Monday, March 31, 2014

Coming to America, the Immigrant's Dream Gone Hollywood

This is an immigrant story which has  surreal funhouse proportions, the American rags to riches immigrant story turned on its head. It is about a family named Kardashian that you've heard one story about but there is another story which is far more interesting that you've probably never heard.

This is, of course, Kim Kardashian, who has become (more) rich and famous over the years. First she made a sex tape with her boyfriend, Reggie Bush, a singer, which went viral online.

Then she did a reality tv show with her sisters Khloe and Kourtney where the the three of them showed the world how they lived their lives, especially their intimate lives.  There was nothing edifying about this show. The sisters just lurched from one raunchy scenario to another. They got ratings though so they also got plenty of tv backing.

Kim also got married on tv and stayed married for less than three months to an NBA basketball player. It was claimed, but never proven, that she simply had a tv wedding for all of the additional cash it generated. No one doubted much that this was true.

She has had the necessary plastic surgeries, implants and other cosmetic services performed on her so that both her breasts and rear end border on being freakishly large. She is constantly posting photos of her breasts and butt online as selfies too.

No one would use the phrase high class to describe her. Recently she was denied a place on guest lists to the swankier Oscar parties because the A list crowd did not want her included. The red gown was how she looked for one of the lesser Oscar parties which did invite her.

So who is Kim Kardashian and where did she come from? That's where the story gets interesting because the background is wholly unexpected. You are probably imagining that she came from a dirt poor background and that these ways of making it were how she clawed her way up from the bottom. You would be wrong. Her father was the late Robert Kardashian, a very successful attorney and business man who was very well connected in Hollywood. She was brought up in Beverly Hills and lacked for nothing. All of the girls went to a private school in Bel Air which was filled with the children of his famous friends.

Her pictures with her father show someone quite different from the woman we see today, a young woman we can easily picture eventually married to a nice Armenian surgeon, attending a charity ball and having her own four children who were raised in an out of the limelight environment. This is if her Armenian relatives had their way, which they ultimately did not.

Robert Kardashian was the son of Armenian American parents born in 1944.  His aspirations were those of every other immigrant's child of that era: improve yourself, make a better life for your family, get a good education, work hard and make us all proud of you. He grew up in southern California and went to the University of Southern California undergrad and UC at San Diego's Law School.  He both practiced law and became a business man and was very successful at everything. You can tell by looking at these pictures that he had his family on the trajectory of having an even better life than he'd known. He was raising them in the best neighborhood and they were going to the best schools. His children looked fresh faced and innocent. He was also a well liked man who most people found kind and likable.

Kardashian made some wrong turns in life though. First, he married Kris, now the manager and chief money grubber in the Kardashian-Jenner blend family, wedding photo shown above. She was not satisfied with her enviable situation married to Kardashian and had a torrid affair with another man. Robert Kardashian divorced her when he learned of it. She remarried Bruce Jenner, not the affair man, within a month of the divorce and has ruled the roost with an iron hand ever since. Left to her own devices, Kris Jenner formed her own production company and used her family as reality tv stars and then branched them off into other product lines, especially fashion products.

Next bad move, Robert Kardashian, shown with grey streak in hair, was best buds with O.J. Simpson. They were close friends since the 1970s and were both alums of USC. He was the one O.J. turned to when he was under investigation for murder.  OJ took off in the Bronco from Robert Kardashian's house. Kardashian handled everything for O.J. in this case. He hired the dream team, sat with O.J. in court, made all the business deals that the trial generated. He essentially dedicated his life to O. J. Simpson's acquittal. So he was wholly enmeshed in the whole circus that was O. J. for years. This, of course, did not leave much time or energy for directing his children away from the pursuits they ultimately chose under their mother's inclinations for leading their lives.

Robert Kardashian did not survive the murder trial by long. He got esophageal cancer and died of it within 8 weeks in 2003 at age 59.  So the whole Kardashian media frenzy occurred after his death, when Kris Jenner had no one to stand in her way.  Robert left behind around $100 million in trust for his family. So everyone in his family had an incredible opportunity to lead a very high class life right from the outset. His four children could easily have as much education as they wanted and not have to do anything they didn't want to do to support themselves. At the point of their father's death, they could have lived the lives that their Armenian great grandparents and grandparents dreamed of for them when they became Americans.

I have heard people say, "Oh but look at all the extra money she's made."  My reply is, "Do you seriously think that any immigrant who came to this country in the late 1800s or early 1900s dreamed of this kind of life for his or her children?  Do you think they made all of those sacrifices for this kind of result? And they would have certainly thought $25 million per child, what their father left them, was enough to lead a better class of life."

I think they would feel as if they failed miserably if they were able to watch the viral sex tape or tune in to Keeping Up With the Kardashians. They would be thunderstruck that Kim was freakishly altering her body in her early 30s. They were thrilled with Robert, the father, because he was educated, successful, a good father (until the combined plunge of divorce and OJ) and he was high class enough to be invited everywhere. No one left him off party lists.

Who would these Armenian immigrant ancestors blame for Kim's and her sisters' lives today? Well, they wouldn't blame Robert although he obviously made some bad choices for his family.  No, like any other immigrants of that era, they would have blamed his wife, Kris. But they would have blamed him for stepping outside of his own roots for selecting this wife. I can hear them railing that everything would have worked out if he had married a nice Armenian girl instead, that their grandchildren wouldn't look like clowns and act like streetwalkers if he had married their choice. The hell is that they would probably be right but that would be because when Robert stepped away from his immigrant past, he lost his navigational rudder. Those immigrants had been the stars setting his course and thereafter Hollywood was setting his course instead. Although immigrants are known for rock solid values, Hollywood is known primarily for having no values other than regard for the next big deal. And this shows in the resulting total lack of taste, class and values of its great grandchildren from its immigrant origins.

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