Do you have to be beautiful to be famous? And if you are beautiful and famous, does that automatically make you influential? I only ask because, like many Americans, my coffee table is groaning under the weight of two magazines which help answer these age-old, billion-dollar questions.
First up, People. Its "100 most beautiful" edition attempts to capture the zeitgeist this week by featuring TV actress and breast-cancer survivor Christina Applegate on the cover. Eva Mendes and Cindy Crawford are next in the pecking order, followed by Claire Danes, and an actress called Moon Bloodgood.
Next, Time, which traditionally fills the spring silly season by listing the world's "100 most influential" people. This year, it leads with Edward Kennedy, followed by Gordon Brown (whose praises are sung in a piece by J K Rowling) and Christine Lagarde, who is apparently Finance minister of France.
Now, I know these are only magazine surveys. And I know there's little science behind them. But still, people talk about Top 100s, so it's remarkable how few of Time and People's influential or beautiful people are particularly famous.
I doubt more than one in 10 Americans would recognise Gordon Brown and Christine Lagarde in an identity parade. And unless the paparazzi were in tow, they'd be unlikely to cop Applegate or Mendes, either.
Notably absent from both lists are Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, and the world's most Googled celebrity, Britney Spears. IMDB's "hottest" star of the moment, Robert Pattinson, makes People, but not Time.
Meanwhile, there's no room in the Top 100s for the most "Twittered" celebrity of recent times. She happens to be Susan Boyle, who is neither conventionally beautiful, nor likely to ever be particularly influential, but whose success reminds us of the democratic and ephemeral nature of fame.
A clue, perhaps, as to why California's animal rights lobby managed to ban foie gras: the American Association of Wine Economists just published a study showing that five out of six Americans are unable to taste the difference between pâté and dog food.
In a blind tasting, only 17 per cent of volunteers were able to distinguish between an expensive duck liver mousse, a portion of Spam, and Newman's Own dog meat – provided, that is, they were all served on very expensive crockery.
Speaking of cuisine, Michael Savage, the right-wing "shock jock" now banned from Britain, used his radio show to call Home Secretary Jacqui Smith a: "beer-swilling mutt". He sadly failed to realise that, in Old Labour circles, that might be considered a compliment.Reuse content