Claim: Ben Stein penned an essay on the nature of stardom.
How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?
As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started.
I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end. Lew Harris, who founded this great site, asked me to do it maybe seven or eight years ago, and I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.
But again, all things must pass, and my column for E! Online must pass. In a way, it is actually the perfect time for it to pass. Lew, whom I have known forever, was impressed that I knew so many stars at Morton's on Monday nights.
He could not get over it, in fact. So, he said I should write a column about the stars I saw at Morton's and what they had to say.
[ . . .]
But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.
Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.
A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model?
Stein, a lawyer by training, has also served as a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon, has to date authored sixteen books (both novels and non-fiction efforts), and continues to write editorials and columns for a number of prominent publications. He is perhaps best known to the world at large, however, for his in-front-of-the-camera work as the dreadfully dull economics teacher in the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off (and his similar role as the monotonic science teacher Mr. Cantwell on the TV series The Wonder Years) and as the keenly competitive host of the Comedy Central game showWin Ben Stein's Money.
For several years (through the end of 2003), Mr. Stein penned a regular column for E! Online, and the excerpt quoted above is taken from his final
piece for that venue, published on 20 December 2003. He seized the occasion of his last column to muse on the nature of stardom, asking "How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?" and questioning whether actors and actresses who make huge sums of money and live in luxury should truly be considered "stars" or "heroes" in the modern era, especially in comparison to the "noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle [and] are anonymous as they live and die."
Mr. Stein's column evidently struck a chord with a good many readers, as it continues to be circulated widely via e-mail forwarding several years after its original publication.