Kirby: Why are celebrities the experts?

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Actor Tom Cruise and NBC's "Today" show host Matt Lauer got into it last week on the subject of what's really wrong with America, In this case psychiatry and its attendant medications.

Cruise, a follower of Scientology, told Lauer, who defended people taking antidepressants, that Lauer didn't know what he was talking about. Drugs and psychiatry are bad, Tom said.

Cruise claimed to know all about the history of psychiatry and how Scientology could improve people's lives. This gave him the right to hold forth on these subjects because, "I don't talk about things that I don't understand."

Seriously, what would we do without celebrities telling us how to fix our lives?

Before I run off and do what Tom says, I'd like to know why this greater understanding hasn't helped him maintain a relationship with a woman? It's a fair question if he's going to be telling everyone else they don't get it.

I'm not saying antidepressants and therapy are the answer, but by marriage number three and serious girlfriend number whatever, shouldn't you be wondering what it is about your belief structure that isn't working?

Then again, maybe Cruise is a better person for believing in Scientology over psychiatry. Maybe it helps him a lot. Who's to say he wouldn't have been married 15 times by now without it?

I just find it ironic that someone who has such a hard time with the fundamentals of interpersonal relationships is telling the rest of us how to be happy.

Although there will be no convincing people who this very moment have begun writing angry letters, this isn't about the benefits/detriments of psychiatry and Scientology.

This is about paying attention to what other people think just because they're celebrities. Our fascination with them and what they claim to think costs us wasted income and time.

Should any of us really give a rat's butt what credit card Robert DeNiro carries? What difference does it make what Martin Sheen thinks about our foreign policy? And if her psychic friends were so great at prognosticating, how come Dionne Warwick hasn't had a hit song in years?

For some reason, though, it's important to us what our celebrities think. And when it comes to this automatic credibility, they don't even have to be good at the stuff that made them celebrities.

For example, at least Tom Cruise can act. I wouldn't go to him for marriage counseling, but I'll bet he's full of good information when it comes to playing the part of a secret agent.

Paris Hilton, on the other hand, offers us the benefit of her wisdom on hamburgers and jeans based entirely on being rich enough to avoid the repercussions of behavior that would get dogs sicced on her at 90 percent of the homes in America.

It's one thing to hand over the price of a movie ticket to see someone perform. It's another to surrender your common sense to that same person just because they got to be famous and you didn't.

Don't take my word for it. Having my picture in the paper means exactly one thing: More people notice when I make a fool out of myself.