It was no surprise that Sandra Bullock took home four People’s Choice trophies on Wednesday, January 8. The awards show aired on CBS and it was clear that the 49 year-old film star impressed everyone with her performance in Alfonso Cuarón’s space thriller Gravity. Her trophies were not just for her dramatic appearance opposite George Clooney against the backdrop of outer space, which she won Best Dramatic Actress for, she also won in three more categories.
When I was growing up there was an old saying in my house about celebrities always dying in threes. I doubt that the idea was exclusive to my small household, as I’ve heard variations on that particular theme elsewhere. But the idea of celebrities (spelt actors or movie stars) dying in some sort of deathly trio usually dealt with older stars who were all of similar age groups. But recently a disturbing trend of younger casualties of the entertainment business has appeared and they’ve all had one thing in common.
Whether it be addiction to drugs or alcohol, love, or even the business of acting professionally, all but one, were under the age of 40 and they were all the more tragic because of their youth. Let’s face it, when we are older, folks grieve differently. By the time we’ve entered our “dotage” we’ve lived life and garnered plaudits for our achievements. These “youngsters” will not enter their autumn years nor will they garner any further awards.
Because, unless you’re James Dean, when you are gone, the awards; the adulation; all stop. The grim reaper has you as part of his world now and that bony fingered fellow doesn’t give out but the one award; the joining of his non-exclusive club.
I write for the Las Vegas Guardian Express. I have done so since April this year. I write what I call the fluff. Entertainment. I write about Miley Cyrus and her near nudity in the desperate attempt to ditch her previous incarnation of Hannah Montana once and for all. Kim Kardashian, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, et al. Most of them, with the exception of the Kardashians, all have one thing in common.
They are actors.
Yes, it can be argued that a lot of them wear several hats apart from the acting one, but even “Miley Cyrus as pop star” started as an actor.
The most recent list of entertainment business casualties are depressingly young, with the exception of Lisa Robin Kelly who had reached the age when death starts to visit us with alarming regularity, and two of them were seemingly successful artists with a long career ahead of them.
Are they any different than other young people in the world who either take their own lives too soon or mix a deadly cocktail of drugs and alcohol that proves to be the last thing they do before dying?
Yes and no.
Yes, in that people are people and they all act amazingly alike in most given sets of circumstances. No, because the two of the casualties I’m thinking of were in the entertainment business and actors by trade.
Actors live a dichotomous existence. The duality of their personalities require that they have almost super-human self-confidence combined with the odd mix of shyness married to almost crushing insecurity. They also usually have a bushel basket of talent and, if they are a younger star, charisma and good looks.
Gia Allemand who just died as the result of hanging herself, was a good example of all the parts of her life adding up to personal misery because the one thing that she really wanted was tantalisingly out of reach. She wanted to be a part of the perfect romantic union, without it she apparently did not feel complete and her inner disappointment combined with her use of self-medication to carry on, ganged up on her and drove her to end it all.
Cory Monteith had a publicly admitted addiction problem. He was another young actor who combined illegal drugs with his talent and some inner need to tune out the world via another form of self-medication. Like many other addicts, he struggled to stay “clean” and the battle ultimately cost him his life.
Neither of these two youngsters deaths are special. Thousands of their “peers” face the same dilemma’s that they faced. The biggest difference is that their lives were broadcast, if you will, because of their occupation. Actors live to act and if they are successful they then become a product that is constantly on show and for sale. To not be on sale is to not work, so the pressure is on 24/7.
So why are their problems, deaths or successes more important or newsworthy than their peers? Because of fame. Not all are equal in their share of the limelight, but all are in it to some degree or another. That is what makes their loss of life so tragic. They have achieved what we mere mortals cannot. A sort of immortality, even if it is fleeting; as was the case of Lisa Robin Kelly whose career took a nosedive after That 70s Show; an immortality that most of us rely on our children giving us.
It always saddens me when I have to write about a young star whose rise has been ended prematurely by their own hand, either accidentally or on purpose. They were the lucky ones who had that wonderful job that “they would have done for free” that we all search for. But the perfect job does not guarantee personal satisfaction. As an actor myself, I shake my head at the waste of so much talent. As a writer, I shake my head at the tragedy of a young person who will no longer be able to live their lives.
As person, I marvel at the inequalities of these particular entertainment business casualties who get so much attention from the world. The non-celebrity people of the world have their personal misery to deal with as well. They sometimes, like Allemand and the Indian actress Jiah Kahn, end their lives voluntarily. Others will, by “their own hand,” end it all accidentally. All are equally tragic, but real people who stare death in the face daily, do not get much more than a standard obituary column in the local paper. I will continue to write about the deaths of these young talented people, but I will never be able to rid myself of the needless sense of loss each time I sit down to chronicle a life too short.
16 August 2013
- Lisa Robin Kelly dead, ‘That ’70s Show’ actress was 43 (newsday.com)
- Gia Allemand References Suicide On Twitter Before Her Death (terkinn.wordpress.com)
- Gia Allemand Tragically Dies at Age 29 (guardianlv.com)
- Lisa Robin Kelly, of ‘That ’70s Show,’ dead at 43, her agent says (wtkr.com)