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Britney & Me

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I saw Britney Spears in Vegas last weekend. Britney has been doing a residency in Vegas the past couple years, so when friends asked if I wanted to see her in concert, I eagerly said I would go. Britney became a superstar about the same time I moved to Los Angeles. I still remember hearing the guys in the youth hostel I was living in debate whether her parents were contemptuous for letting her get breast implants at the tender age of 17. Her ROLLING STONE cover that month showed a much “fuller” Britney than we had seen in previous months. Her new tata’s seemed to scream “I’ve arrived” and I was dying to scream “I’ve arrived” also now that I was finally in the City of Angels destined to fulfill my own dreams for a career in the entertainment biz. Not as a pop singer of course, but as a writer.

I should start by saying I’m not a mega-fan of Britney or anything. I like her music, but have never bought her cds nor paid to download her songs. There has always been a soft spot in my heart for her though. Despite her mega success, I have always thought of her as something of an underdog. The stereotypical small town child shoved into showbiz by a stage mom dying to live vicariously in the reflected glory of her child’s stardom. Anyone who has owned a television over the last 17 years is pretty well versed in what a train wreck her life has been. Cutesy romance with fellow teen pop star Justin Timberlake comes to an end. Quickie Vegas marriage to a former high school beau (quickly annulled), then another marriage to an unemployed “dancer” whose girlfriend was already pregnant. Quickly pops out two kids amid rumors of drug use. Resulting fiasco divorce leads to parting of ways with the longtime manager who discovered her. Reckless partying with various “celebrity” (Paris Hilton anyone?) pals before falling into the inevitable clutches of a shady “manager” who (depending on whom you believe) plies her with more drugs before she full on melts down (via head shaving!) and ends up 5150’d (involuntary psych visit) so she can be returned to the (safe?) control of her father as her conservator. And now, having been stabilized, performing a residency in Las Vegas five nights a week. Brit Brit has had her fair share of highs and lows, that’s for sure.

Our “seats” (actually standing room only) were in the “Pit”, which is smack dab in front of the stage Britney performs at in the Axis Theater in Planet Hollywood. I had fantasized about beads of Brit Brit’s sweat hitting me as she danced rapturously to her lip synched hits. Britney made a dramatic entrance and proceeded to dance and (pretend) to sing her way through an amazingly well choreographed and elaborately staged series of her hits with an equally mesmerizing number of changes in costume and set pieces. High kicks and pelvic thrusts as impressive as those early in her career. Britney spoke to audience at several intervals, “hello Vegas” and “You guys are awesome” just to prove all of her voice (and enthusiasm) was not pre-recorded. She seemed even more fit and recharged than she had in her early 20s. Standing beside me were a couple of her hardcore superfans in their early thirties, whom I feared were going to spontaneously combust each time Britney strode near us onstage. Her Brit-ness was greeted with a “BRITNEY I LOOOOOOOVE YOU!” or “YASSSSSS GIRL” at an eardrum shattering pitch like trained seals. Stardom can be such a fickle beast, I actually thought it was great to see there really is loyalty these days, even if several cocktails have to be consumed to bring it out. Whether they were diehard fans, or merely attending her show because they happened to be in Vegas and had time for another show, the crowd in attendance ranged in age from teens all the way to their 70s. Purple-haired millenials swayed alongside grey haired Midwesterners, all seemingly under Brit’s spell.

“Are you having a good time?” Britney yelled out to the crowd, with a hint of the Louisiana girl she once was still detectable in her voice. I wanted to ask Britney the same thing. But “snow” flakes had started to trickle down from the ceiling. Hundreds of hands reached up to catch them, while simultaneously holding their camera phones to stream the show for their respective social media feeds. It was snowing in Vegas and Britney had done it once again.

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Youth is wasted on the Young!

Over the last ten or so years that I’ve been in Los Angeles, I’ve begun to be close friends with a number of people who are younger than me. Prior to then, I had always been friends with people who were my own age or, in most cases, older. There’s a number of reasons to explain this. In my teens and early 20s, I felt like a person much older. Although I had lots of fun in college with people my age, I hadn’t yet fully come to understand myself and was not ready to deal with a number of aspects of my being. I felt more comfortable and understood among my elders. It wasn’t until my mid to late 20s that I truly became comfortable in my own skin and felt a certain weight lifted from me. When I entered my thirties i became nostalgic for my 20s and in an effort to recapture that period sought out people who were still enjoying it. While I consider myself young at heart, I do not necessarily want to be 24 again. Sure, I’d like to look like I did then, but would I want to be as insecure and lacking in insight as I was at that time in my life? The answer is a resounding no!
While the majority of my friends are in their 30s and 40s, one friend of mine is still in his 20s. He is a member of the demographic called “Millenials” and I will call him “Jimmy”. Jimmy enjoys what I refer to as the ‘brass set of youth and stupidity.” Quick with witty one-liners, full of bravado, optimism and almost completely lacking in responsibility. In other words, he is your typical young jackass. I frequently call him “Jackass” just to remind him of this fact. I like to think that I did not act the same as him at that age, but alas, my family will be quick to point out that I was the same. Perhaps, even worse than him. Homer once said “In youth and beauty, wisdom is but rare”. Just to avoid any confusion, I mean Homer the Greek poet not Homer Simpson. When it comes to human nature, apparently very little has changed since between the 12th and 8th centuries BC. The young are still foolish. That we can be assured will never change. Surprisingly though, society as a whole remains firmly obsessed with youth and all the vitality that it possesses. Los Angeles, the city in which I live, basically worships youth. The young are particularly catered to. But the young and beautiful are worshiped here like exquisite creatures. Anyone who has visited LA has undoubtedly noticed that there are an inordinate amount of beautiful people here. The entertainment industry is largely to blame for this as it is centered here in LA and has always relied upon and attracted a steady stream of young people to populate its movies, tv and music.

Older people’s obsession with youth has caused LA to become the cosmetic surgery capital of the world. It is comical, but also somewhat frightening, how often I see people walking around with bandages around their noses or wrapped around their face as they are in the process of healing from cosmetic surgery. As I notice more and more signs of aging in my appearance, I have begun to worry if I will inevitably succumb to the pressures felt by so many people who live here. Is it time to move to another city where there is less pressure and competitiveness? Would that really change anything? After all, I can change the geography but no matter the location, I will still be the age that I am. At lunch today, I overheard two guys who appeared in their mid-20s discussing going out last night for Happy Hour. Both were lamenting that they noticed they couldn’t knock back the sauce like they used to. One had actually pinpointed the exact peak age of his party-hearty-ness as he griped “I can’t drink like I’m 19 anymore!”  The other nodded his head in solemn agreement, their bodies having betrayed them at quarter life.  Oh the humanity! Wait until they discover the aches and pains that arise when a full night of partying the night before hasn’t even been enjoyed. There is yet to be a nip/tuck that can cure those pains! As I got back to my desk, i remembered that I had a Naked Juice drink in the fridge that a coworker gave me to try. He said drinking the Green Machine flavor was making him feel “nearly 10 years younger.” I chuckled when he first told me, though curiously,  I didn’t refuse it when he offered me one to try. I don’t think it could help me drink like I was 19 again, but it’s definitely less painful than a facelift.