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GRRR! And the Award Goes to ... Who Cares?

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When it comes to honoring ourselves, we are second to none.

From awards like the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, VMAs, CMAs, Peabodys, Pulitzers, Edgars, Webbies to even The Guinness Book of World Records, we really do pat ourselves on the back for so much.

Ironically, the awards that get the least amount of attention are the Nobel Prizes, which really do mean something. All the others are just flashes in the pan.

Quick, what movie won the best picture Oscar last year? What group won the best rock album Grammy last year? Who won the Emmy for best comedy actress just a few weeks ago? According to Guinness, which actor is the world's highest grossing box-office draw? (See below for answers.)

See what I mean?

Award shows and hall of fame inductions are simply annual cash cows for organizations and various media outlets, designed to feed off the public's unquenchable thirst for anything smelling of fame.

All of the recent hoopla, as reported marvelously by our own Roger Friedman, about the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations is really just a bunch of hot air.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has long been irrelevant.

The notion that Rush or Todd Rundgren or Ringo Starr is losing any sleep about not being included in a group that includes Grandmaster Flash and will most certainly include Madonna is laughable.

But award shows in general, while profitable to a lot of industries (this column included), have long since lost their importance. Today they're just excuses to put a bunch of beautiful and (mostly) talented people together in one broadcast.

I met an Oscar-winning movie producer at the last Oscars who uses his (now tarnished) Academy Awards as bookends on his Hollywood Hills fireplace mantle.

At first I was astounded at the lack of respect for what is purported to be the highest honor in moviedom. But after this producer explained to me how the industry he had poured his heart into caused him to lose his family and cost him his health, and how it had turned its back on him because he's past a certain age, I can see why he's so bitter.

So why do we honor show business with so much attention? The obvious answer is to live vicariously through the rich and the famous.

In a real sense, however, we little people like to pay homage to those through whom we are inspired. Celebrities are celebrated because of their contributions to popular culture.

At least that's how it started.

All of us can probably remember the song that was playing during our first kiss, the movie we went to on our first date and the television show we watched religiously with our parents while we were growing up.

Wedding songs, movies that inspire careers, performances that inspire the courage to face cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, to open one's self up to love or simply to pick up a musical instrument — these are the things actors, musicians, writers, singers, directors and producers provide for us that really matter.

Being judged by a bunch of critics and peers and collecting awards to justify art should not be as important as many make it out to be.

What artists should really care about is the people whom they inspire to do great things. That's better than any hall of fame induction. Way better.

(By the way, the answers to the above questions: "The Departed," the Red Hot Chili Peppers, America Ferrera, and Samuel L. Jackson.)

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