You have to be pretty old to remember “Taxi,” a funny sitcom from four decades ago. One episode that stuck with me involved the cabbies going to a costume party they thought was thrown by someone famous. They had an incredible time, enjoying their interesting conversations with masked “celebrities,” excitedly speculating about which star’s orbit they’d been fortunate enough to briefly occupy.
It was the night of their lives — until they realized these weren’t celebrities at all. Just everyday people in costumes. Suddenly bored, they quickly exited the party that had previously seemed so thrilling.
It was a poignant commentary on our celebrity-obsessed culture, which has only become more obsessed with celebrities over the past 40 years.
We watch them on reality TV shows, we follow their every move on social media, we make them phenomenally wealthy, heck, we’ve even been known to elect them president. From celebrity chefs to celebrity CEOs to celebrities famous for, well, we aren’t sure. (Looking at you, Kardashian family). We can’t get enough of them.
So these days, with fancy dinners or big parties to mark important events or milestones out of the question thanks to COVID-19, we call on celebrities to helps make a birthday or anniversary memorable.
Cameo is a website that offers “personalized videos from your favorite stars.” I’m late to Cameo as I’m not exactly cutting edge. If I were, I’m sure I’d be familiar with more of the celebrities on the site. In fairness, don’t expect too many A-listers, but if you can settle for B (or C or D) list, Cameo is for you.
Imagine, the chance to receive some unscripted words of wisdom from that guy who had a bit part in that movie you liked or that bass player from that song you listened to or that comedian you’ve never actually heard of but who your significant other could afford. I mean, at least they’re celebrities.
I checked out the site and went down a rabbit hole for more than an hour— and because I did, every time I open Facebook now I get former slugger David Ortiz, ex-Brady Buncher Barry Williams or screen sensei Martin Kove asking me to send money for a message — but I was fascinated by the price points and sort of amazed anyone would pay to hear from most of them.
For example, “The Office,” which has experienced a huge second wave during the pandemic, is well-represented on Cameo. You won’t find bona fide celebrities Steve Carell or John Krasinski, but for $179 you can get a message from the actor who played David Wallace. One more dollar gets you the actress who played Meredith. For $195, Kevin, for $200, Oscar, and $329 gets you Stanley. The most expensive Office mate? Paul Lieberstein, who played Toby. The least-liked character on the show goes for $495.
For many, that’s a bit too steep to have a minor celeb crack jokes and deliver inspirational messages, even if the greeting is personalized with someone’s name to make the special person receiving it feel, well, special. No worries. There are plenty of tiers to this celebrity site.
For the Baltimore Orioles fan in your life, Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson ($175), Eddie Murray ($150) and Roberto Alomar ($120) — combined — are less than that Toby guy.
If football’s your game, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson isn’t available, but his backups from last season are. Robert Griffin Jr. goes for $200 and Trace McSorley for $150. Still too much, but you really want a word with a Ravens QB? One-time clipboard holder Troy Smith will reach out for $35.
There are about 8,000 each of actors and athletes on the site, as well as nearly 5,000 musicians. No Beatles, but a search for Ringo Starr comes up far from empty, suggesting Steel Panther lead singer Michael Starr for $209, rapper Fedro Starr for $200 or an adorable marsupial named Starry the Opossum for $20.
That’s right, $20. Not everyone fetches Toby bucks. For $10 you can get numerous non-winners of “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” as well as Canadian Football League players and Australian Ninja Warriors. Someone named Dee Dee Sorvino actually costs just $1.
Even I wouldn’t do it for a buck. Now, for $25? I’d do impressions, reminisce about the Ravens’ Super Bowls and read you, word for word, that column of mine you didn’t like because it skewed too far right/left.
I would go all out. Really work hard for the money. And you would hate it.
I’m not a celebrity, so you wouldn’t care. Just like the cab drivers on “Taxi,” who I searched for on Cameo, by the way.
Danny DeVito and Tony Danza aren’t on and Christopher Lloyd is currently unavailable. But for $100, Marilu Henner will send a personalized video.
Might be interesting. More likely, I’ll just watch an old episode on Hulu. That costs a lot less.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.