The impulse to attribute outrageous sexual behavior to celebrities may serve as a way to differentiate them further from the people who make them famous in a vertical model of cultural production–perhaps establishing a binary between us and them. It is also interesting to observe which communities tell this story about which artists: that this story hadn’t been popular since Queen was hot and new in Los Angeles, but that it was being recycled every few years in a small town in Eastern Iowa seems to say something about what kinds of behavior, and by whom, are considered beyond the pale, and where those lines are drawn.
Informant: Yeah, um, I realize I’m not sure I remember this correctly. I thought I was younger when this happened, but Britney spears was not a thing until I was finishing high school. But the story I heard was that Britney Spears did a concert near Iowa City and she had to go to the hospital and have her stomach pumped.
Interviewer: I feel like I’ve heard this about Freddy Mercury.
Informant: Are you gonna let me tell this or not? So she was unconscious and she had to go to the emergency room and they pumped her stomach and they had to pump out six ounces of semen.
Interviewer: Freddy Mercury had a quart.
Informant: In Burlington, when they tell this story, it’s six ounces.
Interviewer: Who’d you hear it from?
Informant: Some guy in high school.
So I repeated this to my brother Aaron for some reason, and so Aaaron said, when I heard that story, it was about Rod Stewart, and he was saying that his friend at the time had a can of pop in his hand, and so they were able to eyeball what six ounces looks like. It’s a lot. And Rod Stewart is bigger than Britney Spears.