Saturday, July 23, 2011

Post No. 171a: Another Talented Performer Lost

Amy Winehouse is no more, except through her music and in the hearts and minds of her fans. During the time that the Fellows here at the Institute have been on this earth, we've lost some talent because of the complicated lives they led, including Hendrix, Joplin, Elvis, Belushi, Marvin, and Michael. When we read of her death, our hearts were instantly heavy, and our thoughts shot to Michael, with whose music we Fellows grew up. We also thought about how we'll never really know how talented she could have become, whereas we had lots of product from Michael.

However, whatever the age of the talent, as the Laughingman says, "Drugs be drugs...."

© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In Post No. 126, we mentioned a number of the Laughingman’s sayings, including “Common Sense should be a way of life.” The Logistician, still on sabbatical in Brazil, has a few too, albeit somewhat strange.

He claims he only needs a woman in his life 12 days each year. Why? For the highs and the lows.

He’s always viewed intimate relationships with women like prescription drugs – beneficial, on occasion, when administered by a licensed physician, and in moderation. However, he considers them, let’s say, problematic, when administered intravenously on a regular basis.

Our mission is to engage college students in a discussion about Personal Responsibility, the options / choices they have, and decisions they make.

We’ve been watching this freak show since MJ’s death, trying to figure out whether there are some not so obvious lessons to be learned, which we can discuss with students.

We did observe an incredible, international outpouring of love, sadness, and admiration. We also noted an intense dissection (primarily on the home front) of his career, values, and character, supporting the conclusion that he was a bad, evil human being.

What we found most fascinating was the phalanx of critics, who had little appreciation of his work, but who clearly had views about his lifestyle and eccentricities.

We watch Turner Classic Movies religiously. Last week, Judy Garland was a featured artist.

We were reminded how much we were dazzled by her talent. We viewed a bio-documentary, which outlined her life-long relationship with prescription drugs, which ultimately led to her demise at age 47.

She started performing at 2-1/2, and thus performed for 45 of her 47 years. For decades, she fought addiction with prescription drugs. Movie industry officials used them to control her weight, and regulate her productivity. Coupled with her perception she was not “pretty” enough, and you had a recipe for ….

One of our heroes has always been Howard Hughes, the great aviator, inventor, industrialist, film director and producer, and philanthropist. We loved his passion for life, and his intensity. There was also a down side. What some called his fearlessness, others termed recklessness.

As a result of various plane crashes, he spent a significant part of his life in pain, eventually becoming addicted to prescription drugs in many forms. When they finally wheeled him out of the “Acapulco Princess Hotel” on the way to the morgue, he weighed 90 lbs.

The more intriguing sub-plot to MJ’s story was the fact that his wife, Lisa Marie Presley, walked away because of, and in spite of, her love for MJ. He confided in her that he would probably go the way of her Father, Elvis, “The King.”

A siren, who in her own way was like a drug, and caused the Logistician to stutter many a starry night at the Hollywood Bowl while listening to classical music, said it best.

“Everything in moderation.”

And that applies to drugs, plastic surgery, driving at high speeds, skydiving, sex, food, wine, dancing, paragliding, and perhaps most things in life. (Even physical exercise.)

Some years ago, the History Channel aired a program on the literary creation of heaven and hell. Although various religions have different versions, in every instance, mortals here on Earth, through their conduct, walk a very thin line. Stepping on either side could determine their descent or ascent.

Lest you be confused about this drug thing, there is little difference between illegal/recreational drugs, and prescription drugs, with the exceptions being the legitimacy of the “entity” which produces them, who gets to prescribe them, and whether politicians benefit. Drugs be drugs.

Take it from some guys who matured (arguably) during the drugs, sex, and rock and roll years. We know lots of successful doctors, business people, family people, accountants, judges, and pillars of society who once used drugs in many a form and fashion. Fortunately for most of them and for society, they appreciated that drugs might be an interesting pastime, but not a life long journey.

Two final thoughts, one of which is a line from a TCM movie:

“A man ought to be appreciated for more than the worst thing that he has ever done.”

By doing so, we can keep an eye out for the good in people, not just the bad.

The other is the Logistician’s:

“If you’re willing to walk into a courtroom looking like a freak, you’ll be judged a freak.”

Just ask Phil Spector. At least O.J. had the Common Sense to put on a suit the first time around.


  1. The self-medication which eventually leads to one's demise seems a common enough story, doesn't it? Taking drugs (including alcohol) to erase the insecurities attendant with fame is way too routine an exercise. Are performers more susceptible to this or just more noticeable? Do the same things which drive them to perform also drive them to self-destruct? To prove they were not worthy? Or is it something more mundane... like the drugs make them feel good?

  2. ‘Spector,

    Most of the celebrities whom you cite possessed one singular talent, but otherwise were pretty screwed-up people – perhaps even more so than most of us “mere mortals” who enjoy neither fame nor fortune. Unless the former quality is somehow a function of the latter (and I doubt that it is) then they are really no more than projections of ourselves, as I believe that we all have at least one thing which we do well. We simply aren’t rewarded with widespread recognition and adoration as a result.

    I hope that you – and God – will forgive me if my somewhat populist sensibilities leave me a bit ambivalent regarding the self-inflicted demise of those with everything to live for, at least from the perspective of we who struggle daily simply to survive -- and with the assurance that we will neither be idolized for our efforts nor widely mourned for our demise.

    There are people in this country who work hard every day/
    But not for fame and fortune do they strive/
    The fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay/
    And it’s time a few of them were recognized

    “Forty Hour Week” by Alabama

    The Independent Cuss


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