Funny Thing ... Fame
One of the more amazing things to me about the Beatles is that, considering the international status they attained at such young ages, they remained, relatively speaking, normal.
Sure, Paul McCartney tends toward self aggrandizement and George Harrison was overly suspicious. Ringo Starr made a few questionable career moves ("Caveman"? "Thomas the Tank Engine"?). And John Lennon, bless his soul, thought peace was attainable.
But considering their level of superstardom, they were reasonably down to earth — especially when compared to, say, Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley.
Extraordinary fame at an extraordinarily young age is evidently not the end-all we mere mortals believe it to be. The annals of pop culture are rife with premature obituaries; young entertainers who succumbed to either pressure or misadventure. Think Jimi Hendrix, Freddie Prinze, Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix.
Keep that in mind if tempted to gloat over the ongoing troubles of celebutantes like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and, especially, Lindsay Lohan.
Young, rich, telegenic and — to varying degrees — troubled, this trio fuels celebrity-gossip magazines and Web sites, not to mention stand-up routines. But it's all getting a bit ... uncomfortable.
Just this year we've seen:
• Hilton in emotional hysterics as she was sent — and resent — to jail for violating probation on a driving ban;
• Spears engage in increasingly bizarre public behavior including attacking a car with an umbrella, impulsively shaving her head and flashing the paparazzi;
• Lohan endured two rehab stints and two drunken driving arrests, the first of which followed a hit-and-run crash, the second of which included charges of cocaine possession.
Their ages are 26, 25 and 21 respectively. All have been in the spotlight since at least their mid-teens; none is presently handling it well.
Lohan may be the farthest gone. Not yet a month past her 21st birthday, she has already amassed a string of traffic accidents, a party-girl reputation that was not helped by a recent photo of her passed out in the front seat of a car and mounting questions over her acting career.
Producer James G. Robinson publicly lambasted Lohan last summer for repeatedly arriving late to the set of “Georgia Rule," saying, "We are well aware that your ongoing all-night heavy partying is the real reason for your so-called 'exhaustion.'"
Other Hollywood types, such as veteran publicist Michael Levine, say her erratic behavior is torpedoing her career.
“I don’t see how she’s employable for the next 18 months,” he said. “Who’s going to insure her?”
It's not so much insurance that Lohan needs; it's help. So do Spears and, to a lesser extent, Hliton.
The millionaire hotel heiress seems the most stable at the moment. She's got her jail stint behind her, has embarked on promised charity work and the worst of her scandals — public dissemination of home videos that show she not just filthy rich, she's filthy — have abated for now.
Spears, who has been in and out of rehab all year, appears less stable. DKI magazine reported that she was a mess at a photo shoot last week; destroying clothing, taking frequent trips to the bathroom and bolting early with $14,000 worth of apparel.
“She needs to have a really strong team to advise her what to do, what not to do,” the magazine's editor-in-chief Sarah Ivens said, rather charitably.
But Lohan's behavior has become downright worrisome. Her partying seems to have gone from foolhardy to self-destructive. She's proclaiming her innocence in the latest arrest, but it includes a felony charge, which means there is a very real chance she may face jail time.
Like Spears, she could use "a really strong team to advise her."
A phone call from McCartney or Starr wouldn't hurt.
Kevin Frisch is managing editor of the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, N.Y. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 257, or via e-mail at KFrisch@MPNewspapers.com.