By Stacy Jenel Smith
Pity the poor celebrity who endures embarrassment before the eyes of the world. Yes, most of us can bless our anonymity while recalling at least an episode or two of misspent youth or middle-age craziness, realizing that people like Lindsay Lohan
have paparazzi and gossips trailing them around at such times. They caught her when she was drinking, "canoodling," cat-fighting, and when - due to a loose-fitting halter top and a lusty breeze - she might as well have gone topless.
That profile shot got big play in a men's magazine, and it was practically a freebie compared to those pricey bare-it-all celebrity photo spreads. Heck, Ashlee Simpson was recently reported to have turned down $4 million to do Playboy.
But speaking of Ashlee, the little sister of Jessica Simpson surely has lived through some of the most cringe-worthy mortification in all of celebritydom:
There was the "Saturday Night Live" lip synching fiasco, not to mention the explanation that she'd used prerecorded tracks because she'd had a bout of acid reflux.
There were the withering jeers and boos by the stadium audience of 72,000 when she tried to sing at the Orange Bowl.
There was her "kiss my feet if you want me to take a picture with you" drunken romp on the counter at a McDonald's in Canada.
And still she rises.
Flat-out, Ashlee is a champion in the virtual boxing match of surviving massive public humiliation. And she is certainly not alone. An array of stars who've been down for the count in terms of derision and scorn by peers, press and audiences have somehow pulled themselves up off the mat and come out swinging again.
Consider the face of the hour, Paris Hilton. Sure, you can call her an exhibitionist extraordinaire - who wouldn't? -- for even making those XXX sex videos that somehow got onto the internet (allowing countless viewers to learn that her real true love is the phone, which she will eagerly answer even smack in the middle of the act). But she's surmounted other embarrassments as well. How about the time she stumbled into a shallow Japanese pond while gate-crashing a pre-Oscar party honoring "Lord of the Rings" at New Line Cinema honcho Bob Shaye's house? It's bad enough to fall into a pond at a party, but falling into a pond at a party to which one isn't invited is truly poor form. Even for Paris.
More recently, Kimberly Stewart, Paris' replacement for ex-sidekick Nicole Richie, fell off a motorcycle while posing on the red carpet at an event. Perhaps this explains their closeness.
Question: When it comes to celebrity humiliation, which is worse -- over-exposure, ala Tara Reid's peek-a-boo breast on the red carpet and Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" - or something like what reportedly happened to Eva Longoria recently? The "Desperate Housewives" sexpot is said to have parked illegally and gone shopping - returning to find her car had disappeared, forcing her to phone the show and have someone call a cab for her.
If you chose Eva's predicament, you are, of course, correct.
"Inadvertently" showing off a taboo body part can be anything from attempting a career move to acting on a naughty whim, but it's not usually genuinely humiliating among the show business celebrity corps. After all, these are folks who have a "look-at-me!" streak, at least, or they wouldn't be in the business. They're folks who spend oodles of hours working out to get those taboo body parts into showoff shape (complete with a decorative gold sunburst in Janet's case).
A similar imperviousness to shame can be speculated when it comes to many of the sex scandals we've seen through the years.
Remember what the former nanny of Jude Law's children, Daisy Wright, revealed in the diary she sold to London papers?
"We kissed and kissed for what seemed like ages. I was thinking 'I cannot believe this. Jude Law is snogging me'...When we had sex, he made me feel so wonderful, my whole body trembled."
How do you think he felt about the public reading that? Just asking.
There are the many - perhaps countless - famous folk who SHOULD be embarrassed over various things, but who seem oblivious to their own ignominy. Gum-chewing, see-through purple maternity blouse-wearing, Kevin Federline-marrying Britney Spears comes to mind. So do all the people who appear on "The Surreal Life." Anna Nicole Smith does as well, obviously, even if she gets the $474 million. In fact, the buxom-and-then-some Smith begs the question, if a person IS an embarrassment in and of herself, can she be embarrassed on top of that?
Bad reviews, of course, can cause authentic mortification for nearly any entertainment celebrity - from top talents to reality show flashes in the pan. Extremely bad reviews, moreso. And then there is that slim category of review reserved for products the likes of John Travolta's "Battlefield Earth," such as the following from Roger Ebert:
"'Battlefield Earth' is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way..."
With all the different forms of humiliation, one thing should be abundantly clear to those who would like to step into the ring of show business celebrities: you will need a very thick hide indeed to keep from being knocked out.