A couple of weekends ago my wife, children and I were traipsing around a local mall, when we came across a harpist who was performing and selling some CDs that she had recorded. Her music was quite pleasant and as it turns out, she had recorded a CD of music for young children to listen to while going to sleep. So I picked up one of the CDs for my kids. I didn't recognize the harpist, a woman named Merry Miller, and assumed she was simply a local who was trying to market her music. Little did I know that I had just brushed up against a bona fide internet celebrity. Apparently Ms. Miller the harpist is also the same Merry Miller that conducted a disastrous interview with the actress Holly Hunter that gained some notoriety on the internet a couple of years ago. A recap:
It's an interview that will live in infamy. You'd have to be living under a rock if you haven't seen the notorious "What's the Buzz" episode hosted by Merry Miller.
Leaked to the Web, the interview has taken the media world by storm, popping up on YouTube, Gawker and VH1's "Best Week Ever," to name a few. Millions of people have seen Miller in one of her first attempts at a television career, and the businesswoman has skyrocketed to instant stardom as a result.
Miller was set to do a live satellite interview with Academy Award winner Holly Hunter about her new TNT show, "Saving Grace." During these types of interviews, hosts and stars appear to be able to see each other, but in reality, they are usually looking into a camera. They rely on ear pieces called IFBs to hear each other during the interview.
Unfortunately for Miller and unknown to the crew, her IFB failed before she began speaking with Hunter. Another host might have known to alert the crew about the problem and delay the interview while the technical issues were worked out, but the inexperienced Miller gamely tried to speak with Hunter without hearing her responses.
"I couldn't hear her, and it's very hard to talk to somebody like that," Miller said. "I give credit to Holly Hunter. She was a pro, a class act. She saved the interview."
The video of the disastrous interview became something of an internet phenomenon, so much so that even I recall hearing about it at the time (and I have a short memory when it comes to internet phenomena that don't involve Star Wars or video games.) Now of course I don't remember Ms. Miller from her interview, and the only reason I even discovered the connection is because I Googled her name trying to find her website (on which I assumed she might sell other CDs as well.)
Now, I enjoy technology in general and the internet in particular as much as anybody else (probably more than a lot of people, as evidence by the fact that I'm practically on it all the time in some form or fashion.) And I've certainly guffawed and gawked at the endless parade of embarassing, humiliating, amusing or otherwise hilarious videos and whatnot that end up online of which there is an apparently endless supply (many placed online by the actual subjects of the hilarious video, who either don't understand the difference between celebrity and notoriety or don't care, or don't quite appreciate how much fifteen minutes of fame actually costs.) That being said, I've never really been comfortable with the power of the internet to turn somebody's bad day into days or weeks of amusemenet for anyone who can get online. The vitriol or mean-spirited humor that some of these people are subjected to by viewers of their folly frequently seems out of proportion to the error being documented in video, as if the bumbler has somehow committed an offense against humanity by daring to permit their exploits to be recorded and leaked to the internet (of course, some people commit what to the rest of us would be embarassing or humiliating acts in order to court exactly this sort of online notoriety, and so it's a little harder to feel much sympathy for them.) It's always easy to laugh at someone that you don't know, which is perhaps why I feel a particular incongruity reading about Ms. Miller's embarassing experience. I met Ms. Miller in person and she was very kind and courteous and quite sweet to my son, and having long-fogotten about her online embarssment, I feel like she's someone that I "know" when I try to re-watch her particularly bad day. Suddenly, it's not as funny as it probably was the first time around.
So what's the moral of this story? Well, there isn't one, except to say a peculiar coincidence prompted me to ponder the consequences of internet fame and notoriety and then share my thoughts with you. Oh, and that you really should buy one of Ms. Miller's CDs.