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The other day, I was watching an old episode of Dinner for Five, which is a show on IFC hosted by Jon Favreau (Swingers and Elf), where a group of actors, producers, directors and/or writers get together and just talk about whatever, whether it’s old gigs they worked on, or why the Yankees suck. Anyway, I don’t remember who was on the other day, but they were talking about the old film legends like Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. They mentioned that there aren’t really any stars like that around today, stars who have such a commanding presence that it goes beyond the screen. That got me thinking, it’s true, but why?

One of them said it was because nowadays, you rarely see film actors that start on the stage. Most of them never set foot on a stage during their career. I don’t know if I buy that. That may be true, but what does the stage have to do with an actor’s screen presence. Hardly anyone goes to the theatre anymore. I would argue that if anything, starting on the stage could hurt an actor’s screen presence these days.

I watched an Elvis impersonator the other night and had a blast. His name was Trent Carlini, he went all out, he may or may not have become my hero. It’s still under review. Apparently, he had a hit record in Europe by the time he was 17, but decided he wasn’t doing what he loved, so he quit and dedicated his life to the King. We wondered what it was that made someone do this, and then wondered if there were any stars big enough today to warrant future impersonators. Sure, you’ve got the old guys, like Neil Diamond, Wayne Newton, and Michael Jackson, that already have impersonators, but will any of the new stars have impersonators? Is anyone big enough?

I’d say the only one that comes close these days would be U2 and Bono, but they’re not exactly new. As far as actors go, the closest you get would probably be Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, or Clint Eastwood, but again, they’re not exactly fresh from the womb. So where are our Beatles, our Elvises (Elvii?), our Clark Gables, our Fred Astaires? Will there ever be another legend like them, or are there just too many competing for that title?

I think I finally found an answer. I woke up today and came out to find my roommates watching VH1’s 100 Greatest Child Actors. I think that’s what happened. I think we know way too much about our stars today. There’s no mystery, their images are shattered with every click of the camera in the hands of the paparazzi. We have cable channels dedicated solely to the worship and fascination of celebrities. You can’t watch the news without hearing about Trump vs. Rosie 2007, or “Bradgelina”s new baby, or why Tom Cruise is clinically insane.

The only stars today that have any sort of mysterious, larger than life screen presence are the ones that stay out of the headlines, like Matt Damon, or Denzel Washington. We are the ones ruining the legends. We’ve turned from worship to priest craft as our hunger for fame has created a multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to the exposure of the deepest, darkest secrets of our most idolized stars. It’s our own fault, we take the stars of today and lift up their skirts (often literally), exposing everyone of their hidden faults.

God is only God because His worship requires faith. It’s the same with the old legends. People didn’t see the actors on screen, they saw an amalgamation of every last character they ever played, making them larger than life. No one knew the actual actors. They weren’t real, only the guy on screen or on the stage was real. They had no weaknesses. They were perfect. If we knew every last weakness God ever had, would he cease to be God?