The Price of Fame
But who’s flipping the bill?
By Kimberly D. Goodyear
It seems that in our infinite world of excess, we’ve looked to our Hollywood stars for what’s socially acceptable, instead of following the universal rule of common sense. After all, celebrities seem to have it all, right? Who wouldn’t want to follow a lifestyle whose uncommon extravagances are that of a storybook life? Their excessiveness is boundless and the power of their fame gives an all too often delusion of grandeur in thinking that their stardom will make them impervious to harm.
They set the tone in the hot spots of whose-who, indulging in decadent after-parties and hedonistic carousing, where suddenly, anything becomes possible on this virtual playground for the famous…yes, anything! For most, this lavish type of lifestyle would appear glamorous and alluring, but what happens behind the scenes is no joke and it can cause even the brightest of stars to loose their luster if not burn out completely.
Hollywood is a town long known for its glamour and glitz, with ‘extreme’ being the name of the game. And anyone who didn’t get the memo yesterday may as well take themselves off the A- list!
As a rule, what usually begins in a trendy night, spot will usually end up in the next morning’s headlines, with tales of lewd conduct and haughty brawls that spread vagrantly through the ornamented city like last night’s trash. Unfortunately, what most would deem a social embarrassment is now considered to be the means of propelling a lagging career, by re-inventing or beefing up their once illustrious image for the meat grinder they call, Fame, whose fickle nature is notorious for using and scrapping. And just like an unruly child that requires the attention of any kind, so suits the ostentatious egos of the famous, with the perception that any press is good press. And stories of their wild shenanigans seem to crop up daily, becoming more of a staple to the press than the war in Iraq, while it fills our social palette with more celebrity Botulism than you can shake a stick at!
And as if this daily nosh weren’t enough, we willingly binge on the putrid smorgasbord of waste laden reality shows that litter our culture with piteous stories of drug abuse and celebrity has-beens, as if there were nothing else on the menu! Is this what our social needs have been reduced to? Is it only the hunger for ‘canned hype’ that we crave?
Anna Nicole Smith’s reality show is sadly, a perfect example of how we’ve obsessed over lack of control. Voraciously, we watched from the sidelines as Anna’s drug induced lifestyle eventually spun her life out of control. We poked fun at her weaknesses, while people closest to her maintained an arms distance for fear of how it would make them look to be associated with the free spirit who made no bones about living life to it’s fullest. She had an ongoing battle with weight, drugs and alcohol, while trying to medicate her emptiness inside. What she didn’t count on, was that her long-time association with prescription drugs would inevitably seep into her son’s life as well as her own, eventually claiming them both.
In looking back, did we not see this coming? Are we so caught up in television shows, pop stars and fashion faux pas, that we cannot see the obvious need for humanity when it’s right before our eyes? In fact, would it be too far fetched to ask this question about any celebrity who has fallen from grace and into the depths of icon tragedies?
In the aftermath of Anna’s death, we saw interview upon interview with people who upheld a pointed finger at one another, even when it came down to the ones who were with her and supposedly, loved her the most. That’s right, even her attorney/husband, Howard K. Stern, admitted to keeping her medicated because it was just “easier than fighting her to get the help she needed.” Have you seen enough? Well don’t leave now; this is celebrity excess in its finest hour!
Even our airwaves flow deep with self-deprecating songs of refusing rehab, almost initiating the replacement of our National Anthem since hitting number one on the music charts, by a very publicly drug-addicted, jazz vocalist, Amy Winehouse! Has this now become the type of role model we seek? It was recently reported on MTV News, that Ms. Winehouse’s in-laws were in fact, pleading for her fans to “not buy” her CD’s, so she wouldn’t have the means to feed her serious drug habit, which as of late, should be a sobering issue for this very talented , but very lost young woman.
It is most sad that our media sanctions this poison to flow freely through the veins of every entertainment show and celebrity tabloid, haphazardly integrating its waste into the moral fabric of our apparently still, very green rationality, with the sole objective to create ratings by idealizing their lude behavior, and further imparting them as role models for all who emulate them.
Humbly so, it remains in the hopes of the minority that we are not such slaves to trend that we cannot question the motives of our media, and their spawn of paparazzi, whose constant presence has been a trivial source of Jekyll and Hyde for decades. Their career is to keep fans updated on their status and projects, but are they only adding to the chaos? This on again off again love affair with the media has even its favorite celebrity targets in an upheaval of what they want being publicized, versus what’s crossing the line. On one side, we have Lindsay Lohan going on record to say that she “wouldn’t know what to do if she woke up and the paparazzi weren’t there to photograph her”, but in the same token, it is believed to be the fault of this incessant entourage that ended the life of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in 1997, in hot pursuit of their photograph. It’s all just too much to wrap ones mind around when the price of the photo becomes more important than the price of one’s life! And with as much publicity as celebrity glutton receives, would it not be fruitful for us as a society to aim our interests in another direction, and recycle our ‘green’ conduct for green peace? Perhaps global warming doesn’t reflect the same admired patina as that of our tarnished icons, but we are destined to burn out with those stars if our priorities don’t take precedence over the ‘here and now’ syndrome. Have we relinquished all power to these false images of perfection? Have we now wantonly become a society of the blind leading the blind? Ergo, the old adage that the world changes, but people don’t is now up for debate and it would be in our best interest to reach out; if only clad in the name of humanity, to help our fellow citizens of this earth before we inanely lose another to senselessness.
But with all the disorderly conduct swirling among the celebrity world, it is most heartbreaking when it touches the lives of our younger stars that never really had the chance to come into their own.
Britney Spears holds the most vivid account of ‘losing it’, stemming from her breakup with Kevin Federline; former husband and father of her two children, and someone whom most agree, would not be a suitable choice for anyone’s daughter. It seems the young couple was in trouble during the pregnancy of their second child and it only escalated from there, with a long list of bad choices that spun Hollywood’s golden girl, Brit, flailing out of control. Brit’s most recent mistakes were failing to comply with a judge’s order to apply for parental counseling and drug testing, as well as not driving her children around town with an invalid California driver’s license. Fortunately, the judge that presided over this issue disregarded her, “I’m a star and you can’t touch me” attitude, which landed her children in the arms of Federline for temporary custody until further notice from the court. But it appears that this is not the only problem that faces Ms. Spears. Former bodyguards and associates are now coming out of the woodwork to shed light on just how out of control Britney’s life has become, with a long list that consists of collapsing in public, issues of nudity and drug abuse and rumors of her planned “hit” on Federline. This is in addition to the poor judgment that America’s seen in the tabloids; such as driving with her child on her lap, public displays of nudity, attacking a citizen in his car with an umbrella, to the most popular; the shaving of her head. And though this is quite enough to substantiate a problem in anyone’s eyes, it was Britney’s shaky performance at the 2007 VMA’s that gave the jaw-dropping first hand observation of just how unstable she really is. Without a doubt, Britney has become a product of what money, drugs and celebrity excess can do; a far cry from the clean-scrubbed girl that once sang, “not a girl and not yet a woman”. Hopefully family or one of her fellow celebs will take her under their wing until she can get it together.
The extravaganza of extreme Hollywood absurdities goes on to the performers who brawl at award ceremonies over a mutual love interest, to the starlets that publicly cast fiery names at one another, and to those who do their 40 minute jail sentences ‘bravely and without protest’, because it’s the right thing to do. Well yes, one would hope that a 40 minute jail sentence could possibly be served without introducing the skills they learned in acting classes, especially when the time spent behind bars after processing was more likely to be the equivalent of 10 minutes!
I question the rights given to those performers who don house arrest ankle bracelets on stage, when it’s no secret that a person of non-celebrity status would not have an excuse important enough to leave the premises of their home while wearing one of these tracking devices!
And so we will continue through life, bearing witness to the incredibly bizarre behavior of these people who seem to take their status and their money for granted. We’ll watch the shows and sing the songs of their ‘misfortune’, blinded by the effects that it’s having on our youth and our society as a whole, and confirming that our shock value has simply lost its power. Its numbing effect is changing the course of what we consider to be ‘normal’, and the issue of the human condition being alive and well, is now questionable. And until we come to terms with what we ultimately want for ourselves and our future, we will continue to see alarming trends that fray at our country’s seams, dictating our state of mind and lack of control, with a firm grip on Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels. We must ask ourselves that if what we are seeing now is considered to be trivial, what will we see in 10, or even 20 years from now? One can only assume that the price of fame will be more than anyone can afford to pay. ~