What outlasts fame? If you can’t take it with you, what actually gets left behind?
Personal effects, mostly. The news this week that the daughter of the late, great stand-up comic George Carlin would be donating “8 to 10 steamer trunks” of his archives to the new National Comedy Center in Jamestown, N.Y., comes as a welcome reminder that some talents know how to organize their stuff for posterity. This isn’t hoarding after all — it’s planning for the future.
Just the photo alone of Carlin’s filing system, with tabs labeled “Religion,” “Doom Clippings,” and “Filth,” is enough to cheer the soul. (What, no special sections for the Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television, filed under S, P, F, C, C, M, and T?)
On the downside, the news that the equally great, equally late Prince apparently died intestate — get your mind out of the gutter, it means he didn’t have a will — is a blow to more than just his immediate survivors. It means untold hours of legendary studio and live performances will remain buried in the vault until the lawyers get done hashing it all out. Expect resolution as early as 2099.
Clearly, it pays to be forward thinking. Presidents hold on to their papers because they know a presidential library will eventually be built to contain them. Various halls of fame — baseball, rock, this new comedy deal — can serve as repositories for as-yet-unborn scholars to separate the junk from the gems. Honestly, more celebrities should be thinking along these lines. Here are some archival collections we hope to see, or actively dread.
The Snoop Dogg Collection. Housed in a bong-shaped skyscraper, this will hold the collected lyrics, working papers, and rolling papers of Calvin Broadus, a.k.a. Snoop Doggy Dog, a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, a.k.a. Snoop Lion, a.k.a. Snoop Naked Mole Rat. Traverse the Hall of High to experience eight different cannabinoids, each representing a different aspect of the artist’s career.
Trump! The Library. Whether this is a post-presidential edifice remains to be seen, but the archives will include an entire wing devoted to the art of the comb-over, an ex-wives’ Penthouse of Horror, a “Lie or Misstatement?” pin-the-tail-on-the-Donald game, a petting zoo for Trump delegates (be careful — they bite!), and a gallery of Mexican immigrants singing “It’s a Small Hand After All.” To be underwritten by Chris Christie and built in Atlantic City as it sinks slowly into the sea.
LucasWorld. Visiting the George Lucas archives in Marin County, California, will be like stepping into a dazzling world of fantasy in which everyone talks like an accountant. Thrill to funky analog special effects as they get digitized out of existence! Pore over never-filmed scripts like “Star Wars XVIII: Anakin and Amidala’s Endless Car Ride to the In-Laws”! Shrink from the Hall of Unrealized Characters, featuring the Pee-woks, Darky McBink-Bink, and Han’s long-lost brother Hand Solo!
The Meryl Streep Home for Wayward Accents. Built several years after the star’s untimely demise at the age of 127, the home is the largest natural repository of Oscars on the planet. Sections devoted to the Yale years, the Young Artiste era, the Lost Years, and What the Hell Was Up With “Death Becomes Her”? The cafeteria serves fine artisanal ham except on Wednesdays, which is Sophie’s Choice.
Keith Richards’s Musical Emporium. Tour the Hall of Sweaty Bandannas, each delivering a different contact high. Marvel at the Seven Stages of Keef, from runty choir-boy to desiccated leather satchel. Interactive exhibits demonstrate the Darwinian evolution of primal chords as they crawl onto the beach of classic-rock standards. Note: Pending ongoing legal action, the Emporium may be broken up into the Robert Johnson Foundation, the Bo Diddley Church of Riff, and Chuck’s Berry Farm.
The Shrine of Her Most Holy Majesty Queen Bey. Attracting global Beyoncé worshipers from around the world; those unable to make the pilgrimage bow in its direction thrice daily. (Not to be confused with Macca, a cathedral for all things Paul McCartney.) Archives house the artist’s personal papers, costumes, hair extensions, and outtakes from “Lemonade.” Final architectural touches will be added to the shrine in the future, when they put a ring on it.
The Benjamin G. Affleck Archive of Important Things. Prior to entry, all guests must ride the Whiplash of Fame, from the heights of “Good Will Hunting” to the depths of “Gigli” to the heights of “Argo” to the depths of “Batman v Superman.” Use touch-screens to match the Affleck to the career phase: Cocky Ben, Earnest Ben, Craftsman Ben, Sad Ben. Don’t forget the Matt Damon Dunking Tank on the way out!
Kim Kardashian's Soul-Sucking Existential Void of Celebrity Meaninglessness. Exactly what it says. Visitors check in . . . but they don’t check out.