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2003-07-08 Insecure Stars

Performing is for many an erratic existence, and yet for whatever reason, it appears to attract some of the most insecure from society (no letters please). It seems a little bizarre that these people choose as their profession to go onto a public platform, revealing their talents before thousands of people, and in so doing laying themselves naked to the world's press.

 

Like millions worldwide, I watched as Michael Jackson gave the press enough ammunition to alienate him totally from the civilised world. We already knew he was prone to performing behind a gauze to avoid contamination, and yet, kept a monkey as his best friend. As a child, he was a star onstage, but off stage he was beaten by his father, so it really is no wonder that he continues to try to relive the childhood he never had while using his millions to give enjoyment to other children.

 

I say `other children' as he himself is still a child. His house is inspired by Peter Pan. "I'm Peter Pan in my heart" he proclaimed to a worldwide TV audience of millions. Michael Jackson dwells in a child's Utopia. Some of his closest friends are children. He himself is a father and yet, despite his best efforts, his paternal instincts are weird to the extreme. He is an 8 year-old locked in the body of a 44 year-old. As a young boy, his face was constantly criticised and he was called ugly, so maybe that helps explain why he has had his face remoulded beyond recognition. He even talks like an 8 year-old and lies with the full expectation that those interviewing him and viewing him will believe him. I wonder if, from an early age, Michael Jackson had been given the love and sense of security every childs deserves, would we ever have witnessed his incredible talents? Many of today's pop icons display instability in their behaviour. Björk famously thumped a Thai journalist in the face as she was welcomed toThailand, Mariah Carey had a very public breakdown, the extremely talented Robbie Williams has behaved unacceptably more than once, and Diana Ross has had many unstable episodes.

We have seen the effect fame and fortune had on Aganetha from my favourite group of all time - ABBA - she now lives the life of a recluse on her own island in the Stockholm archipelago. The life of "The King" (Elvis) is testimony to his inability to cope with superstar status.

 

Of course one of the saddest showbiz tales of all time has to be that of Judy Garland. From the age of 3, Frances Gumm (her real name) was pushed onstage by her unnaturally pushy mother. "Baby Gumm" was a star, and turning out films throughout her childhood, if you could call it a childhood. A cocktail of drugs kept her slim, awake and bright-eyed for filming, and then helped her sleep at night. Judy Garland was an addict from childhood until her tragic premature death. Like Michael Jackson, her childhood was stolen from her, causing devestation in her adult personal life. A series of disfunctional relationships meant that this hugely talented star never got the one thing that was missing in her life - love.

Lanza, Björling, McCormack, Corelli and other tenor stars had far from secure lives. Maria Callas's never-ending search for love, for the perfect image and for a child pushed this unhappy Diva into an early grave. More recently, Kathleen Battle, fired from the Met in New York, is one of the worst-behaved sopranos of her time. Paradoxically, it is often those who spend their lives making others laugh who themselves are the saddest within. The flawed lives of Tony Hancock, Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper, Michael Barrymore and Woody Allen alone are testament to that. The disturbing biography and letters of the late Kenneth Williams, camp star of the "Carry-on" films as well as the hilarious "Round the Horne", paint an off-air picture of a sad, lonely and paranoid man.

 

Of course media sensationalism accounts for some of the stories which grab our attention, but there is no doubt, for whatever reason, showbiz does seem to attract some of the most insecure specimens from the human race. I am sure someone out there has the answers.