Sunday, 4 June 2017

A tragic decline

I'm fascinated by those celebrities who seem set for a glittering career and then fall into a steady decline, eaten away by addictions, self-doubt, destructive friends and spouses, and the relentless pressures of fame.

I was reading about the new documentary on Whitney Houston, and the recollections of her bodyguard, David Roberts, who thinks she could have survived if those around her had been less intent on exploiting her fame and more concerned with her personal health and well-being.

As soon as he met her new boyfriend, the rapper Bobby Brown, on her 26th birthday, he suspected Brown would be a bad influence on her. He soon discovered he was verbally and physically abusive, jealous of her success, an attention-seeker, a trouble-maker, a heavy drug-user, and a womaniser.

He couldn't understand why she always indulged him and overlooked his immature behaviour, why she crushed her own personality to make him feel comfortable, why she was besotted with someone who was obviously no good for her.

In particular, he's disgusted with all the people in her entourage who were more interested in her profitability than protecting her health and keeping her from self-destruction.

"She became a commodity, a possession, a tool for making money" he says. When he wrote to her lawyers outlining his concerns, he was sacked, and never spoke to her again.

Her story has many similarities with the life of Amy Winehouse, whose promising career was also undermined by an equally unsuitable boyfriend, Blake Fielder-Civil, a growing drugs habit, the stresses of fame, and a money-obsessed entourage.

On February 11, 2012, at the age of 48, Whitney Houston was found dead, the result of drowning, heart disease and cocaine use. "So many people could have done so much to avoid that" says David Roberts. "They didn't. They abdicated responsibility in favour of greed."

Pic: David Roberts

20 comments:

Rummuser said...

One of life's great mysteries is people living in abusive relationships and not getting out of them. The net is full of cases and advice on how to get out of such relationships, but quite why they stay in them is a puzzle that puzzles the best psychologists.

Nick said...

Ramana: Actually I think therapists and/or feminists are well aware of why women in abusive relationships stay put rather than leaving. There are all sorts of reasons, in particular the woman's confidence having been so undermined that the very thought of taking such an initiative is terrifying. There's also the fear of stalking and retaliation by the rejected partner, the lack of money, and Stockholm Syndrome.

Hattie said...

Marilyn Monroe was ruthlessly exposed and exploited by Arthur Miller, but that was OK, because Miller was a well known playwright and intellectual. Joe Dimaggio, a more straightforward abuser, just beat her up.
Did she deserve this?

Nick said...

Hattie: Marilyn Monroe is another person who went off the rails because she couldn't cope with the pressures of fame. She had mental and physical health problems, she suffered from gallstones and endometriosis, and she was a drug addict. I don't know much about her relationships with Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio.

tammy j said...

i
read once about jean harlow's life too.
she was also used as a commodity by her own family. she kept them all afloat in style. she should have abandoned them all.
and she died even younger than all mentioned here. i think it was 26 years old.
what a sad waste of a promising life.

Nick said...

Tammy: There's a common pattern of celebs being seen as a meal ticket by others. But in that case, why not look after their health so they stay alive and keep making money? If they die prematurely, that's the meal ticket gone. Unless their fame increases after their death of course, which often happens.

Bijoux said...

It would make quite a long list if we tried to remember all the stars who died of some sort of drug use.

Nick said...

Bijoux: The list would be endless. And once people get seriously addicted to drugs, the possibility of an overdose is ever-present.

joared said...

That is one of the potential risks of fame and fortune, unfortunately. Then when addictive substances are introduced the risk becomes even greater that exploitation may occur -- substances whether illegal or legal types including prescriptions. Takes character, courage to speak truth to power but that's what's needed. I was saddened when the talented Amy Winehouse succumbed and so many more.

Nick said...

Joared: A lot of celebs seem to take an amazing cocktail of drugs - uppers, downers, sleeping pills, painkillers, you name it. It's hardly surprising that sooner or later they take a fatal combination.

Amy Winehouse's death was utterly tragic. I think "Frank" is one of the best albums ever. Her remarkable talent just went to waste.

CheerfulMonk said...

I would hate to be famous --- there's so much pressure and so little privacy. Yuck! I'm grateful to be a nobody.

Nick said...

Jean: Me too. It must be a nightmare. Like being a captive animal in a zoo with thousands of people gawping at you. And unlike an animal, you have to be on your best behaviour.

Wisewebwoman said...

As someone wisely said "men are afraid of women laughing at them, women are afraid of men killing them."
My life has been threatened for leaving abuse. I'm very much not alone. Add addiction to cope....
And femicide is on the rise every year.
Always tragic, some do it to themselves. Marilyn was so abused by powerful men.
Women as meat and prey. /Rant

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: It's appalling that domestic violence is so common. And the British government is withdrawing funding from many women's refuges and rape crisis centres. As you say, women are often deterred from leaving because men make all kinds of threats. Acid attacks are the most horrifying.

Wisewebwoman said...

And the other tragic element and I knew 2 such women where their fathers murdered their mothers in front of them. Not as uncommon as we'd like to pretend. Horrific PTSD. One suicided. I think of Whitney Houston's daughter....her father abused her mother dreadfully...
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: What can I say? Male violence is so routine, and even the most innocent-looking men can turn out to be raging monsters on the quiet.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Maybe it's because I hear stories like this every day involving non-celebrities that I just can't get interested in what celebrities are doing?

Nick said...

Agent: I assume it's much worse for celebs because they have so far to fall from a lofty pedestal, but maybe not, maybe it's just as bad for ordinary folk.

Jenny Woolf said...

I think it must be awful being a celeb - something I always hated the idea of even when I was a teenager. I cant think of anything worse than being surrounded by people who are just out to grab a bit of reflected glory!

Nick said...

Jenny: Me too. And it gets worse and worse. Nowadays there's endless celeb commentary on social media as well, much of it pretty vicious. As you say, so many people just wanting a vicarious brush with fame.