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Poet Reg E. Gaines On Being ‘The Last Celebrity’

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Americans are more obsessed with celebrity than ever before, and getting a toe on the celebrity red carpet seems to be a worthy career goal for many. Often it seems nobody cares what you're famous for, just as long as you are famous.

Spoken word poet Reg E. Gaines took a ride on that celebrity train during the 1990s. Working as a tennis instructor, Gaines traveled with a high school team to Israel in 1989. It was there that he began to write, keeping a journal of his travels. Upon returning to the U.S., he shared his journal with a friend, who suggested that he read it at the famed Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City. There, he quickly made a name for himself and was crowned a "Grand Slam Champion" in 1991, a high honor within the slam poetry community. National tours (including MTV's Spoken Word Unplugged tour) and several appearances on national TV shows soon followed.

Born in Jersey City, N.J., Gaines is also an author playwright, director, two-time Tony Award nominee, Grammy nominee and Bessie Award winner for Best Book/Lyrics for the Broadway hit "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk."

Now living in San Diego, Gaines will share an excerpt from his latest performance piece, "The Last Celebrity," this Saturday at 5 pm at Voz Alta Project in Barrio Logan.

Inspired by his "accidental brush with fame," "The Last Celebrity" incorporates poetry, music and video to tell gaines's own story. (Watch a trailer for this work below.) gaines describes this Saturday's event as a staged reading performance, and he will be looking to the audience for feedback. The entire work will makes its debut in Jersey City in February 2013.

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with Gaines about his newest work, his brush with the spotlight and our culture's unyielding obsession with celebrity.

reg e gaines: The Last Celebrity


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