As Grace mentioned the connection between Michael Jackson and Karen Carpenter immediately came to my mind at the time of his death as well. I have a feeling that the real killer here was his anorexia, the drugs just made it worse.
Interestingly, the coverage of both Fawcett and Jackson’s deaths have been very odd, in my opinion. Very few of those who gave statements in the death of Jackson seemed very real, instead they focused on his career and their connection to it. Quincy Jones made sure to give the number of records sold and which records he worked on before saying he felt like he lost his “brother.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not the first thing I think about when I have tender thoughts of family members. Most of the celebrity “grief stricken statements” seemed more of an opportunity to show off their accomplishments and boil down the whole of Jackson’s life as if he were a cartoon. It’s no wonder one of the lawyers who represented him during the case against him for child molestation described Jackson as “one of the loneliest people,” he’d ever met. The only celebrity statements that seemed remotely like normal human reactions were Lisa Marie Presley, Brook Shields and Elizabeth Taylor’s.
I have to admit that I am cringing through most of the coverage of his death which seems to vacillate between extreme hyperbole (Ann Courie saying there might not be any MTV without Jackson) and turning him into a convenient way for certain celebrities to plug their own talents and importance. To say it is crass is a far too great of an understatement and the fact that the media (which itself seems to have gone the direction of placing its own head so far up its own butt that it hasn’t seen daylight in 20 years) is fanning the flames of this hyperbolic narcissistic feeding frenzy, at least hear in NPD central, Los Angeles.
And the sad documentary (which is made only that much more sad by Farrah Fawcett’s death) also seems a strange macabre ego massage. While I feel very sad for anyone who has health troubles, it seems an odd way to gain celebrity status, which has been happening as of late, some woman in GB did her death as a reality show, another dude the same, and then it seemed, in an effort to rekindle her celebrity, Fawcett allowed the documentary to be made. I’m not sure what is sicker people watching these other people suffer during the last moments of their life or the desire to be watched while walking through death’s door.
For some reason (being under the weather with nothing else on TV) I found myself watching part of the Fawcett documentary which was an odd mix or sadness, beauty (Fawcett’s journal writing about her experience was engaging and poetic) and twistedly narcissistic. She insisted on going home after having major surgery back from Europe to the US despite doctors’ warnings which I found oddly arrogant. After facing a deadly disease, going to another country for expert help, and one can only imagine facing your mortality squarely, she did the unexpected, she ignored their advice in characteristic stubborn star fashion. the normal comforting blanket of celebrity became a strange disconnect from reality, a retreat into her specialness which she paid the price for on the flight back as the doctors had warned.
It’s odd that we’ve now had a 96 hour news black out because two celebrities have died. One more infamous in recent years than famous, the others most memorable moment in the past fifteen years a bizarre seemingly drug addled interview on Letterman with “art” made by her naked body, published in Playboy when she was 50 years old, well past the expiration date on the public’s appetite for her nudity. She then came home after the expert doctors she’d gone all the way to Germany for who told her not to fly home early, which she did anyway (a typical sort of celebrity knows best sort of attitude which I’ve seen a lot here in LA) to her apartment with a giant Andy Warhol portrait of herself in the living room. She claimed to desire her privacy and was angry about people finding out about her health problems – so why the documentary detailing the nitty gritty of it? The answer to this seems to be a pathological need for attention, which appears to be the bane of the famous/infamous’ existance. Farrah’s diary entries, written and read by her in the documentary were very well written and moving, revealed a lot about the sheltered and privileged life she led when she wrote an entry about never having gone through any real sort of health problem and how she wanted her life back. While she did count her many bliessings she also infered her specialness was given by God instead of understanding that her life, as all lives have lessons and one can not rise above being human to be anything other than as special as anyone else. She seemed to lack the insight of her connection to the whole of humanity and there was a constant feeling the reason for the documentary was an indignance with her own mortality, that somehow fame which had made a goddess out of her, could not give her the one thing that a real Goddess would have, immortality. She seemed to be beffudled by the idea that she was human and had an odd percpective that her facing death was somehow anything more than what we all share. We all die. We all have pain. We all suffer. There is no escaping this, yet there seemed to be a part of her that came through that actually thought she would somehow escape the inevitbale almost as if she had never considered it until she was staring it down. And although she seemed mildly humbled when she was feeling her worst as soon as she got good news she abandoned her inner quest back to her throne. It was very odd.
I live in Los Angeles and at this point I’m not sure if this sick fascination with the “famous” is a function of the bizarre and twisted culture of Hollywood that is warping my greater view of American culture or whether American culture truly has become a tabloid, insanely obsessed, strangely narcissistic fish bowl.
As a way to escape the onslaught of Jacskson and Fawcett endless non-news stream, we turned on Bill Maher. Ironically, he actually did talk about Michael Jackson with Billy Bob Thornton, however when that interview was done MJ would still have been alive. But what struck me like another hammer over the head was the first interview with Cameron Diaz promoting her new movie, where she plays a mother who has a second child to save her first one from cancer (she needed a donor match). Interestingly, Diaz revealed a lot about the strange curse disguised as a gift, known to us commoners as “celebrity.” In her comment she mentioned that people (the public) expect her (or any celebrity) to stay the same as when the public “fell in love” with them. That said celebrity, in her case was when she was 22, which she used as an example. She then went on to talk rather candidly with Maher about her feelings about marriage and children which she said she understood (only and purely) as a biological need to procreate. Seriously, that’s what she thought marriage and family was about. And she said she didn’t believe anyone who got married thought they would actually stay married and anyone who married held onto the security blanket of a possible divorce down the road.
Wow, I thought, she sounds like a 22 year old girl who was very immature for her age.
In a strange way she harkens back to the ancient archetype of the virgin (not what the virgin became but what it was initially which was a woman who had no need of family or men and was considered complete onto herself – she represented the girlhood phase of femininty just as say the bacholor or Peter Pan represents eternal boyhood. However virgins were dedicated to the Goddess and spent their lives in service to the spiritual path of the maiden).
But back to the point I was making about Diaz’s understanding of, let’s be honest, love. Bill Maher also suffers from the same affliction as she, an inability to really connect with others and have true empathy. You may wonder how I jumped to such a conclusion based on the interview and her rather shallow portrayals on film. Well, I’ll break it down. Firstly, there is partial truth to the need for procreation and for most people this is how they leave their mark on the world through their family. However more important than that basic primal desire is what is masked underneath that desire, and that desire is the desire to be one with another living being – to find connection. Sexuality in most ancient cultures was actually seen as a way to connect with the divine through feeling the oneness and the living spirit of God/Goddess in your partner. Sure, now sex has been turned in on itself to control people with, turning their most primal and spiritual desires into something to be disgusted and embarassed about so the 3rd party religious institution can rid a person of their sin and make them holy again through disconnecting them to the very source of the spirit of the Creator. It is through sexuality that we become divine/co-creators or potential co-creators (at least in a physical/symbolic way) in the ever expanding universe.
It was interesting to see Maher and Diaz, two sides of the same coin, sitting across the table from one another, each wearing a different mask but unknowingly of the same distorted viewpoint. Diaz representing what she said were the many “opportunities” she had been presented with unlike her parents and Maher, who I suspect never got past some twisted Freudian relationship with his mother, both so empty and insecure and afraid to be vulnerable to anyone, preferring to stay frozen in time and in control at all costs. I say this because one of the greatest gifts of romantic love is being out of control, losing your mind and then seeing yourself through the mirror of your partner who challenges you to be a better human being, not neccessarily richer, or a bigger star, but a more evolved soul, something most of Hollywood is completey unconcerned about. It’s interesting here as an aside to note, that the card representing the film/TV industry is the Devil card in the tarot. I had been told this by several readers and then put it to the test only to find it was true. When reflecting on why this would be I realized that the grueling work schedules and focus on material things and status are the greatest fixation for the vast majority of people who participate in the industry. There is a one-upmanship unprecidented in any other field and a vaccous need to be the most famous of the famous, which of course is born of great insecurity, shame and narcissism (which by defination is a shame disorder but that’s another aside).
I’ve seen (because again I lived in LA for a very long time and you can infere what you want…) a pattern among celebrities or people who attain a level of fame. The best metaphor I could come up with was imagine that these individuals are flowers in a field and plucked and pressed in a book, dried to perfection and kept forever in this state. Their life stays frozen. Their spiritual growth frozen, because no one will confront them anymore for fear of their status (by being friends/lovers or whatever of the famous person) will be lost by a blow off. Even the most evolved souls who truly seek out ways to improve their spirits suffer under the weight of being plucked and pressed, losing their roots and being isolated, stared at, admired from a far for appearance only, and being under a constant microscope.
Fame is a killer, like heroine it is addictive and intensly destructive yet most Americans suffer under the delusion that it’s something to be desired and like a magic potion will solve all of their trouble if only they could be rich and famous like the celebrities they adore. So many people that go into the performing arts do it for the sake of fame and believe the lie that life will be fixed on the other side. A belief I’m sure Kurt Cobain had as so may other rock stars before him, only to find that wherever you run there you are, and being famous doesn’t change you, you just have a thousand eyes watching every move you make, judging, reporting and admiring, heightening the insecurity and shame felt pre-fame. I’m quite sure this is why so many celebrities (especially musicians who carve their own path and whose success is more dependant on their ambition than actors whose fates are more at the whim of circumstance) die horrible premature deaths, hooked on drugs, unable to enjoy a decent salad due to body dismorphia, completely alone because no one is willing to be honest (although most celebrities would just rid themselves of anyone honest so that’s a self-created problem) and confused, taken advantage of, but hey, they get to live in houses so big they probably only use one percent of the space they own, and wear clothing that costs more than some people’s homes. Seems like a fair trade.
I want to say here that I don’t believe in romanticizing people after death. Perhaps because I know the souls of all individuals proceed and are eternal, I don’t feel there is any use in lying. When Nixon died he became Saint Nixon, Reagan an Angel. We learn nothing from the lives of those we have had the privelage to watch if we do so dishonestly. I am not criticizing these individuals. I am criticizing the disturbing way our culture fixates on certain individuals to the point of their destruction. I truly feel pity for those who spend their lives chasing fame, fortune, and status. It all too often leads to a lonely life spent chasing a phantom carrot. For the souls who have crossed over, all of them, not just those whom we have seen on TV, may their spirits be guided to the light as peace and love consume them.