America's Three Biggest Disappearing Acts

Twenty-first-century America is the land of the free and home of the limelight. Here everyone dreams of their 15-minutes bathed in its glorious glow. And why not? Here, both heroes and hucksters, talent and trash can make it.

However, anyone who's studied limelights understands they burn brightly, but they also burn out. What makes a paparazzi flash-in-the-pan really emerge as an icon depends on an elusive combination of sizzle and serendipity. Take three familiar groups:

* The first group appear night after night on our television screens. That vast legion of Invisibles that include the stunt people who pull off those 100 mph car chases, leap rooftops, and tumble off buildings so the star can walk away with a jaunty "take that." Also the inevitable gun-toting masked SWAT teams who are ever at the ready in every capture. My personal favorites are the actors required to play the corpses. You never hear them, never see their face. Their talent is not breathing. Then at the end of every season they mostly disappear somewhere in Los Angeles until their agent gets them another cadaver gig

* The second group of Invisibles are today's many behind-the-scene handlers. In show business: directors, cinematographers, sound teams, and publicity hotshots. In politics: by golly, pretty much the same. These professional Invisibles work furiously whenever on assignment; then at the end they too disappear until someone next hires them

* The third groups of Invisibles appear at first to be very visible: Candidates. And yet they're not really. They travel and speak and kiss babies everywhere; but are rarely visible anywhere. All we see is the carefully primed and prepped image they and their handlers want to project. What's worse they soon become whatever the media decide to project [flipflopper, erratic, out the 17th century, Muslim]

Three legions of American invisibility, few of whom are ever seen in public as they actually are. And, even more troubling, as they actually think. As usual, the Bard on Avon knew how best to define them: "The stuff as dreams are made on..."

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