Category Archives: Celebrity Focus

Justin Beiber, Matthew Fox Cases Illuminate a Dark Side of Fame

Now that Mariah Yeater’s text messages have revealed that Justin Bieber is not the father of her baby, time will tell whether Beiber will go forward with legal action against the young woman — who was out to get support money from the pop star with a paternity suit that’s now been withdrawn.  She claimed a quick backstage tryst.  He says he never even met her. 

And time will tell whether Matthew Fox will succeed with legal action against Ohio bus driver Heather Bormann, who said the former “Lost” star punched her.  Authorities found insufficient evidence to press criminal charges against Fox, and last week, he countersued Bormann.

Whatever the outcomes, this is true:  One of the dark sides of fame is that celebrities are targets for attempts at legal money grabs and vendettas by people in their lives, people they barely know — or sometimes, people they’ve never even met.  When such attempts involve sex and the proverbial he said/she said, the potential for injustice grows exponentially for those who are innocent — yet have to endure high-cost legal battles and negative press that can cause real harm to careers and lives.  

Consider the case of Michael Flatley.  Ireland’s “Lord of the Dance” was sued for $35 million in 2003 by a woman who claimed that he had raped her in a Las Vegashotel room.  Flatley’s version of events had it that the first he heard of the claim was two months after they’d spent the night together, consensually, when the woman’s attorney contacted Flatley’s attorney saying she’d tell the public Flatley had raped her if he didn’t pay a specified amount.  He declined, contacted the FBI to investigate – and filed a $100 million lawsuit against her and her lawyer. Flatley’s suit alleged that the attorney had committed extortion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, fraud, and wrongful interference with business relations.

Flatley’s attorney explained: “We filed the lawsuit because what this lady did was outrageous…It will do tremendous damage to Mr. Flatley. Even when he wins the case, some people will still believe the accusations.”

The case against Flatley was eventually thrown out (while a motion to dismiss his countersuit was denied), but that event was barely a blip on the media radar – until a couple years later, when DNA tests showed that Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher had fathered the two-month-old baby of Tyna Marie Robertson.

Robertson is the same woman who sued Flatley.  The information came to light that Robertson had dated other wealthy and well-known men through the years – relationships that sometimes ended in litigation – through private investigator Ernie Rizzo, who noted that he worked for Urlacher and Flatley.

Obviously, sometimes accusations of sexual misconduct against celebrities are true – and there are also certainly many instances of guilty parties who never suffer any consequences.  But those wrongs don’t make the injustice of the above circumstances any less clear.

Conrad Murray a Scapegoat for Over-Prescribing Doctors, the Face of a Drug Industry Run Amok

Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson

What will be the after-effects of Dr. Conrad Murray being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter this week?  It’s easy to assume that his precipitous fall, from being the King of Pop’s private physician to being a convict, will serve as a warning to other doctors-to-the-stars – but the impact should be broader than that. 

You might believe that Michael Jackson, as extremely troubled as he was indulged, was so many light years away from average citizens that he and his personal Dr. Feelgood have nothing to do with us.  But regular Joes and Janes do have parallels to Jackson:  We live in a culture where pharmaceuticals seem to be offered as solutions to every problem, where they’re widely accepted as Answer No. 1 to whatever ails us. 

Conrad Murray is guilty, true, but he’s a scapegoat for all over-prescribing medicos, too – and the face of a prescription drug industry that’s run rampant for decades, especially since the Food and Drug Administration decided to allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to the public in 1998.   Just two years later, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that every dollar that the pharmaceutical industry spent on advertising yielded $4.20 in drug sales.  The result: drugs hyped to the skies!  Nowhere is the absurdity of it all clearer than in the ongoing assault of hideous drug warnings foisted on the television viewing public day and night.  We’ll turn yellow, constipated and have thoughts of suicide?  Lord have mercy.

As with everything in the U.S.A., celebrities lead the way.  If they can sell handbags and cars by virtue of their glamour and panache, goodness knows they can sell drugs.  Even ones we might not need or that might not be good for us.

 It’s sickening to read the list of drugs to which Jackson was addicted and think about how they affected his body in his last months — and that this isn’t a case of speedballs or other illicit drugs such as killed stars like John Belushi and River Phoenix.  Jackson’s drugs were all legal. 

So were the drugs that took the life of Heath Ledger in 2008.  The 28-year-old died after ingesting a lethal cocktail consisting of: OxyContin; Hydrocodone (an ingredient in Vicodin); Diazepam or Valium;  Alprazolan or Xanax; Temazepam or Restoril (prescribed for  insomnia); and Doxylamine, an antihistamine over-the-counter sleep aid sold in the U.S. as Unisom.

In 2007, a combination of prescription and over-the-counter drugs killed Anna Nicole Smith.  Those included three antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs, plus a sleep medication.

Dorothy Dandridge, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Keith Moon – they all died from overdoses of legal drugs as well.  (Clint Eastwood’s new “J. Edgar” film starring Leonardo DiCaprio shows that even the iconic FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover had some help from a Dr. Feelgood.  It’s the American way.)

In September 1979, Elvis Presley’s private physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, was charged by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners with “indiscriminately prescribing 5,300 pills and vials for Elvis in the seven months before his death.” He was later acquitted. 

But not Conrad Murray.

Why might this case make more of an impact on society than other similar cases? 

Because it comes at a time when Americans may be reaching a tipping point of annoyance with the overselling of drugs – drugs many can’t afford.  It’s not the array of life-saving modern miracle medications that has people complaining, let’s be clear.  It’s the obvious excesses.  Restless legs and four-hour erections and other problems the public didn’t seem to have a decade ago tell the tale.  Doctors have volunteered that these days, they find themselves talking patients out of medications they’ve seen on TV that aren’t appropriate for them.   A public clamor for change could force advertisers to reach out to consumers in a more conscientious way – less offensive, ridiculous and manipulative.  Prescription medication shouldn’t be treated like magic candy that can make it all better. 

Which brings us back to Michael Jackson.  Sadly, he seems to have thought exactly that. 

 

Don’t Look Now, but Hollywood is Bringing Us Some Positive Christian Characters

Sandra Bullock in 'The Blind Side'

Sandra Bullock in 'The Blind Side'

What do Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side,” Candace Cameron Bure in “Make it Or Break It” and Yvette Nicole Brown in “Community” have in common? Besides being famous and beautiful, that is.

Each has a character currently in a mainstream hit who is an avowed Christian, who is not a buffoon, a villain, ignorant or crazy — as has often been the case with Christian characters in product emanating from Hollywood in the last two or three decades.

Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, real-life adoptive mother of Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher, has her in the Oscar running, in fact.

Candace Cameron Bure

Candace Cameron Bure

Bure’s quietly faithful and sympathetic character, Summer Van Horn, is a standout in the hot ABC Family “Make it Or Break It” series about a group of champion gymnasts. She has been seen winning the confidence and friendship of the show’s beleaguered bad girl, Lauren (Cassie Scerbo).

Brown’s divorced mother, “Community” college student character, Shirley Bennett, certainly has her foibles, including repressed anger. The Christmas episode of the Joel McHale series had Shirley in a very unattractive, disapproving mode — but she learned a lesson about the perils of rushing to judgment by the end. She’s trying to be a better person and is ultimately likeable despite her failings. Those layers of character make Brown, a Christian in real life, feel happy indeed.

Yvette Nicole Brown

Yvette Nicole Brown

A hip comedy from the co-creator of “The Sarah Silverman Program” — Dan Harmon — might not be the place one would expect to find such a character, but Brown is quick to let us know that Harmon is respectful of her faith. And evidently, some of his cues about how to write Shirley’s Christian ways have come from Brown herself.

She tells us with a laugh, “Dan watches all of us like a hawk, and none of us will ever admit what things got in that made it out of our own mouths or happened in real life.”

As for what she’d like in Shirley’s future? “I’d love her to have a chaste love affair — a divorced Christian woman, a mother, wanting to keep it together ’til she gets another ring? Dealing with that mine field? It would be nice for people to see that option. I think it would be kind of cute. Goodness knows, we see enough of people going the other route.”

Stacy Jenel Smith