Faux Future

Iwent to the Academy Awards party at Spago’s in Hollywood and ate a little chocolate statue shaped like Oscar. I mingled. I schmoozed. I kissed oxygen. I saw a Hanson. The evening reeked of glitz, but there was a hint of melancholy in our martinis.

This was the last event to be held at the famous restaurant above the Sunset Strip, the one with the same view you’d get if you looked down your nose.

It is being closed because its more en vogue successor, Spago’s in Beverly Hills, is packing in the smart set like so many smug sardines. And the shuttering of Spago’s the Elder is a cautionary tale to all who lust after status.

Which is, of course, everybody. That means me, sitting in a restaurant that’s been replaced by itself and dribbling pieces of chocolate down my rented tux.

Humans have always craved status. It makes them feel superior to others, an experience that’s better than sex, though far more expensive.

Without this primal pursuit, advertising would be reduced to rebate offers, screaming pitchpeople, discounted fast food and nothing else. Without status, we wouldn’t need creatives because a chimpanzee could produce that kind of advertising.

But lately, the status quo of status, like everything else in society except Jim Carrey’s chance of winning an Oscar, has undergone an apocalyptic transformation.

We don’t only get our cues on what’s wicked cool from television anymore. We get them from ads on supermarket floors. We get them in elevators. Above urinals. Even on our cell phones.

In the old media world, status symbols were few but fab. Miniskirts: groovy idea. Espresso machines: refreshing status symbol. Armani suits: girls go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

But now, any pretender to the status throne can lay claim to the kingdom. We are victims of a 21st-century scourge of stupid status symbols—that will only get worse as communications technology continues to advance.

Exactly how, for example, is a big, ugly, unsafe, overpriced truck better than a station wagon? In what way are hairstyles that look like the wearer has just been electrocuted even remotely attractive?

Stomach jewelry. Five-dollar cups of steamed milk. Sneakers with three-inch heels. Seattle. Hoboken, N.J. Agoura Hills, Calif.

Would any of these places or things have achieved must-have appeal if there were still only three networks broadcasting? Not on your life. Back then, all we had room in our heads for were a couple of status symbols at a time. A Davy Crockett cap, maybe. Or a Buick. Or a color TV set.

Clearly, when media outlets grow exponentially, the number of senseless objects of desire multiply proportionately.

But I can’t think about that right now. I have a 12:15 reservation at Spago’s Beverly Hills, and I don’t want to ruin my appetite. I think I’ll ask if they have any of those chocolate Oscars left. Makes a nice treat for impressionable guests.