Monday, February 22, 2016

Guilty pleasures: The press releases of Johnny Rock Page

Is there anyone else who secretly admits to looking forward to the next-level craziness that is a Johnny Rock Page press release?

Ulrich, you kill me. 
Roadracing World actually posts these on their website with a bold “Warning―JRP Content” header. But I’m compelled to read them all, with a kind of morbid Oh-My-God-That-Train’s-Going-To-Hit-That-Car fascination. 

Or, like reading Donald Trump's poll results.

JRP was almost likable at the very beginning. A guy who made a small fortune in the admittedly skanky high-fee/high-risk-location ATM business, but then started to blow it in a way we can all relate to: competing as a perennial backmarker in AMA Pro roadracing. Who wouldn’t wanna’ do that, eh?

I even intuitively sided with him in 2009, after JRP “held his line” and possibly influenced the outcome of a battle between Josh Hayes and Aaron Yates at Mid-Ohio. 
Page may have been over the line when he left his mic on and had a camera rolling while Al Ludington (then road racing tech director) reamed him out afterward. That video went viral. Despite the fact that most AMA insiders felt that Page had it coming, Ludington was forced to apologize. Someone―presumably AMA Pro Racing―has since gone to a lot of trouble to steam clean it off the Interwebs.

The reason that Page was mic’d and had a camera rolling was that he was one of the several AMA privateers who thought he might have what it took to be a reality TV star. Chris Fillmore tried it, too. So did Larry Pegram. In the defense of those other two guys, they were hardscrabble privateers leaving no stone unturned in the effort to fund a racing season.

Page was doing something different. He could just fund his season. He was driven by narcissism. And not your typical, here’s-another-selfie-on-Facebook narcissism. Nope, JRP deserves his own page in the DSM. He didn’t want to become famous as a motorcycle racer, he wanted to become famous for being famous. Like his romantic obsession Paris Hilton. 

He seems to have met her once, after which he hired a plane to tow a banner up and down the beach in Malibu professing his desire to marry her, and bought her a vintage Cadillac that he parked outside the locked gate of her house, which she probably spent a lot of time observing over a video feed from her panic room.

I can see his point though. They are made for each other.

Just when you thought the JRPsych Show couldn’t get weirder, he found God. Seemingly. And declared that he was running for President of the United States.

How great is that?

All of which causes me to wonder if he’s just crazy enough to have put is finger on America’s current national psyche―or at least the psyche of a good part of contemporary America.

Part of the frustration of choosing "reality TV star" as a career path hinges on the simple arithmetic of fame in 21st C. America. Reality TV basically unlinked talent and stardom, allowing anyone (or, at least, anyone with no sense of shame) to envision himself or herself as the next Survivor or Real Housewife. The problem is that there’s a lag time measured in years between the development of the reality TV phenomenon and the realization that, that-could-be-me. So that by the time millions of people have realized, like Johnny Rock, that they too could be famous, millions of other people are pitching themselves to producers, too.

So now, TV audiences are shrinking and fragmenting―fame isn’t what it used to be―and competition for spots is stiffer than ever. True story: back in the late Naughties, I used to ride up I-15 from San Diego on the way to Willow Springs every month or two. And I used to pass a huge billboard for a summer camp for kids. Not a horse-riding camp, or band camp, or Scouts... No, it was a camp to prepare your kids for roles on Reality TV.

Can you fucking imagine?


JRP has now cut all the video from his failed effort to become a reality TV star into a feature film. This trailer's been played less than 1,000 times though. So that's another project that's not looking too good.

I don’t think Page will be successful, but I think the whole “finding God” angle he’s been trying on for the last coupl’a years is clever. He understands that what matters in contemporary America isn’t religious devotion, but rather it's simply religiosity. Most Americans describe themselves as Christian, but they’d more accurately say they’re Christianistic―practicing something that has the trappings of Christian faith, with very few of the commitments. So Page knows there’s no risk he’ll ever be called on it.

But his sudden devotion could have helped to separate him from the reality TV herd a bit. It didn’t work, but I still think that Page is completely crazy in a way that might, some day fall into synch with America’s national end-of-empire delusions. (Idea for new reality TV show: "Real Narcissists of YouTube.)

Face it―before this election cycle is over, the Republican Party may nominate a candidate who makes no more sense than Johnny Rock Page. If anything, Trump's less of a self-made man (though far more of a reality TV star.) 

While I’m sure that MotoAmerica’s top brass performed synchronized eye-rolls when they read that Page will be back racing this year, there’s a part of me that can’t wait to read his next press release.

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