Stars are always exposed to various scandals. They are made into deities overnight. Just as quickly, however, they can become targets for vicious, condemning tweets slamming them and everything they do. All it takes is one scandal. It’s a disturbing phenomenon based on distortions and envy.
As a kid I saw their lives as magical fairy tales and yearned to be that important. I wondered why they were born so lucky. As I grew older the glimmer dulled. The qualities I’d projected onto them were fantasy.
When the famous are caught in a moral misstep, it sparks a social media stampede. Not only have the stars lost their royal status, but they’ve aroused the public’s wrath. When I first began interviewing A-listers, my heart got fluttery and I feared I’d stammer and shake, but after a couple of times I saw stars as sorely lacking mortals who roll their eyes, check their watches and irritably scroll through text messages to indicate they’d rather be doing anything other than talking to a journalist.
If I starred in million-dollar movies perhaps I, too, would grow irritated by the clause in my contract that said I had to promote films. But I like to think I’d have humility and gratitude. I know it’s possible. Susan Sarandon and Angela Bassett are two examples. They offer warm smiles and exude grace and professionalism. Elizabeth Olsen, Jonah Hill, Mads Mikkelsen and so many others are a joy to be around. You know who else was very kind? Woody Allen.
Here’s where the inner conflict rises. If I laugh at a Woody Allen movie now, am I betraying Dylan Farrow and all of the other sexual abuse victims? Can I pretend I haven’t read the monstrous allegations? I can’t forget the court papers and experts’ opinions. What does it say about me if I remain a loyal fan? Ignoring the accusations may make me inadvertently complicit in pedophilia.
Ever since Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant, he’s been dead to me. With him it was easy, though. I never liked him much in movies. But Woody? I’ve adored him and his movies since childhood. He’s every Jew’s hero.
Then again, I had hoped the Michael Jackson sex abuse charges were attempts to extort money, but when accusations kept mounting, it became impossible to believe he was innocent. It never made me stop loving Michael Jackson’s music or dance videos, but it created a mental mess that sucked all the fun out.
I will never again be as impressed with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brilliant portrayal of a heroin addict in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” I now know that role wasn’t a stretch. Amy Winehouse singing, “I don’t wanna go to rehab, no, no, no,” is no fun anymore, either — the irony is too painful. Both Ray Liotta and James Franco have fallen off their pedestals for me.
It isn’t clear why I remain enamored by some of entertainment’s worst tragedies: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean. The only explanation is they were already dead when I heard of them so I didn’t experience the loss directly. Another reason may be that I know personally about addiction and recovery, and I know that Hoffman didn’t have to die. There is so much help available now. On the other hand, knowing addiction is understanding it is a mental disease. An addict’s brain is wired to make bad choices. It is a miracle that any of us stop using and can stay sober.
William S. Burroughs no longer seems like a cool writer with street rhythm. He had talent, but above all else he was a heroin addict who died still hooked on methadone. Remember Jim Carroll’s “All the People Who Died”? As a teen I sang along the loudest I could. Now? After seeing him stoned and stumbling on “SNL,” he became a symbol of an addict’s inability to cope.
On top of all the tragedy, the seething rants on social media make all of mankind seem worthless. It’s like cheering for more blood in a bullfight. “Lucky” Jimi and Janis died before anybody with a Twitter account could start the ball of character assassination rolling and bask in the retweets. I feel lofty and superior when I don’t take the bait to respond, but my self-respect suffers a ding when I want so much to separate entertainers’ private lives from their talents and find that I fall short.