When it comes to celebrity stories, nothing ever seems to trump the fables of a Bill Murray sighting. He hops in your Uber car and insists on driving. You throw a house party and suddenly find him in your kitchen. You’re walking down the street and before you realize it, he’s got his arm around your neck, giving you a noogie, and yelling in your ear, “no one is ever going to believe you.”
And in the age of viral fluff pieces and internet hoaxes, Bill Murray stories tend to turn to urban legend pretty quickly. But whether they’re true or not, inflated or not, he’s benefitting, gaining immeasurable street cred for having the most memorable and unique interaction with his fans.
We tend to demand more of our celebrities these days. No one wants an untouchable celebrity; not having a Twitter feed (or even just not having a ~good Twitter feed) seems elitist somehow. I remember when Twitter was a fledgling. The awe of it. A celebrity is just…on there. And they can just…talk to you. Before this, you had to depend on chance, serendipity, and the total cooperation of all the forces of the universe in order to interact with your favorite famous person. And now all you have to do is log on and badger them relentlessly until they reply or block you indefinitely.
But as everything does, even this has begun to lose its novelty. How special is a celebrity reply when all they’ve done is gone on a spree and picked a few randoms to send a smiley face to? Too easy. They should work harder. We deserve it (for some reason). At some point, incessantly tweeting a celeb and annoying the fuck out of your followers isn’t worth the fleeting moment of euphoria. You can’t tell your grandkids about the one time the Biebs gave you an @.
Enter Taylor Swift.
It started with a heartfelt and lengthy reply of support to one of her fans on Instagram, and snowballed from there. Soon she was Internet stalking a handful of supporters, shopping for them based on their needs, and sending them hand picked, hand wrapped, and hand addressed Christmas gifts, carefully documenting every step on video so that no one would miss it. And then (this is the kicker), she mailed some girl a $1989 check to help pay off her student loan debt, and I came to the soul-crushing conclusion that I joined the wrong fandom.
I’m looking at you, Nick Jonas. Lookin’ right atchya, and I’m not breaking eye contact.
Swifty upped the ante. And while she did it the biggest (or with the most media coverage, rather), She definitely isn’t the only, and isn’t the first. Robert Schwartzman, lead singer of Rooney, developed an app back in 2013 called TwentyTwo that allows him (as well as other artists who use it) and fans to leave each other voice messages, citing that in an age when so many celebrities have PR teams and social media management, text messages can seem inauthentic. He has engaged in entire songwriting sessions with his fans and then recorded the results for them to hear. Last summer, he embarked on a tour that was essentially a groupie’s dream come true, forgoing the stage and inviting small groups of fans right onto his tour bus for a jam session, free merch, and an entirely intimate experience, even allowing those attending to pick the set list.
Around the same time Tay’s well-documented boost in altruism made headlines, J.Cole popped in on unsuspecting fans to personally play them his new album. Trending right this minute, he’s planning on offering up his now-famous address to single mothers, so they can live rent-free and get back on their feet.
A note on celebrity altruism: it can be exploited, but it can’t be faked. For a fleeting moment, I had a heightened appreciation for Adam “Nails On A Chalkboard” Levine, who released his latest music video for Sugar, documenting Maroon 5’s wedding crash spree all over Los Angeles. Forever the optimist, I attributed the fact that everyone in the music video was thin and beautiful as a location-based anomaly. But turns out, those fuckers staged the whole thing. You know who never does that? Bill Murray.
What it boils down to is that nothing sways public opinion like a filthy rich person being generous, kind, and going out of their way to give a fan something unique, even if it is just an unbelievable story. I guess my point is: Adam Levine is stupid, and when are the Jonas Brothers going to take me out for pizza?