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The face of entertainment has changed radically over the last decade—and dangerously so. Stars like Britney, Paris, Lindsay, Amy Winehouse—and their media enablers—have altered what we consider "normal" behavior. According to addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky and business and entertainment expert Dr. S. Mark Young, a high proportion of celebrities suffer from traits associated with clinical narcissism—vanity, exhibitionism, entitlement, exploitativeness—and the rest of us, especially young people, are ...
The face of entertainment has changed radically over the last decade—and dangerously so. Stars like Britney, Paris, Lindsay, Amy Winehouse—and their media enablers—have altered what we consider "normal" behavior. According to addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky and business and entertainment expert Dr. S. Mark Young, a high proportion of celebrities suffer from traits associated with clinical narcissism—vanity, exhibitionism, entitlement, exploitativeness—and the rest of us, especially young people, are mirroring what we witness nightly on our TV and computer screens.
A provocative, eye-opening study, The Mirror Effect sounds a timely warning, raising important questions about our changing culture—and provides insights for parents, young people, and anyone who wonders what the cult of celebrity is really doing to America.
New York, New York, 1962
When Marilyn Monroe arrived at Madison Square Garden to perform at a gala Democratic Party fundraiser and birthday salute to President John F. Kennedy, her reputation as a temperamental, sexy, vulnerable, and troubled star preceded her. Her erratic behavior on the set of her latest film, Something's Got to Give, had compromised the production, and her producers had failed to keep her in Hollywood. The rumor that she was having an affair with JFK had become widely circulated, and she was ill with a high fever. However, nothing was going to prevent Marilyn from making her appearance at this historic event. When Peter Lawford introduced her, the crowed roared as she shrugged out of her white ermine stole, revealing a flesh-colored, sequined gown, so form-fitting she had literally been sewn into it. She minced across the stage and into the spotlight. Despite her unsteady appearance and disjointed performance, her oppressively sexy, nightclub-style version of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" was mesmerizing. JFK's nearly speechless reaction only added to Marilyn's legend, as the entire nation was riveted by this early, and very public, collision of sex, politics, and Hollywood.
College Park, Maryland, 1974
By the mid-1970s, Elvis Presley was deep in the throes of a dependence on prescription drugs. It should have been apparent to any observer, as evidenced by his dramatic weight gain and puffy face, his inability to remember lyrics, his slurred speech, and his rambling diatribes during his shows. According to Jerry Hopkins, author of Elvis: The Final Years, "It was a bad time for Elvis. Everything seemed to be coming apart."
The King was in rough shape when he arrived to play a concert at the University of Maryland. When Elvis arrived at the venue, he fell out of the limousine to his knees. As his band looked on in horror, he staggered up the stairs to the stage. Grabbing the microphone for balance and slurring his words, he swayed on his feet as he rambled his way through a two-hour show. Elvis ended his performance with a tirade against the rumors that he was "strung out" on drugs, imploring his fans to take his word, rather than that of movie magazines, gossip columnists, or reporters. Five months later he was hospitalized to treat an enlarged colon, the press was told. Years later, his private physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, confirmed that the main reason for the hospitalization was to allow Elvis to undergo drug detoxification.
Los Angeles, California, 1999
By the time Robert Downey, Jr., dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, appeared in a Malibu courtroom to answer to his third parole violation in as many years, the gifted actor, musician, and physical comedian had become as famous for his addictions as for his talent. His fans and detractors knew all the details of his downward spiral. The multiple arrests, imprisonments, and stints in rehab had all made tabloid headlines; the entertainment press dissected each comeback and fall with mingled horror and relish. There was the arrest for speeding and drunk driving, along with possession of heroin, crack cocaine, and an unloaded gun. There was the bizarre incident when he was found passed out in a bed at his neighbor's house and arrested for being under the influence of drugs. His continued drug use caused him to violate his parole continually. Downey didn't deny he had a problem. "It's like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger's on the trigger," he told the judge. "And I like the taste of the gunmetal." Downey was sentenced to the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and state prison in Corcoran. A year later, he was released on bail and went to work on the popular series Ally McBeal. However, neither a year in prison, nor a critically acclaimed role on a hit series, were motivation enough to curb his self-destructive tendencies. On a break from working on the show he was arrested again, at a posh resort in Palm Springs, California, when police found cocaine and Valium in his room after receiving an anonymous 911 call.
Three very different stars; three snapshots of the kind of celebrity conduct that has spread to epidemic proportions in today's celebrity landscape. When I look at the behavior of Marilyn, Elvis, and Robert Downey, Jr., and the actions of the people around them during their careers, I see a pattern that has only been amplified in today's world.
After her death, Marilyn Monroe's addiction to opiates and other pharmaceutical drugs was well documented, as was her oversexualized behavior, her penchant for nudity, and her constant preoccupation with her image. But while she was alive, she sought stability in her relationships, marrying men like Joe DiMaggio, whom she considered a "decent" man, and Arthur Miller, the bookish American playwright. Despite her carefully maintained persona as a ditzy blonde, Marilyn cared deeply that she be perceived as a talented actress. She was ambitious in her career, and longed for a family to enhance her lonely personal life.
Her childhood was traumatic. She never knew who her father was, and her mother was institutionalized for mental illness. Marilyn spent much of her young life in foster homes and with family friends. She was sexually abused at a young age, married for the first time at sixteen, and divorced four years later. Arriving in Hollywood at the age of twenty, she used her sexuality to seduce agents, producers, directors, and the American public. Increasingly addicted to barbiturates, pain-killers, and alcohol, Marilyn nevertheless built a successful career, making thirty films in her sixteen-year career, and along the way establishing herself as a Hollywood icon.
Excerpted from The Mirror Effect by Drew Pinsky S. Mark Young Copyright © 2009 by Drew Pinsky . Excerpted by permission.
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Posted August 16, 2012
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