There are many ways a has-been celebrity can recapture his/her former glory and once again become the center of attention.
Some choose to write tell-all books, perhaps containing shocking revelations from the days when their careers were still relevant or disclosing secrets about other actors or athletes they have known. This often is advanced by making the talk-show rounds to promote said books.
Others opt to “reinvent themselves” in some manner, maybe pursuing an activity different than what they are most known for, such as when actor Paul Newman became a race car driver.
But others re-enter the spotlight through more notorious or sensational means, which appears to be the case with Bruce Jenner, or Caitlyn Jenner, as he/she is now known.
Now, I don’t give one hoot about who is gay or straight, or who wants to get a sex-change operation.
At no time in my life have I ever wanted to become a woman (if so, my chosen name would be “Giselle Joyce”), but I don’t fault the next fellow for doing so if he sincerely wants to connect to his true self.
I remember watching then-Bruce win the gold medal in the men’s decathlon in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, which led to Jenner being labeled the world’s greatest athlete. The really remarkable thing about this achievement is that he/she captured a grueling event formerly dominated by the Soviet Union, and set a record to boot (or high-heel slipper if you prefer).
The images of the broad-shouldered hero in action became ingrained in the American consciousness, and there were the obligatory appearances on Wheaties boxes. And if I remember correctly (the 1970s are a bit of a blur, you know), then-Bruce appeared in television commercials hawking wholesome products such as Wheaties and maybe some others.
Jenner made the usual rounds for an athlete of such world-class status, including meeting the president. There was also talk at the time that Jenner was being considered for the title role in a movie resurrection of “Superman” in the late 1970s which ultimately went to Christopher Reeve.
Then there were forays into show business, including some less-than-memorable roles in forgotten films and TV series, and even an attempt at an auto racing career by Jenner.
Eventually, as is the case with many people who soak up glory for a certain period only to then find themselves replaced by the latest hot celebrities, Jenner was off the public radar screen and relegated to obscurity.
That’s largely been the case for Jenner in recent years, unless you count his association with the wretched TV show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
Then the next thing you know, Jenner gets divorced from his wife earlier this year and soon after that we learn Jenner is a trans woman, or transgender person.
In other words, he (Bruce) became a she (Caitlyn).
“Say it ain’t so, Bruce” was the first thought to cross my mind, but I was reminded that this situation provides yet another example of why we should be careful about who we hold up as heroes.
What does seem questionable about the whole thing is why Jenner went so public with his sexual switcheroo, a story that has reached viral proportions as a result. There are reports that Jenner’s marketing value has skyrocketed since the transgender disclosure, which seems to be no accident as he/she gains attention and support from all corners of the world.
I’m not saying the media blitz that has unfolded in recent days was orchestrated on his/her part, yet it is highly suspect because Jenner just as easily could have taken the low-key approach with his conversion.
The fact he picked “Caitlyn” as his new name also is bothersome to me. It would have gone over better if he chose Betty or Barbara instead. I mean, here you have a 65-year-man who not only takes such a life-changing path at that stage of his existence but also adopts a name most would associate with a teen-ager.
A human being can have significant others in his or her life, but at the end of the day our own personal intimacy with ourselves can’t be exceeded by any others when it comes to such choices. That in mind, one must wonder why Jenner didn’t just undergo his change in some out-of-the-way corner of Europe and move underground to live a quiet life afterward.
This is certainly what I (Giselle) would have done.
Tom Joyce is staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.