Lusting, from afar, for a godlike rock 'n' roll star


August 11, 2007|By MARYANN JAMES

Rahsaan Goldsboro gets a kind of wistful look when he talks about her.

"I saw her when I was younger," he says. In the '80s. He was about 10 or 11 years old.

"I remember acknowledging her, marking her in my mind," says the 28-year-old Montebello resident, an easy smile on his face.

The look is a familiar one -- the flush of a crush. Infatuation. But Goldsboro isn't talking about an old schoolmate. He's talking about someone that's most likely out of his league. He's talking about singer/songwriter Sade.

Why do we love rock stars? We know we will likely never meet them -- only admire them from afar, like at last weekend's Virgin Fest. We gloss over that most are rude, crude and look like Poison's Bret Michaels. But they still reduce us to big grins and sighs.

"In our culture, celebrities are the closest thing to what were gods in the ancient world," says David Grazian, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "Of all celebrities, rock stars seem the most godlike."

Grazian says rock-star adulation is not about reality. It's about the potential of touching the "magical qualities" of the person.

"Obviously, these guys would be bad boyfriends," he says. "If you look at these men as real people, they're not really good-looking."

But there is some good news. This irrational infatuation usually doesn't last, Grazian says. We see celebrities constantly changing their image, he says, so there is never one persona that we can latch onto.

"The persona of a rock star is being sold as the genuine article," he says. "There's the continuity between the rock star he plays onstage and the wild and crazy person offstage."

Matt Mangold of Mount Vernon says he has never had a crush on a female performer. But he says he can understand the draw.

"When they're on stage, the lights are there. ... You're definitely outside of yourself," he says. And the placement of performer relative to the audience surely encourages the god/mortal dynamic.

For Stacy Overby of Coppin Heights, most of Musiq Soulchild's draw is not in his otherworldliness, but in his similarities to guys she knows.

"He looks like he's very cocky," she says. And, oh yeah -- there's the allure of someone that's unattainable. "It's something you can't have, but you want anyway," says the 22-year-old.

Overby will likely never get to meet her music crush, but that's beside the point. Who cares if T-Pain is grotesque in person? Who cares if Justin Timberlake is a jerk? Rock-star crushes are not about reality. As Grazian says, it's about getting a little taste of godliness. Even if it's only in our heads.

Either way, Goldsboro is a little more sure about his approach with Sade. Of course, he's had more than 15 years to cultivate his adoration, to let it mellow into an appreciation for her songwriting and way with words.

But it's not all intellectual. What would he do if he met Sade?

"I would ask her if she was in need of a cabana boy," he says in earshot of his girlfriend, Tia Wright.

"And I'm going off with Damian Marley," Wright fires back.

"This was one of the first conversations we had," Wright, a 27-year-old from Bolton Hill, says, both laughing. "You can have Sade, and I can have the Marley brothers."

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