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Monday, February 13, 2012

Another one bites the stardust…

... In a preposterous sequence of celebrity deaths.

Anna Nicole Smith was digging gold with one lovely hand and her grave with the other.

My generation, the "Baby Boomers," grew up with a pantheon of “candles in the wind,” as Elton John sang of Marilyn Monroe; Elvis. John Lennon. The Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Hank Williams, Lenny Bruce, Carole Landis, Buddy Holly, James Dean, Nick Adams, even George Reeves, the guy who first played Superman. Our heroes, especially rock stars, were regularly killed in plane crashes, assassinated or found dead in hotel rooms. I don’t need to revisit their names, but no other generation ever saw so many celebrities, leaders and pop icons go down with their boots on; Of course, no other generation ever saw so many idols, or so many drug addicts either. And they perished violently and so stupidly and sometimes mysteriously. Until the next generation made our losses seem mild...

Marilyn Monroe was the tragic inspiration for "Candle in the Wind"

Dorothy Dandridge was breaking new ground for black actresses when her candle went out, after a drug overdose at age 42.

The Baby Boomers were the first to bond with television, and those manipulative laugh tracks, and we learned to automatically suspend our lives and yield to the authority of television. All so we could absorb that canned fun between commercials; A strange combination of fun and tragedy, it was the stereotypical sad, painted-on-smile circus clown, on steroids. We loved Laugh In and Carol Burnett, and later finished our indoctrination in the late 70's on those great old risque SNL skits, where our brightest comedians conjured up some kind of melancholy mirth for our amusement. They were often not that funny, but still far more humorous than the real lives of these wildly popular cultural jokers, who had a life expectancy much worse than a Victorian era coal miner.

About to birth her first child, Sharon Tate was horribly butchered in 1969 along with her house-guests by drug-crazed killers on a mission, who invaded her home. Her husband, director Roman Polansky, who later became a wanted fugitive for child molestation, was conveniently out of town...??? Authorities have failed to ever successfully extradite him to the U.S.

In 1981, Natalie Wood was said to have quietly drowned right under the noses of those closest to her. Now the captain of the boat she fell out of says Robert Wagner, her husband refused to let him search for her body when they discovered she was missing... later a search found her floating body, bruised and beaten... Wagner later admitted he had angrily smashed a wine bottle right before she disappeared forever...

And then an invisible war on American comedians began... Who can forget the unexplainable mortality of such a stellar group? Gilda Radner, John Candy, Andy Kaufmann, John Belushi, Chris Farley... and Phil Hartman, supposedly shot to death by his wife in a bizarre murder-suicide, ... all of these hilarious folks self-destructed in front of us while relatively young. We just kept watching, munching popcorn like the ancient Romans relishing in the gladiator's demise in the bloody mire below.

Then, as if to fuel the insatiable sex idol furnace, Playboy's classic beauty Dorothy Stratten was shot dead by her jealous husband.

Dorothy Stratten had barely launched her acting career when she was shot down like a dog, supposedly for infidelity.

Weren't they exquisitely beautiful! And the carnage continued. The lure of fame and glory and wealth has seduced wave after wave of young, talented, idealistic risk-takers who have charged the insidious, bloody wall of the entertainment industry, only to find heartbreak and disaster. So much so, that we haven’t had a routine news week unless some celebrity somewhere was killed by a ridiculous accident, or by an overdose, or just mysteriously found dead, always alone of course, in their apartment or hotel room. In the 90's we saw the advent of rapper drive-by assasinations, like those of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Small, and the shocking suicide of Margaux Hemingway... on the anniversary of her grandfather's death... The suicide of River Phoenix, at just 23 years old.

The past few years have been especially deadly:

Two men on one cable series, Captain Phil Harris, and one of his crewman, Justin Tennison, of a nautical adventure show called, ironically, the Deadliest Catch, instead encountered death themselves; The partially eaten remains of a dwarf porno actor in Great Britain named Percy Foster was found stuffed down a badger hole. Michael Jackson, pitchman Billy Mays and rising actor Heath Ledger, all succumbed to their deadly addictions. Playboy icon Anna Nicole Smith not only succumbed, she somehow managed to take all of those close to her down with her, except her baby.

Nowadays young celebs are candles in a wind tunnel.

There is even an honorary status discussed on the Internet called the “27 Club,” founded posthumously I guess by Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix, all pop culture icons who died at the age of 27. These past few years the club added to its legacy.

Dead at 27, Rock & Roll icon Janis Joplin lived hard, sang hard and died hard.

Amy Winehouse, 27, recently died of “death by misadventure” as the investigators called it, when she drank herself to death. But there needs to be another club for the thirty-somethings… After enduring questionable cosmetic surgeries, Actress Brittany Murphy, (a cute little voice in Happy Feet) just 32, died of something mysterious, perhaps pneumonia, or a deadly mixture of over the counter drugs, or some say MOLD, in her home, and whatever it was, that something killed her husband Simon Monjack about five months later. The gap between their deaths is scientifically unexplainable. Jonas Bevacqua, 34, a rising star in the clothing design industry, was discovered dead with no apparent reason. Actor Michael Showers was found floating, lifeless, in the Mississippi River. David Carradine must have put up a fight before his body was discovered in Thailand, bound and hog-tied like an animal. Musicians Mikey Welsh of Weezer and Jani Lane, lead singer for Warrant were both “found dead…” Welsh had even dreamed about it, and wrote prophetically about critical details of his demise.

Brittany Murphy was a bundle of contradictions in life and in death.

And then there were those who just straight out killed themselves, usually with drugs; British actor Colin Tarrant, Andrew Koenig (“Boner” of Growing Pains television series), Wyatt Knight and Angie Dowds, inspirational fitness icon of the “Biggest Loser” weight loss contest, who quite athletically jumped off of a cliff. And then there were those who committed suicide, while in jail! Infomercial king Don Lapre, and Japanese musician Taiji Sawada.

Whitney Houston has become the latest poster girl for Hollywood mis-medi-management.

And then recently there was beautiful, sweeter than pie, awesomely talented, now angelic, Whitney Houston. Dead. In the bathtub. Gone. Silenced because… Who knows? We will never understand. Like Michael Jackson, and Amy Winehouse, she was supposedly on the cusp of reinventing herself. As if that were possible without God’s help. But I have no doubt He was there, waiting… ready to catch them till the last breath in each sorry end.

Yet there is something... unsettling about the circumstances leading up to Houston's death. Lost in all the commotion surrounding the discovery of her body, just 24 hours before, her daughter Bobbi Kristina had been found almost comatose in the BATHTUB, on the same floor as Whitney's room, in fact in a room registered in her mother's name. Concerned family had her door unlocked, finding her almost unresponsive. What in the world... something smells...

After decades of watching this deadly cycle, there still seems to be no remedy to prepare “stars” for the lurking dangers of success. Especially gifted entertainers are often poor managers, and are just plain vulnerable, when almost randomly the “fickle finger of fate” opens the door to their wildest dreams. And after an avalanche of glory, their lives can easily stagnate into narcissism, depression, addiction, ruthless management, as some are medi-managed by corrupt physicians. In the end, it appears to us on the outside that severe self-neglect and even abuse makes short work of them.

Often estranged from their families, locked in hopelessness, these perfect storms have their way, and in their wake the final pathetic corpse has no resemblance to the anointed host of a genius that was in total command just weeks or months before.

The cost of our entertainment in human flesh continues to rise as their candles are snuffed out so routinely that we shrug it off and never keep count. But check out this alarming trend. While you have been watching American Idol, the landscape is smoky with the extinguished, melted wicks of the previous wave of wanna-be idols. Thank goodness, most of them live through it. But just like the hit “reality” show Survivor, it’s quite Darwinian, as the strongest survive, and the nice and weak and merely competitive fall way, and make room in a wind tunnel that blows its evidence into oblivion while a new generation struts in.

If you think I'm making a murder pile out of a molehill, consider this: I live in a town of around 8000. For argument's sake, let's say the Hollywood family is about that size... you know, people who are directly considered "stars" or are right next to them, such as the names I have just listed. Yet in a similar time period in Navasota, Texas, we may lose four or five people to suspicious premature death (can't even think of one), murder (not even one a year), suicide (rare) or drug overdose (maybe a couple a year). The odds are way against such a carnage as we take for granted among the stars. Especially when you think about the high visiblity of these people. But the bigger the star, apparently the more danger they are in. As the old song goes, "when will they ever learn?"

Still the lusty horde scrambles for fame and glory on the screen. Today's performers are no doubt meaner and leaner than ever. And if Darwin was right, and unfortunately he wasn’t, the entertainers of tomorrow will evolve into creatures even more hardy and resilient, and be born with such cunning, adversarial natures necessary for survival that they will spontaneously consume each other on the stage.

The Romans would have loved it.

Post Script: I guess we'll have to start an ongoing list...

Feb 21, 2012- Reality show producer Jeff Rice and an associate with The Amazing Race, was reported to have been poisoned in Uganda. Rice is reported to have died under suspicious circumstances... later reports said they had ingested deadly quantities of drugs. Perhaps a smuggling ring gone terribly bad... or so it would appear.

Mar 1, 2012- Andrew Breitbart, outspoken conservative writer and constant nuisance to the mainstream Media, drops dead at age 43, supposedly of "natural causes." A fearless truth-teller, he is the one who almost single-handedly brought down Congressman Anthony Weiner, and the corrupt Liberal machine we know as ACORN. No single journalist has done so much to expose the bad guys, or made themselves such an obvious target.

Mar 5, 2012- Steve Bridges, Comedian and political impersonator, who did an amazing George Bush, found dead at 48 in Los Angeles. Bridges did an even more convincing Obama, ("I had to be elected President, it was the only way to get a name like Barach Hussein Obama off of the no-fly list!) Look him up on You Tube, he was a scream... There will be an autopsy...

Mar 14, 2012- THREE Horses, killed in various accidents during production of HBO's TV series Luck, another "irony," causing the cancellation of the series...

Anybody suspicious yet? I'm getting almost afraid to continue this list.

If you haven't quit reading this out of disgust, here's one more bitter pill; We the American public, are supposed to believe that there is no fowl play here, no sinister plot behind any of this, that all of these entertainers, comedians, actors just... self-destructed... from decadent lifestyles.

We are supposed to accept the apparent mortal danger of the entertainment industry, making it, for whatever reason, one of the most dangerous professions in the world. And most of us do. We have been conditioned to expect an ugly end for even the most beautiful star.

Beginning with the triangle of intrique between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys, we as fans, as the commonfolk, have come to believe there is some sort of uncanny cloud of bad luck hovering over the rich and famous.

And yet, with all the obvious addiction, humiliation, manipulation and terror in their lives, we hang on to their interviews on Letterman or Leno as if they are spreading stardust of prosperity and wisdom. And they are in a way, in a culture of death. Or worse, an underworld of intrigue and murder. If this continues... shows like American Idol are merely a farm team for tomorrow's killing field.

Here's a bullet list of more recent mysterious, premature celebrity deaths...

Perry Moore: Exec Producer, Chronicles of Narnia, Suicide?
Julien Hug: Contestant on The Bachelorette, found dead, deep in the forest.
Cory Smoot: Guitarist for Gwar, ??? OD?
Like Jim Morrison, British actress Lucy Gordon was found dead in France, supposedly from a suicide.

Lucy Gordon: Model, Actress in Spiderman III, suicide?
Robert Hegyes: Juan Epstein on Welcome Back Kotter. Heart failure?
Erica Blasberg: LPGA golfer, suicide? Found with bag over head!
Vesta Williams: Singer, "enlarged heart."
Bubba Smith: Football player, actor. ???
Mike Starr: Bassist for Alice in Chains.???

Update: Aug 20, 2013: I stopped this blog for awhile last fall... it was wildly popular.. and it all creeped me out. Here it is again... it needs to be said.

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