Thursday, April 30, 2015

That's Entertainment?

I have been watching “Everybody Love Raymond,” for almost 20 years. The show ended in 2005, but I still watch an average of an episode or two a day. I was saddened to learn that one of the twin boys, Sawyer Sweeten, who played Geoffrey Barone, committed suicide. He started on the show when he was a year and a half old. He spent half his life on the set and the other half living a private life. It’s upsetting and shocking to hear of someone so young, with so much living ahead of them, ending their life. I can only hope his family will be allowed to grieve in peace and heal from this devastating loss. His death, like that of so many other actors, raised questions in my mind about the lifestyle for which there are probably no answers.

The entertainment industry is exciting. Everyone aspiring to be an actor would love to get their big break. They want their share of fame and fortune. They want to do what they love to do, act. There is a lot of money to be made if you make a name for yourself, which isn’t easy. You get lots of attention and adoring fans. A lot of times the focus is on the “up” side of the business. But, if everything is so great about it, why do we hear so many negative things associated with it? Is it all worth it? I don’t know, for many it seems to be.

When I think about a career in entertainment, I think about the high divorce rate among actors. There are very few happy marriages that stand the test of time. I haven’t researched it, but it seems as though the divorce rate for actors is even higher than the norm (which is over 50%). Maybe it’s due to the separation from all the traveling necessary to make movies? Maybe all those hot sexy scenes between co-workers end up going a step too far? I recall reading about Meryl Streep, a favorite of mine, who has been married 35 years to sculptor Don Gummer. I remember thinking the key to her long marriage was that she married someone outside of the “industry,” and she lived in the Midwest where she could give her children a normal childhood away from Hollywood. Meryl also said she would not take jobs that took her away from home for long and would take others, that weren’t the best roles, so she could be close to her family. Meryl seemed to have figured out the secret that other stars had not. I thought Meryl’s marriage had been unscathed by the Hollywood lifestyle. But recently I read that years ago, only nine years into her marriage, Meryl allegedly had an affair with Jack Nicholson. This is said to have happened back in 1987 while they were making the movie, “Ironweed.” A new biography has been written about Jack that spilled the details of the affair. And, although Meryl and her husband had gotten through her alleged indiscretion back in 1987, the book has reopened a sore subject and old wounds, and now even her marriage is reportedly in serious trouble. There goes my theory. Now I have to wonder, if sooner or later, almost every star will have at least one divorce under his or her belt.

Another sacrifice anyone famous has to make is giving up their privacy. There is no such thing as privacy when your name is a household word. Everything about your personal life is fair game for the media. Every move you make is documented. Every mistake exploited. You cannot even grieve the loss of a loved one without your phone ringing off the hook or microphones being shoved in your face wanting to know “how you feel.” The relentless press hounds you wherever you go. This is what I believe cost Princess Diana her life in the end, and two young boys their mother. Privacy is the one thing money can’t seem to buy and the price one pays for fame. Is it worth it?

What about life in the fast lane? The overuse of drugs and alcohol and all the partying? How many times have we heard of a celebrity going to rehab? How many have totaled cars? How many have died from overdoses? Are the drugs just more accessible to celebrities or do they just have the financial means to buy them for recreational purposes? Aren’t their lives exciting enough without needing another kind of “high.” They should be living to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but instead they are dying because of it.

And this leads me to wonder about depression and why so many celebrities are afflicted with it? Is the incidence of depression higher among celebrities than the general population? I don’t know. Research seems to indicate that there is a higher risk of suicide among people who are “creative,” in fact, as much as 50% higher. They also say that people with depression tend to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. But no one really has the answers at this point, at least not the answers needed to help these individuals before they can no longer cope with life. It’s very sad that some of the very people who have everything to live for end up dying so young. Sawyer was just one of many. His family says depression runs in the family, so maybe Sawyer’s death wasn’t related to being an actor at all. Maybe being an entertainer has nothing to do with why actors commit suicide. Maybe the industry just attracts creative people who suffer from depression. Maybe people who hate the way they feel as themselves and try to escape those feelings by acting as someone else?

No one knows how different celebrities’ lives would have been if they hadn’t chosen to be actors and lived another lifestyle, a more normal lifestyle. I have been watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I discovered that two of the wives are sisters and were on Little House on the Prairie, as children. The older of the two sisters, Kim Richards, is currently in rehab after a recent session with Dr. Phil. Kim Richards has been an alcoholic for many years and has probably abused pain medication. I recently read that as a child actress she may have been raped and sexually molested by men on the set. Her mother reportedly told her the abuse was okay. It was part of the price she had to pay for getting jobs as an actress. A high and damaging price that she has been paying decades later. What would her life have been like hadn’t she been pushed into show business and pressured to do whatever it takes to get ahead? We don’t like to think about this very ugly side of the industry, but it unfortunately it’s no secret that things like this often happened years ago.

That's entertainment.

May you rest in peace, Sawyer Sweeten.

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