• Image about Shahin Takes Off 09-01-2008
FORGET THE PALATIAL oceanfront homes. Never mind the all-night parties. Don’t get distracted by the above-it-all -- and getaway- with-it-all -- high jinks.

Celebrity, it seems to me, is in flux. And not the good kind of flux. The bad kind of flux -- the kind that gets caught in your teeth just before somebody snaps your photo and then shows it at all the family reunions.

Celebrity used to look like fun, with actors and musicians smiling the smile of people who had it made and seemed pretty happy about it. These days? They look like they just finished reading Kierkegaard. Rock and rollers especially. They scowl. They frown. They try to look menacing.

Back in the day, rockers, even the tough ones, looked like they were having a good time. It was the look that gave rise to the term rock star. Everybody wanted to be one because everybody wanted to have what they had: a great time.

Celebrity used to be bluebird-on-my-shoulder.

Nowadays? It’s call-me-stormy-Monday.

I’ve been monitoring the entertainment-industrial complex, and I am here to report that celebrities have got it tough, real tough.

Oh, sure, sitting in the front row of Lakers games looks all exciting and everything. But in actuality, it is a chore. You can’t just go to the game and look like you’re enjoying yourself. No, you have to make sure that you choose just the right disheveled “oh, this old thing? I’m normal folk just like you, here to take in a game” look.

Otherwise, you get caught on camera and next thing you know, TMZ is cracking wise in a caption to a photo of you on its website. Worse, you have to know something about the game, or Jack will dress you down. Nobody wants to be dressed down by Jack. So you bone up on Kobe’s assists to date.

No, it isn’t easy being a celebrity. Especially if, unlike the celebs referenced in the previous paragraph, you are a lowly two-namer. If you are not Jack or Kobe or Madonna or Jen or Bono or the shiniest star in the celebrity firmament, Oprah, then life is especially rough. You probably don’t even have your own table at the hippest place in town.

Not that life is a cakewalk even for the biggest names. Take Madonna: Her brother recently came out with an unauthorized biography. Reportedly, the book alleges that a dispute between Madonna and her film-director husband, Guy Ritchie (note this example of a two-namer married to a one-namer; it proves opposites attract), over where to live, his London or her New York, has strained their marriage.

To quote the late John Lennon, a celebrity singing about the burdens of celebrity: “You know it ain’t easy. You know how hard it can be.”

Yes. Yes, I do.

Which is not to say that I actually do. I’m just saying I do. Because I think it’s important that I, that we, that all of us, even if we can’t know, can at least nod our heads in empathy.

In point of fact, I have no earthly idea how hard it can be, arguing over whether to live in London or New York. But I can (excuse me, John) imagine -- imagine there’s no kazillion dollars allowing us to agonize over which highest-priced cities in the world we should live in. I imagine it must be excruciating.

If that isn’t bad enough, there is all that going-to-court business. Not the proceedings themselves. No, I mean literally going to court.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the trek from a celebrity’s Escalade or chauffeured limousine to the courthouse door is more challenging than walking barefoot up the Alps. “It takes only a few seconds to get from the courthouse to the curb outside,” the story, headlined “Facing Press Can Be Such a Trial, Stars Find When Leaving Court,” says. “Depending on the day, time, weather, the severity of one’s offense or one’s prominence, they can be among the most arduous and downright irritating steps a person can take.” The story goes on to recount how one actor hid behind the tire of an 18-wheeler and how a hip-hop artist used a body double to fool the assembled press.

So what did you do at work today? Hide behind any 18-wheelers? Hire a body double to avoid the paparazzi?

No, I didn’t think so.

Maybe you had another run-in with your boss and are wishing you could quit your job. Maybe the price of gas is putting the squeeze on your food budget. Well, waaa-waaa-waaa.

Life’s tough enough as it is.

You think you got troubles? Just be glad you’re not a celebrity.