Monday, January 21, 2008

Celebrity Conspiracy

I have these friends…we all do, we former punks and hippies…the ones that think everything is a conspiracy, currently that the 15,000 billionaires in the US want to basically eradicate those of us who don’t function solely to enhance their lives. That the economy is essentially going to collapse, leaving our pension funds and social security bankrupt, while these guys have cashed out all the monopoly money that never really existed, but there it is now, the profits made on all the Enrons of our era—in their fat safe bank accounts and wallets. That the IRS is an anti-constitutional invention, that the Federal Reserve is corrupt, that anyone who speaks out and attempts to tell the dirty truth will be taken out and shot or thrown into some kind of cyber-dungeon.

Some of these people believe not only that Kennedy was killed because he had too much power, as were Martin Luther King, John Lennon; but ditto Buddy Holly, Otis Redding…Stevie Ray… inside-industry murders that today are done Tupac-style. That Eric Clapton’s baby was thrown out of that window to insure he would cooperate with the bastards who cream the money out of the music business which today is shipwrecked and relegated to whoever gets the most myspace hits.

That the entire entertainment sector— the increasingly addicting and reality-based subjects of gaming, the epidemic mediocrity of television and cinema…is all part of this conspiracy to numb our flaccid American minds into a stupor from which it will be difficult to object, criticize or even exercise our right to vote because we must actually get up and go out and maybe miss an inning or a realtime episode of Celebrity Rehab.

Which brings me to yet another landmark in what seems the hell-bent determination of the television industry to bring us yet further down this pathway of irremediable cotton-brain. It is not enough that we must set before our growing children the super-model competitions where girls who have regularly eaten fewer calories than a Chihuahua are told that they are fat, where America’s ‘spokesmodels’ are not intelligent girls with goals, but real-life airbrushed versions of two-dimensional beauty-ads. It is not enough that the athletes of our generation are now chemically enhanced, and wearing and driving their success in the form of obscenely priced goods which individually could feed the population of Rwanda for a year. And the media constantly shows us their young mistakes— their arrests, their speeding tickets, their weakness for drama. Now we learn half the sports are tampered-with. The refs are corrupt, the games are fixed. Why not? Everything else is. And we are still watching. Still betting, still worshipping.

But now we have to peer through our screens into a Pasadena houseful of these people who are maybe so deeply in debt that they are forced to parade their addictions in a rehab facility. Where the staff social workers are better looking than the average Desperate Housewife. Camera-ready. So who are the actors? The token athlete…the rockstar? Is this real? Is the vomiting real? What if they miss a ‘take’? How is it they manage to edit the episodes into a perfect hour with breaks for commercials? Is this another mutation of voyeurism? Was ‘Intervention’ not enough for those of us with an addictive need to watch others’ ruined lives bottoming while sitting on sofas popping open cans of beer and washing down Xanax and Zoloft? Is this supposed to help us?

I tried to get a friend to go to rehab last year. He is drinking himself into inactivity and depression. I found that these rehab places charge more than the average American family earns, for one month. And you know those Crossroad benefit concerts? Eric Clapton? His place charged more than any of the others. Rent in Antigua has to be lower than New York City. Where are all those millions you raised going, Eric? Because the person I spoke with wouldn’t give us a break and didn’t want to even speak unless we had a $15,000 downpayment and a roundtrip ticket. But I don’t think this guy would look good on camera. Funny…they didn’t televise the auditions for this show. That would have been some entertainment.

I guess Brigitte Neilsen’s addictions have been massive, because this is like the 30th degrading reality show she’s appeared on in 3 years. But I have to say she may be the only real person there. She is maternal and sympathetic and unretouched. Then again, she is European. Nobility and flesh. We’re talking American here. Botox and plastic; hairweaves and collagen. And that Dr. Drew is the most annoying self-promoting talking head fake since Imus. And seems about as human as a robot. Personally I’d want advice from someone with experience. Not the kind you get sharing a joint at a fraternity party. Someone who’d used a department-store pin to pop open a vein. Someone who’d puked in public, someone with unflattering mugshots and true humiliation.

Perhaps the toughest question these inmates must grapple with: is rehabilitated life going to be so much better for people who maybe have lost the ability to have fun or to create, who will have to look in a real mirror at the damage they have done in an industry where looks are everything and human value no longer counts? Where they may have to face lung cancer or car accidents or debt. And what about the rest of us? Those who slaved away socking away pensions which may now be disappearing because of the excessive greed of banks and mortgage brokers? What will a 'clean' retirement feel like on welfare? What were our rewards? Makes you think. I may have a clear conscience but is there a gold pot for being a responsible parent and working hard to remain debt-free? Maybe I should have been smoking crack and partying. At least these people are earning enough on VH-1 to afford plastic surgery. A house. And there will be residuals.

I’m backing myself into a corner here. I’d meant to talk about elections and the 9/11 hangover. I’ve been sidetracked. Diluted. Diverted. But wasn’t that the point?

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