23 May 2005

Life at the Tail End of the Posse Food Chain

Two news items this morning:
  1. Two members of Bobby Brown's entourage were hospitalized for treatment of knife wounds suffered during a fight at an Atlanta bar; and
  2. Bobby Brown has an entourage.
Having no meaningful hobbies or close friends, I've often had occasion to wonder whether there is some hierarchy in the entourage business, and if so, whether hangers-on have professional development opportunities and inter-posse mobility.

For an up-and-coming celebrity, assembling one's first entourage must rank amongst the most daunting of tasks; how do you balance the various concerns to achieve and maintain posse nirvana? You need enough people in your entourage to convey a sense of gravitas, but not so many that you can't fit them all into your Escalade. You need a few peeps from the old neighborhood to assist you in "keeping it real", but too many would make your posse excessively provincial. Your entourage is a reflection of you, so you need a common theme -- will I have a bling posse or a protection posse? On occasion, the sheer amount of stress associated with assembling an optimal circle of sycophants has caused celebrities to freeze at key points in the process; when a first-time Oscar nominee takes his mother to the awards ceremony, it's not a charming expression of love and gratitude for said mother's past guidance and sacrifice, it's a cry for help.

The overlooked factor in all of this is the individual entourage member's personal value proposition; remember, the celebrity-sycophant relationship is, in essence, an at-will employment relationship which may be terminated by a posse member as readily as by his celebrity. What does an entourager do when his celebrity falls off the b-list? When one's celebrity can no longer support the posse in the manner to which it's become accustomed, how does one transition to a new position? On a more basic level, what are the warning signs which alert a posse member that his celebrity is tapped-out?

Let's consider several facts relevant to the Bobby Brown case study:
  • Brown's last hit single as a solo artist was in 1992;
  • His last solo album failed to chart within the top 50 albums, and that was eight years ago;
  • This morning's incident occurred after Brown performed "during a weekly open microphone event";
  • According to wordcount.org, "prerogative" is currently only the 13,826th most-frequently-used English word, 32 places behind "tuberculosis"; and
  • The EPI (Entourage Price Index) has trended upward over the last three fiscal quarters.
Taken individually, these considerations might seem benign, but viewed as a whole the message is unmistakable -- Bobby Brown's entourage is not an optimal professional situation.

Sadly, although sycophancy is a growth field, there does not presently exist sufficient raw data on the social and economic forces within the industry to enable rational decision-making amongst its participants. Expensive, publicly-funded research will be necessary to establish reliable data models, but this truly would be an investment in our competitive future. The United States is the greatest celebrity-producing society in the history of mankind; to allow that competitive advantage to be undercut by either poorly-developed domestic posses or by an influx of better-organized but foreign-sourced entourages would be a tragedy beyond easy comprehension.

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