‘There goes the Judd;’ there goes the talent
Mike Brown

I was delighted to hear last week that actress Ashley Judd and her racecar driver husband, Dario Franchitti—threetime winner of the Indianapolis 500—are splitting up.

No, I’m not a misanthrope who lives to enjoy other people’s misery. I certainly don’t rejoice in the ending of any relationship that started out so happy.

My joy is rooted in something even more fundamental.

This is the first “celebrity news” I’ve read in at least a decade where I knew who both people involved are.

Let me explain. Long ago, I devised a simple way to gauge how old and out of it I am getting.

Sunday dai ly newspapers include a little magazine-type insert which has a “mailbag” feature on the second page. It involves nothing but questions from the Great American Reading Public—hello, all—about celebrities.

The questions are always penetrating and insightful, along the lines of: “Uh, duh, umm, does superstar rocker Ted Tonsils enjoy making gazillions of dollars and hanging out with the world’s hottest women, or would he rather be back on the farm in Iowa slopping hogs?” Theory. Everybody’s celebrity antennae are only turned on for a few decades, ending about the time you acquire kids and a mortgage.

At that point you’re pretty much stuck with the celebrities you have in your memory.

When those fade away, or pass away, you still expect them to turn up now and again.

For instance, I’m sure Jerry Van Dyke will get a new television show any day now.

I noticed as time went by I knew less and less of the celebrities who were the topics of the Sunday questions.

Before Ashley and Dario it was probably 12 years since I’d recognized any. It got real depressing, so depressing I actually started looking at the rest of the magazine.

Goodness, that smartest woman in the world, who answers all those tough questions, would be intimidating on a date, wouldn’t she? It would be like going out with Wikipedia.

And I have this vision of an art editor somewhere looking at cartoon panels going “no that one’s funny, this one’s clever, that one’s cute; wait this one’s none of those, put it in the Sunday magazine.”

I got such a case of the blues last Sunday, after looking at questions about Ashton Kutcher, Alicia Keyes and Joe Jonas— who?!—that I set out to find out more about celebrities.

Which wasn’t hard. There are television networks devoted to nothing but celebrities. Same with print magazines and there are literally hundreds of websites focusing on their, uh, well whatever they do.

Apparently you don’t actually have to do anything to be a celebrity anymore.

Some are actors, singers and musicians, but many are famous for just running around and being famous.

I thought about calling up Texas Workforce Solutions and seeing if there were any job postings for “celebrity” posted. I finally settled on a site that promised a listing of the 100 most popular celebrities of the past year, but it was pretty sloppy.

There are apparently celebrities named “Pink,” “Rihanna” and “Snooki,” but it didn’t even list their last names.

Several celebrities had “Kardashian” but it didn’t say what that is. Looks like it’s a disease that strikes when you get famous.

The list also included “Zooey Deschanel,” which is obviously a typographical error. But that’s okay; we make them two.

None of this made me feel any better. Nor did what happened when I tried out the premise of this column on the disgustingly younger people I work with every day at The Rockdale Reporter.

I told them about Ashley and Dario and that I was planning on using them in a column this week. “And here’s the headline,” I said. “Here comes the Judd! There goes the Judd!”

I waited for the laugh that never came.

“You know,” I said. “Like the sketch on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Here comes the judge, Here comes the judge.”

Nobody had heard of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

Frustrated now, I told them about the great old comedian, Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, who had a career revival after that old burlesque sketch—a sendup of corny courtroom humor—was used on what was at the time the nation’s most popular television show.

Nobody remembered it.

Exasperated, I fired my big gun. “Sammy Davis Jr. did the sketch!” I said.

Nobody ever heard of him.

Then it flashed into my head. Of course not. It was a different era. Sammy Davis Jr. was a big celebrity, too. But he got to be one because he had something you don’t need today.

Something called “talent.”

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