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How Fame Ruined My Dream

by John on 06/02/2012

Fame ruined my dream.  I was uncontrollable.  My wife didn’t understand me.

Well kind of.

Actually, it wasn’t a dream like a career dream.  It was a dream during a middle of the night sleep.

And I was uncontrollably laughing – at myself.

And I was howling so uncontrollably, my wife Teri couldn’t figure out if I was laughing or crying.  It took me 20 minutes before I could even explain to her what my goofy, fame-tainted mind had created.

My last post on how fame hurts politicians like John Edwards jarred my memory.

This happened in 2000.  My contract as host of Real TV was expiring; the show was running out of steam and Paramount was not interested in taking the show in another direction.  So, for me, I was concerned that my four year run in Hollywood on the national and international small screen would come to an end.

Granted, my fame was not A-list.  Still, Real TV averaged 4 million viewers a night for a year or so back in the 1990s.  People in airports knew who I was.  Even cabbies in Dublin still knew who I was just a few years ago.  I also played in dozens of celebrity golf events while also playing some events on the Celebrity Players Tour.

But I was in my mid-40s: old for Hollywood and TV.  And I was a TV host that is more news anchor/story teller rather than an entertainer/character actor.  I am neither funny nor dramatic.  Sure, I can read a TelePrompTer better than a President. 

But I needed to make sure the younger generation still dug me.  I needed to maintain a youthful air and look.  I needed to be hip as well.

So, this was on my mind as I participated in the Maurice Lucas Celebrity Golf event in Portland, Oregon.  Maurice was a former NBA enforcer who was as nice off the court as he was nasty on the court.  We lost Maurice to cancer two years ago; a great loss.  But he had plenty of friends who attended his golf events for his foundation.

One of those friends was Ken Norton.   Norton was the famous boxing great who beat Muhammad Ali once.  He was also an actor in one of the well-known 1970s movie Mandingo.  It was a pro-black anti-white man movie.   Norton played a Southern slave trained to fight other slaves for the plantation owner’s pleasure.  There were plenty of mixed-race sex scenes and a bloody ending.  It was a horrible movie but a classic of the post-1960s film era.

Still, Norton was a legend.  He enjoyed joking and sharing his experiences about boxing and acting despite recovering from a near-fatal car accident that left his speech slow and slightly slurred. 

So, after the event, I was home thinking how fortunate I was to spend time with Norton, a heavyweight champ, while also contemplating my next career move and how to maintain my small but pleasing fame.

That’s when the dream happened.  Here it is.

I am in the front passenger seat of a car.  The driver is the publicist, Gary, for Real TV.  Gary tells me, “When we pull up, I will let you off in front of a crowd of thousands of young people.  You need to make an impression on them.”  I was paralyzed with fear.  What do I say?  How can I impress these young viewers to still want to watch me on TV?  I had no answer, so I let things happen.

As I stepped out of the car to face the throngs of young fans, I stood in front of all of them and said:

“You have known me as John Daly for these past years, but from now on you should call me Mandingo.”

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