Decoder Ring

The Fame That Got Away

Three stories about fame … and one about monkeys.


Episode Notes

Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode, host Willa Paskin takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.

When we’re making a Decoder Ring episode, we sometimes get hooked on an idea before realizing that maybe it isn’t quite right. Earlier this year we did a number of interviews about fame for an episode that never came together, but looking back we found we’d done even more reporting on fame for other episodes. Today on the show we’re presenting some of that reporting to get a few perspectives on fame: Are primates susceptible to celebrity endorsements? What does fame do to the mind of a famous person? Who were the famous tattooed ladies of the 1880s? And what’s it like to be in a rising rock band, only to see everything fall apart over a beer commercial?

Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Justine Bateman, author of Fame: The Hijacking of Reality; University of Pennsylvania professor and primate researcher Michael Platt; psychologist and fame coach Donna Rockwell; author of The Tattooed Lady: A History, Amelia Klem Osterud; and musician Dan Zanes.


This episode was produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch.


About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

All episodes