Sunday, January 07, 2007

news from the wire--by pablo--"bartholomew franks and other tales of awesomeness"

BARTHOLOMEW FRANKS AND THE SPECIAL FEW—A STORY OF FAME AND CELEBRITY IN THE NEW CHINA

BY PABLO

CHENGDU, CHINA—Bartholomew Franks knew he was a Seriously Important Person the first time he was recognized on the street by a complete stranger.

“I was just walking around, thinking about velcro, when suddenly this complete stranger walked up to me, all smiling, and said ‘hallo.’ ” The man was a local seller of steamed buns who, Mr. Franks explains, recognized him by the fact that he wasn’t Chinese, and had a big nose. “‘Chang bizi’ that’s what he kept on saying to me, laughing. Chang bizi. I thought it was pretty cool, so I gave him five kuai and a flourish of my hair, which is long, and flaxen”

Mr. Franks is a one of a few other unique individuals in the city of Chengdu—the provincial capital of Sichuan province—who have suddenly found themselves thrust into the limelight, experiencing a kind of celebrity that they never thought possible. The source of this fame? The little understood but much sought after phenomenon described by Mr. Franks as "being a foreigner."

For most of them this status came as soon as they landed in the country, with many people in the airport saying 'hallo' to them, and some even offering special, discounted taxi rides. Over time their fame only increased, especially for those who found work as foreign teachers. Mr. Franks, for instance, was the only foreign teacher at his school, immediately cementing his status as the Only Foreign Teacher and thus securing his popularity among the students.

Although some have argued that securing this status was easy, Mr. Franks is quick to defend himself, observing that if it were so easy, then clearly he wouldn’t be the only foreign teacher. He also refutes the notion that it’s easy becoming famous as a foreigner in China. “Some people think that fame is mostly about luck, but that’s just not the case, especially here. Not being Chinese took a lot of work, especially on the part of my parents. But it also took a lot of cultivation on my part. You think it’s easy becoming a foreigner in another country? Ha! I don’t think so."

According to Mr. Franks, the best part of fame is not the recognition he receives on the street, or the money, but rather the attention he receives from members of the opposite sex. “In America, before I was famous, a lot of girls wouldn’t even look at me, even when I threw things at them. Here, all the girls look at me, and one even had sex with me. I can’t help but feel that, when I’m walking down the street here, I exude this kind of primal, animal magnetism, like a dog in heat, or a potato.”

Indeed, like a lot of his famous, ex-pat peers, he likes to hang out in local bars and talk about all the women he’s had sex with, or could have had sex with. “There are so many girls who I could have sex with here. You really can’t even count them. Of course, it's important to let the other guys know about this. They need to know how totally awesome I am. When I'm done, then they tell me about their own conquests. Then we all just feel totally awesome. It’s a good time.”

Yet for these few, special individuals, fame is not easy, and maintaining it requires much hard work especially if they want to expand their influence and increase their fan base. Mr. Franks is currently trying to become a nation-wide phenomenon and has secured speaking gigs as well as television and print ads. He also travels throughout the country, hoping to have as many people as possible notice that he has white skin and flaxen hair. “I try to spread the word and I’ve even got a business card, which lets people know that I am a foreigner, and famous.”

In addition to all the hard work, fame also has some other drawbacks. Mr. Franks’ relationships with some of his friends and relatives back in America have deteriorated due in large part, he believes, to jealousy. “The little people can’t handle fame. They can’t handle serious talent, like what I’ve got. So they just project their feelings of inadequacy on me; which would bother me, if I were a pussy, like them. But I’m not. I'm a man. I have a penis.

All in all, however, the payback has been well worth the sacrifices—although he does worry that, over time, the prevailing attitudes among the Chinese may change. “A lot more foreigners are arriving here, trying to hack away at my fame. The more who come, the harder it will be for me to stay as popular as I am now.” But Mr. Franks, of course, has plans, and won’t let his ambitions be defeated easily. “Look,” he says, “if things get bad here, I’ll just go somewhere else. I’ve been thinking about Africa. People have told me that I could be a foreigner there, too. I mean, there are always options for someone with talents like mine. There are always options”

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Africa, I don't think it will be a good option since that continent has been colonized for the past century and sort of still being colonized by the western world, people there are familiar with white faces. I can provide some place in China and guarantee that locals there have never had any chance to see the "Chang Bizi".

8:30 AM  
Anonymous doom said...

See, now I feel bad about coming to Chengdu. I can't take this away from you. I demand superstar treatment and attention and even where funny hats and die my hair blue to get more of it. IS this going to work? Is this town big enough for both of us?

11:32 AM  
Blogger KMM said...

Man, if you want to come and hack away at my fame feel free to do so. I hate it. I'll even buy you a hat and some hair dye. Maybe even a megaphone.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Points out of 10 ...

for lexical repertoire: 10;
for syntactical accuracy: 10;
for satirical value: 9.5;
for humor: 0.5.

Sorry, but I don't see you making it as a comedian, but maybe you could right a book on how to become a "successful" gigolo in a foreign country. After all, therein undoubtedly lies your expertise. Anyway, enjoy your penis!

9:27 PM  
Blogger KMM said...

Anonymous:

"Sorry, but I don't see you making it as a comedian, but maybe you could right a book on how to become a "successful" gigolo in a foreign country. After all, therein undoubtedly lies your expertise. Anyway, enjoy your penis!"

The fact that you understood that this was a piece of satire--and then also wrote this--is truly mind-boggling.

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mind-Boggled One,

Satire isn't always humerous. Get over it.

From,

A mind-boggler

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mind-Boggled One,

Satire isn't always humerous. Get over it.

From,

A mind-boggler

2:42 AM  
Blogger KMM said...

Oh, that wasn't my point. I really don't care if other people think it's funny or not-funny, loquacious or not loquacious, orange or not-orange. It just seemed you misunderstood something, that's all.

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

american fr jj

9:50 PM  

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