"What can you say about a ... girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. The Beatles, and me?"
That is the opening line in "Love Story," the 1970 tearjerker that starred Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw. And while none of the young hotties involved in the recent beauty pageant "scandals" is dead — thankfully — if a movie were to be made out of the lives of Miss Nevada Katie Rees and Miss USA Tara Conner, perhaps the opening lines would be:
"What can you say about a girl who's famous? That she thinks Beethoven is a St. Bernard, she loved Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and living in the limelight?"
Sadly, these days, "living in the limelight" means doing something so outrageous as to embarrass oneself, and to shame one's family. Only then do we truly grant fame and fortune.
If you don't believe it, look at Hilton, Spears and Lohan. All millionaires. All famous. All troubled. All looked up to by millions of girls. All in all, a sad state of affairs.
Ironically, the root of our culture war is the consumer. And that means you.
And while Time magazine proclaims "You" to be the Person of the Year, what with YouTube and MySpace and all of the user-generated content that has become all the rage, the result is not so glorious as Time will have you believe.
Because amid all the content choices "you" are faced with today, the only way for anyone to stand out is to do something either completely unethical, like "Lonelygirl15" on MySpace — who, unbeknownst to her thousands of "friends" until recently, is really just an actress doing a scripted show — or pull a Paris Hilton and have a sex tape released on the Internet. Or pull a Britney Spears and prove to a plethora of photographers that you didn't bother to put on your panties.
We have gone so far in reverse as a society that the only way the fashion industry can make headlines these days is not by creating bold new designs, but by banning skinny models from runways in favor of healthier looking women.
We are that bass-ackwards and that blinded by pop culture that we need a mandate from Anna Wintour before we are smart enough not to stick our own fingers down our throats after a meal.
That is scary.
Miss USA Tara Conner's life was probably saved by Donald Trump, which is ironic considering it was his pageant and organization that put her in the position to run wild and crazy through Manhattan's nightlife and glam parties where drugs, alcohol and sex are apparently rampant.
Conner was living a scene right out of "Star 80," and going to rehab will hopefully prolong her life by screwing her head on straight — hopefully.
If only the millions of girls who have witnessed this nutty episode would focus on the rehab part, and the danger of what too much partying can mean. Most likely they stopped paying attention after the part about partying.
Miss Rees is a somewhat different story.
As Miss Nevada, she was scheduled to compete in the Miss USA contest this spring, but has since been stripped of her crown by Trump's organization after racy pictures surfaced on the Internet. In them, she appears to be partying her little head (not to mention her clothes) off, and putting on a lesbian sex show for a bunch of gawking geeks who look like they would have no idea what to do with Miss Nevada — or any other woman, for that matter.
And that's probably why she felt safe enough to behave in the way that she did in public.
I mean, what harm could it bring her to have a little fun and emulate what she may have seen on MTV on an episode of "Girl on Girl Dismissed" — where on one afternoon a few years ago, I saw two teenage beauties passionately making out in a swimming pool — or on any "Girls Gone Wild" infomercial that so many cable networks rely on for late night revenue?
As for MTV, which has since canceled it's "Dismissed" series, I was appalled that the network catering to the world's youth would air such a thing — to say nothing of the Madonna-Spears French kiss. As for "Girls Gone Wild," I think it's time for networks to drop those infomercials and let the liquor industry spend some of its billions of dollars on late-night advertising, because at this point the dangers of alcohol use are well known to mankind.
The dangers of showing young hot girls in compromising positions, censored or not, is only now beginning to rear its ugly head (not to mention the fact that liquor giant Diageo has a lot more money than Joe Francis, the producer of the "GGW" series).
On the one hand, we're saying it's OK to party and have fun and for the networks and sly entrepreneurs to profit from it — as long as nobody gets hurt. On the other, when pictures of said partying surface, people in them like beauty queens end up losing their crowns and disgracing themselves.
But the messages shouldn't be so mixed.
It's time for the media and the consumer to hold the famous to higher standards. Hilton should have been shunned after her sex tape. Instead, she hawked hamburgers on television and starred in a network reality show.
Spears will release a new album next year, and she will sell a few hundred thousand of them, despite her horrendous example of parenting — not to mention those booty shots.
Lohan will still be paid millions of dollars to act in movies, even though she's still not old enough to be in most of the clubs she's reportedly getting drunk at. And Conner will emerge from rehab with a hosting gig on MTV or VH1 or some other network where the job requirements for on-air talent are limited to one's notoriety and willingness to do anything on camera.
And all of this will send the wrong message to millions of young, impressionable girls.
Anna Wintour is right.
It's time to mandate a healthier lifestyle, not just for runway models, but for our film stars, our music stars, our TV stars and our pageant queens.
It's time to stop rewarding the raucous, and to start promoting some semblance of decency.
Let's teach the lesson to our sons and daughters that Miss Rees was never taught until now. That it is not OK to behave that way in public and certainly not OK to let someone take pictures of that behavior.
Or the lesson that Paris learned, which is when in private, keep those cameras turned to the off position, and don't trust anyone with that video of what you thought was a private moment.
And as for Britney, well, the lesson used to be, wear clean underwear because you never know when you might end up in the hospital. Now it's simply to remember to wear underwear.
Look Mom, no pants!
Wake up, folks, because if the next Katie Rees is not you, it just might be your daughter.
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