Saturday, December 20, 1986

Richard Grayson's Funhouse column in the Hollywood Sun-Tattler imagines soap operas set in South Florida

Richard Grayson's Funhouse column in the Hollywood Sun-Tattler today (December 20, 1986) creates soap operas set in South Florida.

Saturday, November 22, 1986

Richard Grayson's Funhouse column in the Hollywood Sun-Tattler is a non-column column

Richard Grayson's Funhouse column in the Hollywood Sun-Tattler today (Saturday, November 22, 1986) is a non-column column.

Sunday, June 15, 1986

Richard Grayson Op-Ed Column in Fort Lauderdale News: "The 'Problem' with South Florida's Senior Citizens"

Richard Grayson has an op-ed column in the Sunday Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel today (June 15, 1986) on "The 'Problem' with South Florida's Senior Citizens."

Wednesday, April 9, 1986

Richard Grayson and Fred Bernstein Report on Nation's Critical Celebrity Shortage in PEOPLE Magazine

Richard Grayson and Fred Bernstein have an article in PEOPLE magazine this week (April 7, 1986) reporting on the nation's critical celebrity shortage.


By Richard Grayson and Fred Bernstein

In New York, paparazzi, driven insane by a growing shortage of celebrities, began to photograph each other. In Los Angeles, tables at Spago are suddenly easier to get than splinters on a boardwalk. All over the country gossip columnists are beginning to reveal their own indiscretions.

Then just as it seems as if things couldn't be worse, officials at Walt Disney begin making plans to thaw out their founder. Syndicated TV's Robin Leach offers to interview "The Rich but Practically Unknown." In Washington, the President personally appeals to Elizabeth Taylor to marry somebody the public hasn't heard of yet. And all three Gabor sisters appear on a single episode of Merv.

These scenes could soon become reality if the United States doesn't take action to stop the rapidly dwindling supply of celebrities within its borders. The problem, according to dozens of star watchers on both coasts and maybe one or two in the middle of the country, is that the American public has been consuming celebrities at an ever-increasing rate while failing to take steps to replenish the supply. Analysts estimate that to keep up with demand, the United States needs to produce at least two new celebrities every day. But in 1985 that didn't happen, and the demand for celebrities outstripped supply for the first time in our history.

For centuries there were plenty of celebrities to go around. (Did you ever wonder why the U.S. government bothered with a $50 bill? There were too many former Presidents for just the useful denominations.) As recently as 22 years ago, talk show host Ed Sullivan had so many guests waiting to get on his program that the Beatles, in their first U.S. television appearance, got only 13 1/2 minutes. And when the powers that be in Hollywood tried to memorialize the early movie stars on a sidewalk, they had to settle for footprints; total body prints, which were originally planned, would have required too many sidewalks. Today we have sidewalks to spare.

With the explosion of celebrity journalism in the '60s and '70s, the demand for stars continued to increase, while the number of household names leveled off. For a while the problem was kept under wraps. Although the U.S. had formerly been the leading celebrity-producing nation in the world, it imported just enough foreign stars, such as Boy George (British), Olivia Newton-John (Australia) and Michael Jackson (Uranus), to alleviate the immediate shrinking of the available pool of famous people. At the same time Americans resisted what they perceived as a flood of low-quality celebrities from foreign parts. Meanwhile other countries have been importing U.S. stars in record numbers (France can have Jerry Lewis, but only Lewis).

Some star searchers scoff at the notion of a shortage. They believe it's all a plot on the part of a cartel of greedy agents to drive up the price of celebrities. But, according to a source close to Pia Zadora (who may soon be the most talented person in America), the fame drain in a real, not a manufactured, development. Reports of celebrity-filled cruise ships floating outside New York harbor, waiting for prices to go up, are almost certainly false. (It's easy to understand how such a rumor might have started: Someone watched Love Boat and thought it was a documentary.) Nor is it any accident that an article about Madonna and Sean Penn appears in every edition of your hometowm newspaper. There simply aren't enough celebrities to go around.

Why is this a problem? Imagine if Barbara Walters had to interview trees ("If you were a star, what kind of star would you be?"). Imagine the chaos in Manhattan if thousands of writers, directors and limousine drivers were suddenly without work. Imagine if there were no one to join the President for White House photo-opportunity sessions.

In the optimistic '60s, Andy Warhol predicted that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. But Warhol could not have foreseen that nearly 20 years later, few young Americans would want to serve their society as superstars. Recent surveys of high school and college students indicate that the percentage who plan to be celebrities has fallen to its lowest point in 50 years. Embarrassed by attention, wary of the lack of a clear career ladder in the world of celebrityhood, young Americans are avoiding the spotlight in record numbers. Only three percent of college freshmen agreed with the statement that "becoming a celebrity is a worthwhile goal."

Sadly, the few who do intend to become famous tend to have lower SAT scores and less photogenic faces than their media-shy classmates. The youth of the '80s seem set on low-profile, high-security careers in accounting, computer programming and corporate law. These students have spent their lives watching and reading about celebrities, and they have seen that making it as a star requires more hard work, stamina and plastic surgery than they can stand.

It takes so long to become a successful celebrity," said one Fort Lauderdale marketing major. "Look at Don Johnson. Sure, he's made it now, but it took him a long time. If I waited that long before celebrityhood paid off, how could I pay back my student loans?"

Long hours, "flashbulb blindness," writer's cramp from signing autographs -- these are the reasons the new generation has decided to drop out of the celebrity sweepstakes. The heavy price the famous pay in the form of drug and alcohol abuse, divorce and bad haircuts has not gone unnoticed by the youth of today. "These kids are conformists," one professor complains. "They just don't like to stand out in a crowd and have people crawl all over then. What, I ask, has happened to the values that produced such role models as Ed McMahon and Dr. Ruth?"

Are there any solutions to the shortfall of stars?

Celebritologists say that drastic measures are necessary. Certainly future celebrity creation is vital, but that will not solve the short-run problems. The American public must learn to conserve celebrities, to make do with just one supermarket tabloid,one juicy tidbit about Larry "Bud" Melman each week. President Reagan, a celebrity for most of his 75 years, is cognizant of the crisis, political analysts say. But faced with problems like the federal budget deficit, the Gipper believes that individual initiatives, not government programs, are the answer. Others have proposed a variety of solutions:

(1) A federal regulatory agency should monitor celebrity levels around the country. This agency, using convoys of stretch limos, would allocate celebrity resources where they are needed most and issue strict guidelines on such matters as how many times a person's photo could appear in USA Today.

(2) Displaced workers, debt-burdened farmers and unemployed inner-city teenagers should be retrained. Small-scale efforts, like the proposed George Hamilton Institute in Youngstown, Ohio, are already getting under way.

(3) Youngsters should be encouraged to volunteer their services. Chapters of Future Celebrities of America could be set up in every grammar school, and programs in celebrity literacy (i.e., how to talk back to Joan Rivers) instituted in the primary grades.

(4) Academics should recognize celebritology as a distinct discipline and should create departments and majors in the field. Scholoarships would be offered to students who composed the best answer to the question, "Why do you want to sit next to Madonna at the Grammys?"

(5) Penalties for celebrity abuse must be made more stringent. Otherwise our most talented celebrities will decide that being on Donahue just isn't worth the effort. Too many authors are already spending the majority of their time writing rather than hitting the talk show circuit.

Though the future seems bleak, dramatic breakthroughs are possible as technology progresses. Some scientists, for example, believe it is entirely likely that celebrities exist on planets outside our solar system. There may be enough talk show guests and magazine cover subjects in the Milky Way galaxy to satisfy all of America's celebrity needs for the next 200 years.

After all, Americans are relatively lucky compared with others with whom we share Soundstage Earth. In Communist Eastern Europe, men and women live and die without ever seeing a single celebrity. Cruising Moscow's back streets and sinister black marketeers who whisper to passersby and then fling open their raincoats to reveal tantalizing photos of Princess Stephanie and Rambo.

But the real answer lies not in our own stars but in ourselves. We must look for our future celebrities in unexpected places: In our own communities, on the job and even among members of our family. The best and the brightest of us should prepare to meet
the challenge. If Mike the Dog can make the sacrifice, can we expect any less of ourselves?

Friday, March 7, 1986

Fort Lauderdale News and Miami Herald report on Richard Grayson's Legal Challenge to Senior Discounts

The Fort Lauderdale News today (Friday, March 7, 1986) reports on Richard Grayson's legal challenge to senior discounts and his complaint filed with the Broward County Human Relations Division alleging age discrimination by AmeriFirst Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Text of other reports:

The Miami Herald
March 6, 1986
Section: BRWD N
Edition: BRWRD
Page: 1BR


JUSTIN GILLIS Herald Staff Writer

A droll writer of short stories launched the first attack Wednesday on thousands of discounts offered to Broward's senior citizens.

Richard Grayson, a Davie man who once ran for president on a platform of moving the U.S. capital to Davenport, Iowa, filed a complaint with Broward's human relations division against a thrift that he said discriminates against the young.

Grayson, 34, accused AmeriFirst Federal Savings & Loan Association of refusing to sign him up for free checking and a chance to win a free trip on Delta Air Lines because he is younger than 55.

Broward officials said they would soon notify AmeriFirst of the complaint and ask it to respond, the first step toward a formal ruling on whether senior-citizen discounts are legal.

"We are doing nothing that other banking institutions don't do," said AmeriFirst Vice President Bernard Lipskin. "It is common practice among financial institutions to target programs at specific segments of the market."

Grayson's complaint and a similar complaint filed in Dade County last week call into question the widespread practice of giving breaks on banking, bug exterminating and many other services to the elderly.

The complaints were filed after Dade County officials ruled that a Miami Beach apartment discount for young people was illegal.

Officials in Broward and Dade who enforce human-rights ordinances have said they think the senior-citizen breaks -- never previously questioned -- also amount to illegal age discrimination.

After reading remarks by Broward officials to that effect in the newspaper Wednesday, Grayson marched to the Governmental Center to complain that AmeriFirst had turned him down the day before.

"I called the bank at Broward Mall," he said. "The first thing they asked was, 'Are you 55 or over?' I said, 'No, I'm 34.' They said, 'Sorry.' "

Grayson is no stranger to issues that attract the media.

His campaign for president two years ago included not just the pledge to move the capital to Iowa -- a blatant attempt, he admitted, to influence the caucuses there -- but a call for immediate nuclear war.

"If we don't have a nuclear war now," Grayson said at the time, "we might as well never have one."

Grayson does have a serious side. His books of short stories, some of them favorably reviewed, include Eating at Arby's -- The South Florida Stories.

He apparently is serious this time, pledging to pursue his case against AmeriFirst until age discrimination in South Florida is crushed.

"It would be offensive if they had special banking services for white people only," Grayson said Wednesday. "Under the law, age discrimination is as illegal as racial discrimination. I don't want these benefits when I'm 65. I think it will lead to younger people resenting me."

Herald Writer Tim Brightbill contributed to this report.


The Miami Herald
April 2, 1986
Section: BRWD N
Edition: BRWRD
Page: 1BR


PAUL SHANNON Herald Staff Writer

Richard Grayson, the Davie writer challenging discounts offered to senior citizens because they discriminate against the young, said he rejected an unusual settlement offer Tuesday that would have made him an "honorary senior citizen."

Grayson, 34, filed a complaint in early March with the Broward County human relations division against AmeriFirst Federal Savings & Loan Association, alleging AmeriFirst refused to give him free checking and a chance to win a free trip because he isn't 55 years old.

At a meeting at the division Tuesday, called to try and reach a compromise before a formal hearing, Grayson said that AmeriFirst representatives offered to enroll him in the plan that offers the free services and contests to customers 55 or older.

The offer was contingent on him keeping quiet about his special status, he said. "If I had taken the offer, I would have negated the point that I was trying to make in the first place," he said.

AmeriFirst Vice President Bernard Lipskin declined to comment on the meeting.

Lipskin has said the savings and loan association offers discounts to senior citizens to attract them as customers, a common practice among South Florida financial institutions.

Grayson's complaint and a similar one filed in Dade County are the first to question thousands of discounts offered senior citizens in South Florida.

Both complaints came after Dade housing officials said a discount offered young renters, known as the Yuppie discount, amounted to illegal age discrimination.

Grayson, known for his run for the U.S. presidency two years ago on a platform promising to move the capitol out of Washington, D.C., to Davenport, Iowa, said he wants a ruling that would brand senior discounts discriminatory.

After compromise attempts fail, discrimination complaints typically are heard by Broward's Human Rights Board, which would decide whether the discounts are discriminatory.

Illustration:photo: Richard Grayson

The Miami Herald
April 30, 1986
Section: BRWD N
Edition: BRWRD
Page: 3BR


PAUL SALTZMAN Herald Staff Writer

A 34-year-old college teacher from Davie who wants to put a stop to discounts based on age isn't going to get the Broward County Human Relations Division to do that for him.

Richard Grayson had filed a complaint with the county agency in March, accusing AmeriFirst Federal Savings & Loan Association of discrimination. The savings and loan had refused to give Grayson free checking and a chance to win a free trip -- a deal it offered to anyone older than 55 as a way to attract business.

After his complaint, the savings institution offered a settlement: Grayson could have the over-55 deal. He refused.

In a letter Tuesday, county human relations director Gloria Battle told Grayson that he could take that deal or leave it, but the county agency could do no more for him.

"There isn't anything else we can offer him," said Kay Zwick, the assistant human relations director.

Grayson said he wanted a blanket ruling barring such deals. But the human relations office can't do that.

"I think I made my point," Grayson said. "I wanted to bring up the wider issue of the inequity between the generations."

Grayson said news reports of his complaint brought him "a lot of positive response and also a few threats, you know, 'You want to get rid of senior discounts, we'll get rid of you, Grayson.' "

They also brought the county agency a similar complaint, from William L. Main, 35, of Fort Lauderdale. He says he ought to get the $2.99 "senior citizens' special" dinner at Denny's restaurants.

Illustration:photo: Richard Grayson