Late capitalism has given us plenty of peculiar inventions. We pay money to stay in strange houses and for rides from people we don’t know. But I have to say that Cameo is, without a doubt, one of the strangest.
The service, by which you can — as the website says — pay to get “personalized messages from your favorite celebrities runs a wild and wonderful gamut. You can literally pay thousands of dollars for some (Caitlyn Jenner: $2,500 for a personalized video message delivered to you, a friend or loved one) and just a few buck for others whose status strains the definition of celebrity in new ways.
Somewhere in the middle is longtime Public Enemy rapper/hype man Flavor Flav, who costs $250 and is listed as a recommended purchase for Mother’s Day.
Among the listed celebrities there are more than 8,000 athletes for hire. Not all of them are equal, of course — nor, I would imagine, are the messages they deliver for a fee.
But placed in the right hands, this odd service can be a real pick-me-up. Such was the case with Tim B., a Star Tribune reader who e-mailed me Tuesday to share his experience with Cameo.
For what seems like a pretty reasonable fee -- $25 — he hired Twins outfielder Byron Buxton to deliver a message to his son, who is graduating from high school in the midst of a global health pandemic that has moved classes, ceremonies and parties into the virtual realm.
“I just think he went above and beyond by the heartfelt words he said,” Tim wrote in his e-mail. “I think he is by far the best bargain on Cameo and it may have been the best $25 I’ve ever spent. Feel free to give Byron some props and maybe he’ll make more people’s lives a little bit brighter in these dark times.”
Indeed, the 90-second video clip Buxton delivered a very earnest and specific message about staying positive despite not being able to walk during graduation or go to prom. “I just need you to make sure you’re staying positive and keeping your head up and making sure you’re getting ready for college,” Buxton says, referencing specific people in the family. “You’re going to do big things in college. … We all love you, and we’re all in this together.”
I haven’t poked around enough to know if Buxton’s earnestness is a feature or a bug in relation to the standard Cameo message, but anything that makes people happy these days is a win.