Okay, we’re probably going to piss a lot of people off with this post, but controversial topics spawn the best debates. As a matter of fact, it was this issue that brought Inion N. Mathair to a healthy verbal sparring the other day while we watched a bio about Robert Downey Jr.
(Inion: I’m a huge Robert Downey Jr. fan and have been since I first saw the movie Chances Are…. Just thought I’d give you that special note… and just in case RJD were to ever find his way onto Two Voices, One Thought.)
The bio, “E-True Hollywood Story” had a candid look into this actor’s brilliant career, most notably his tumultuous fall from grace. It truly was an amazing story that played out like a big Hollywood production. I’m sure to Robert it’s been a hell of a climb, but one he should be proud of.
Overcoming heroin, cocaine, marijuana and valium addiction as well as alcoholism, there wasn’t anything this young man didn’t try; including serving one year hard time at Corcoran State Pen, (famous for housing Charlie Manson).
During the show, a director, who was known for working with Robert Downey Jr. on many films as both director and screenwriter, made an unimaginable statement. “The actor I worked with has lost his edge. He’s clearly under some influence which has flattened him out,” Toback said. “He’s not, apparently, doing any drugs. He’s not going up and down. He’s on an even keel, and he’s become the most successful robotic cartoon character in movie history.”
Did he really say that?
Let’s pull our shame-shame fingers out and begin the rants. Lord knows we did! No one in their right state of mind would tell someone that they were a better person when they were addicts: More interesting and much more talented where work is concerned. Would they?!
Before we begin crucifying a guy that said this socially unacceptable thing and came close to committing career suicide, check this out. The narrating journalist noted that more than four well-known directors that had worked with Downey during his addiction era knew that he’d been wasted on set while filming.
They were well aware of his dependencies, but the work he did was so “phenomenal, edgy, utterly brilliant” that they put up with the bullshit just to get those few moments on tape that were Oscar worthy performances.
We were wondering why those directors weren’t held accountable or at least verbally reprimanded for not only allowing Downey’s behavior on set, but condoning it. Why is it so morally reprehensible and politically incorrect to say you prefer a drugged out, loose cannon waiting to fire, but it’s perfectly fine to admit that you knew a man that was on a road-trip to overdose and overlooked it because the performance was so damn good? Isn’t it just as evil to turn your face and keep quiet?! Does the word H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E- ring a bell?
Now we know this is a rancid, taboo topic, but we had to ask ourselves ‘Does an artist’s work change when they come off drugs and does it leave their work with less of an edge?’
THE 27 CLUB is a nickname given to the grouping of artists who’ve died at the age of 27 at the peak of their careers. When we googled this name, we found more than 3,000 sites with articles from reputable journalists who were curious about the notorious age.
The common link we found in all the articles written about THE 27 CLUB was that most thought there was some supernatural curse or Karma balancing act that deemed it unnatural to live famous past this young age, especially given the death occurs during the height of that artists’ career. The similar cause was drugs/alcohol overdose.
To say these singers, actors, poets, these iconic Artists were gifted is putting it mildly.
Janice Joplin, Singer, Songwriter died under that same curse at 27. Was it heroin, alcohol or fame?! The coroner’s report stated: Probable Drug Overdose/Heroin.
Jimi Hendrix: Asphyxiation related to drug overdose
Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, guitarist, Multi-instrumentalist. His coroner’s report stated “Death by misfortune”, but it was later stated drugs.
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan: Keyboardist for The Grateful Dead.
Rudy Lewis: The Drifters/ Coroner’s Report, Overdose-Heroin
Dickie Pride: Rock-n-Roll- Corner’s Report: Sleeping Pills
Amy Winehouse: Singer/Songwriter-Alcohol Poisoning
Kurt Cobain: Lead singer and founder of Nirvana. Coroner’s Report stated death by self-inflicted Shotgun wound/Suicide. But so much controversy overshadowed his case that recently the Seattle Police Department have begun an investigation to find out the why’s in Kurt’s case. For example, the amount of Heroin in Kurt’s body was enough to kill a bull elephant. More than 3 doctors want to know how he was able to shoot himself as the heroin would’ve killed him within seconds. We’ll leave that one for another post and time!
We could keep going because the list was unbelievably long, but these are just a few.
Of course there are some that died much too young but managed to beat the curse; some by a year or two over: Heath Ledger, Hank Williams Sr.
Some by three or four years too young: River Phoenix (heroin), Sid Vicious, Frankie Lymon (heroin), Brad Renfro (heroin)
And some actually saw their 30’s or 40’s before overdosing: Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Chris Farley (herion), John Belushi (heroin), Nick Cantor (heroin), Rodney Harvey (heroin).
As we discussed this, we realized what it was about this question that bothered us most. We began to understand what a journalist from Rolling Stone Magazine said. “These gods of Rock and film are idolized by the public for their adventurous, flamboyant lifestyles of excess. We worship them, want them and deep down want to be them.”
But it’s that very lifestyle of excess that makes them bad-boys and girls. It gave them that feeling of invincibility and that nothing could touch them. They felt above the law, above life and death, therefore unable to die. That attitude seeps out of the screen and off the stage like lava slowly igniting us and consuming our hearts, minds and souls.
From the Rat Pack to the Brat Pack, the bad boys of Hollywood find a following in women who know that they are everything their mama’s warned them about. Yet we run to them like moths to the flame and are surprised when their lights burn out much too young!
So, what of the docile bad boy/girl? What about a bad boy/girl that doesn’t push the envelope, doesn’t live life like there is no tomorrow, but embraces and respects the fame, Art and life they were given? What would their music evoke and their movies inspire?
Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison wrote and performed under the influence, but what would their art have sounded like sober and/or clean? Would the end product be as great?
Edgar Allan Poe was said to have written while under the protective cradle of Opium. By submitting to the demon, he unleashed the darkness that enveloped his soul and tapped into a hellish fountain of brilliance that still has him idolized long after his death.
What say you?! Would these artists been as great on the sobering path to stardom? Or was part of their famed destiny meant to serve bright only to burn out fast?!
It’s a dark question….but one we think deserves to be answered! Let us hear your thoughts. Not for the number of comments, not to fill the space; Please open up on this dark topic & tell us how you feel? And if you have an idol that was bright, but burnt out fast, tell us!! 😉
Oh…& enjoy one of our favorites…..
Quote by Marilyn Monroe: “It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde.”
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”