Friday, Mar. 03, 2006
Did You Know Jack
In the era of David Cassidy and the Partridge Family glut, I was mooning over a different teen idol - a young man named Jack Wild, who was then the grand star of the kiddie show HR Pufnstuf. If you follow that link, you'll find that Mr. Wild has died of cancer at the age of 53, something he attributed to his unruly lifestyle as an adult, a life which involved drugs and alcohol, which seems to be pretty typical for child stars after they fall out of the public eye.
I have a few friends who work in various aspects of show business. While it's not true for all, the vast majority entered the business to try and escape or alleviate things in their past. I don't care what the official stories are; the realities for many are horrendous histories of physical and psychological abuse and deprivation.
I talked to one young man who grew up with a famous father and survived the lovely experience of watching his parents conduct a very nasty divorce on television and in the tabloids. During all of this, he was dealing with a life-threatening illness. His parents were so busy fighting that were it not for his grandfather's direct intervention, he almost certainly would have died.
When he later achieved fame on his own, he acquired a reputation for being a jerk. Given his parents' pecadilloes and related airing of dirty laundry, he understandably hated and tried to avoid everything to do with publicity. Oh yeah, he definitely had his moments, and I don't arbitrarily dismiss them all, but I certainly allow a lot of slack, all things considered.
Other artists take parts they loath - involving nudity and worse - to keep from starving. Then when they become better known, they have to grit their teeth and claim that they're proud of their work, pretending they aren't sickened at the knowledge that the photos will be smeared across the Internet and obtained in a wild frenzy by fans who will buy/rent anything so long as their idol's name is included.
And the craziness can become dangerous. I've moderated some "official" sites for television sites and some fan sites for various performers. For what it's worth, I didn't volunteer for the jobs, because I know what a daunting and occasionally frightening prospect it can be. I was drafted, for all intents and purposes, and in one case it took four letters of resignation to get the message across that I quit and that was that.
There's some pretty damned scary people out there running around. I have intercepted pedophiles and other sickos, have provided information for an injunction to keep one fan from distributing a personal address and other personal details about their neighbor, who happened to be a celeb; and have had to try and gauge whose delusions cross the line into stalking and possibly injuring the subject of their adoration - then have to provide the documentation for law enforcement agencies. In the process, I've been targeted for verbal attacks and have been subjected to threats against myself and my children.
And all the while, I've dealt with my own freakazoid element, including stalkers and nutcases who have spied on me and dogged my every move and assaulted me, all because I'm on the radio.
I was asked to spearhead a television news project about twelve years ago - and I passed. People asked me why I'd do that, since the deal included ownership of the production company, among other things.
People didn't know I'd just survived two assaults by two separate stalkers, all in the six months prior to that offer.
When she was about eleven years old, a recruiter pursued 00, asking me to make her a child model. She was exceptionally tiny and I'll be the first to say she was and is beautiful. (The recruiter's approach reinforced the fact that my assessment wasn't solely the mommy eye syndrome.) But I talked with 00 and we both agreed that this wasn't something she wanted to do. It was the right decision; as difficult as her life has been, she has been too fragile emotionally to have ever survived in the limelight, even allowing for the advantages of money. She unquestionably would have taken the same path of drugs and drink and would have fallen prey to the chemical glut and other traps of celebrity at a very young age.
I also belong to a support forum for parents of child actors, though my own children are not in the business. While I am generally silent, when it comes to safety issues I become very, very vocal. That carries over with the Internet invasion of privacy. You can now put a phone number in Google and pull up a satellite image of the house where it rings. If that's not an invitation to catastrophe, I don't know what is.
There are people who have criticized me for being overly paranoid about privacy issues. My answer is until you've talked to parents whose child was molested, or the family of a murdered celeb, or until someone's broken into your house because of what you do for a living (which happened to me about two and a half years ago,) don't take for granted that my cautions are over the top.
That's not to say that everyone who's a fan is bad, nor that I automatically assume the worst of people. I've met some very dear friends through networks of fandom, including my friend K in Tucson. She and I have spent many an hour talking on the phone, and I've been to her home there. She's become something of a touchstone with me, albeit in a diminished capacity since MC has become a part of my life.
That's only one example, but you get the idea.
Fortunately MC is supportive of my particular brand of lunacy, paranoia and all. He's begun to grasp what it can entail and understands why even though I have a relatively high profile job and am obligated to a certain amount of community involvement, when it comes to my personal life I am pretty darned close to hermitdom.
I suppose it's time to shut this down and get back to work this morning. Despite some sad news and the sad tone of this entry, I am in a reasonably good mood today. It's Friday and I've accomplished a lot this week. I just hate seeing news of someone who died unneccessarily young...
Before - After
In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )