bite. )
Their words on what a star will do or wear
Defend our souls from dismal, dark despair.]

“In the Underworld”

[Selections from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

In epic poems, it’d be a fatal fault
To find no journey to the world below.
To shield myself from critical assault,
I’ll lead you, readers, where I dread to go:
The House’s dank and dreary burial vault
As black as feathers from the darkest crow.
[No matter how you earn your daily bread.
The worms and flies will feast upon your head.]

“That hair, those lashes curled by skillful hand
Will fall one day from your decaying skull.
That skin you have so diligently tanned
Will fade until it has become quite dull.
Your famous frame, your sunken ship unmanned,
In time,  will be a rotting, hollow hull.
For many decades your body will endure
without a perm or proper pedicure.”

“Who’d think that Death could take so many souls

across the river Greeks once knew as Styx?
The Reaper reaps the carriers of coals.
He buries builders skilled at laying bricks
and people smiling when the cam’ra rolls
[but,when it’s off, assaulting aides with kicks].
Of spirits dead there’s such a high amount
that I’d not try to take a thorough count.

“Sympathy for the Famous Devil”

Some critics might, as youngsters call it, “hate”
And argue  that it’s utter vanity
To moan about  a life which seems so great.
Forgive their envy and inanity.
Who wouldn’t curse the cruel and crushing weight
Of famous living’s wild insanity?
We should salute the selfless sacrifice
You make to entertain us at a price.

Selections from The New House of Fame–by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

“Thug Life”

“Thug Life”
Some find the place where Lady Fame resides
By seeming to defiantly rebel.
Tattoos that cover all but their insides
Proclaim they’re* demons full of raging Hell—
As do their raps on drugs and homicides
And wicked words they normally misspell.
Although they think their ways to be unique,
Their breed of fish would crowd the largest creek.

* The “they” of “they’re” refers to the those who “defiantly rebel” and not to the “tattoos;” poetic license is my excuse for allowing such an ambiguous phrase to stand. I will rid the poem of ambiguity in later drafts.

“Some Ingredients in the Thug Life Brew”

Instead of “ma’am,” their given names, or “Miss,”
You’ll call lovely ladies “bitch” and “hoe”
And greet a stranger with quite an angry hiss
Instead of “How’s it going?” or “Hello.”
Your rear, which cronies will so gladly kiss,
Must peak above the pants you’ll wear too low.
Just add a pinch of hard illegal drugs,
Then join the House’s artificial thugs.

Selections from The New House of Fame–By Paul “Whitberg” Burgess


From The New House of Fame

The House is found on Paradise’s shore
Away from nations called “Reality”.
You’ll never look upon the puny poor
Whose days are filled with bleak banality–
Including picking dimes up off the floor
To pay the trains or buses’ trifling fee
And working sev’ral dreary daily jobs
To buy oneself some frozen corn on cobs.

Impoverished people, honest stars believe,
Have sunken low ’cause low they’ve always aimed.
The wisest stars, who never would deceive,
Insist the lowly lice should be ashamed
For envying what famous folks receive.
Who’d not agree with all they’ve sagely claimed?
They’ve worked so hard to earn their billion bucks
By playing chance and giving secret sucks .

“Andy Warhol–15 Minutes of Fame”

“Andy where’s my 15 minutes?”–David Bowie [Tin Machine’s song “I Can’t Read”]

From The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

To paraphrase the artist Andy Warhol,
All people visit for a quarter hour.
I know not much about the rise and fall
Of blossoms wilting once they briefly flower,
Or tourists standing in the House’s hall,
But only that to lose what’s sweet is sour.
Those placing faith in Fame’s atomic flash
Must run the risk of being turned to ash.

For more selections from The New House of Fame, please see the following post: