If you ask a bunch of children the question they dread: ''What do you want to be when you grow up?'' chances are many will answer with a single word. ''Famous.''
Kids of today are very aware of the currency and kudos of fame. Mine are not immune; often chanting a line from their favourite cartoon, ''I wanna be, I wanna be, I wanna be famous''.
Yet, while I know their wish is as likely to be fulfilled as their chosen future professions (skateboard rider and astronaut), I shudder every time they wish for notoriety.
For the last thing I want my children to be is famous.
My first fame crush - the blond stompy wompy surfy singer Leif Garrett - ended the fame fantasy for me.
At the height of his career only a few days before his 18th birthday, he crashed his car, crushed his best friend's spine and proceeded to get a heroin habit and a rap sheet. More recently he made a comeback on Celebrity Rehab.
His modern day equivalent, Justin Bieber, seems grounded and sensible, yet there's a litany of child stars who have seen their lives unravel (Macaulay Culkin, Lindsay Lohan being the most obvious). Clearly child fame can be terribly toxic.
Yet those who achieve notoriety later, also suffer.
It's probably more useful to mention those who haven't been messed up by fame. I've always admired Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett and Rachel Griffiths for managing to stay real, sane, calm and steadfast among the madness.
Perhaps those who maintain judgment are those who earned fame because they were brilliant, dedicated, hard working professionals who were committed to a craft. Their fame was more a by-product of success and not an aim in itself.
Yet, while I admire the wealth, beauty and fun of their lives, I would detest the loss of privacy.
It seems even those women who appear the most in charge of their image have gone loopy lately - Lady Gaga's going a bit cuckoo, Nicole Kidman is showing off her butt in a belt and Madonna's gyrating with guns and swastikas. Even LeAnn Rimes is seeking treatment for stress and anxiety.
Obviously, it's hard to keep grounded when you're way up in the stratosphere. It must be difficult not to believe your own hype and to preserve the boundary between the public personality that performs and the private person.
Now, of course, when I go to a concert I can't help but envy just how exhilarating it would be to perform in front of thousands of screaming, shiny, happy people.
But, like REM, I'd prefer to use flowers instead of faces in my film clips.
Never before has fame been such a steep, accelerated ride to the top.
Never before has it come so fast, taken people so high and shone so luminous.
But, it seems, never before has fame been so very brief and the fall so steep.
As media and attention spans shrink, it feels that Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame has contracted to 3 minutes ... tops.
I've met many famous people and a lot do seem rather insecure; as if they know it's not sustainable.
Those who are clever and grounded ride the wave as long as they can and hop off before it dumps them; others get addicted to the frothy acclaim.
Perhaps, the fame feeds an insecurity we all feel.
Feeling valued would be hard to let go but there's nothing worse than those trying to hold onto something that's fading.
I've always admired animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot for finding a passion that sustains and enriches her life.
Alanis Morrisette once said that fame amplified that which was already there to begin with. She said, ''if there was any self-doubt or self-hatred or tendency towards self-annihilation, it just kind of put steroids into it and made it even more explosive.''
And herein lies the problem.
Perhaps many of those who set out to be famous are slightly insecure, or suffer self-doubt. Let's face it, most of us do.
Unfortunately some fans and detractors forget that the famous can be hurt. They view them as a common commodity that can be judged, gossiped about and discussed like a character, not a real being.
Yet, I can't help but feel now that something more toxic is happening that's an opposite and more ominous trend.
It seems there's an outspoken minority who not only realise famous people are vulnerable but then relish and exploit that vulnerability. It's as if these types hate anyone who achieves fame.
Twitter has mined a seam of jealousy, nastiness and cruelty in the bedrock of society that can descend into depths of depravity.
At the same time, there's a trend in the media to try and make the famous more human by revealing vulnerabilities and secrets.
Perhaps this ignites the anger. There's fury that celebrities trade on their problems while most of us live lives of quiet desperation.
Charlotte Dawson's strength and vulnerability made her game for the hunters that set out to hurt. I worry that the moderately famous are becoming a lightning rod for those who feel their life is not as valuable. Those at the top are less touchable.
I've always laughed at celebrities bemoaning a loss of privacy on one hand while they tip off photographers on the other, and I certainly don't want to stick up too much for the fatuously famous.
But I'm interested in the trend to tear down and destroy. It's never fair. It's ugly. It's scary.
As someone who has worked in the media, I love contributing to conversations but prefer the relative anonymity of writing and radio rather than television.
I too have been frightened by freaks and found death threats impossible to ignore. It's made me admire those who ensure the substance of a life is not lost in its outward image and yet I understand those who can't manage it.
Of course, if my child becomes famous for a discovery, a feat, a passion or a craft, I'll be proud. I'll help them manage the notoriety and then let it go with grace and good humour.
And, if they don't achieve their wishes for fame, I'll celebrate their mediocrity and anonymity as a safer space to live.
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