Tag Archives: Britney Spears

Hope for Amanda Bynes: Stars Who Made it Back from the Abyss

amanda bynesAfter years of episodes of bizarre behavior that culminated in her starting a fire in a stranger’s driveway, Amanda Bynes is in psychiatric care.  It has been one of the sadder spectacles in the entertainment industry to see the “Hairspray” and “Amanda Show” star – who came off so charming, smart and seemingly well-grounded before she started to unravel – landing on tabloid front pages, in court, or on surveillance videos in multi-color wigs and odd attire.  Here’s hoping she gets the help she needs and is able to balance out.

Certainly, other famous performers have managed to pull themselves out of the abyss of mental problems — with help, of course — despite the added difficulty of being in the public eye.

Looking healthy and beautiful, and acting positively normal, Amanda’s fellow former child star Britney Spears is the first example that comes to mind of such a comeback.  However, despite the successes of recent years, the way she has acquitted herself onstage, on “The X-Factor” and in her personal life, she is still under the legal conservatorship of her father, Jamie Spears.  This is the residual effect of the star’s years-long meltdown that included the notorious 2007 incident in which Britney shaved her own head in a San Fernando Valley salon.

In 2000, you may recall, Anne Heche was found wandering in a rural area near Fresno, Calforni, knocking on doors, wearing very little clothing.  The gifted actress fully came back from that breakdown, professionally speaking, even though she retains a reputation for eccentricity.  In her “Call Me Crazy” memoir, she let readers know that on her home planet “I was called Celestia, the reincarnation of God.”

Nick Nolte’s eccentric behavior has become an expected part of Hollywood life – his strolls through Beverly Hills with Santa-size beard, his public appearances in pajamas, his statements about shooting human growth hormone into his stomach – not to mention telling Bryant Gumbel on the air that he’d had a testicle tuck.  He also told the world that he has had tanks of ozone bolted to walls in rooms all over his property because he believes “bad things can’t live in it…Gets more oxygen into your plasma. It’s all about getting oxygen into your brain.” Of course, he also says he’s lied to the press throughout his career.  Whatever, the actor continues to turn out tremendous performances in films such as the newly-unveiled “Hateship Loveship” with Kristen Wiig and Guy Pearce.  Toronto Film Festival pundits are already talking Oscar nominations.

Carrie Fisher has written extensively — and hilariously — about her struggles with bipolar illness, particularly in her 2008 memoir “Wishful Drinking,” which also became a hit one-woman show.  The author, screenwriter and “Star Wars” actress has also been a force in the fundraising/public service arena, raising awareness of mental illness issues and getting across the vital point that these illnesses, just like any others, must not be cause for shame.

“I went completely off the rails,” she told People magazine, referring to an episode five years ago when she was supposed to be entertaining on a cruise ship, and wound up having a bipolar incident in public.  “I don’t really remember what I did.  I haven’t watched the videos that people took.  I know it got bad.  I was in a very severe manic state, which bordered on psychosis.  Certainly delusional.”

Patty Duke can relate to the trauma Bynes has been going through.

In the 1960’s Duke was the beloved, Oscar-winning (“The Miracle Worker”) child actress who became the jaunty teen star of her own hugely popular TV show — who then grew up and melted down before the public’s eyes.  After her image-altering role in the 1967 cult fave “Valley of the Dolls,” her bizarre behavior, wild partying and high-profile romances sold forests’ worth of tabloids.  When she won an Emmy for her work in “My Sweet Charlie” in 1970, her behavior onstage convinced many she was on drugs and/or alcohol, and mockery ensued.  “We have taken Patty Duke’s acceptance speech down to the code room to be deciphered,” one major paper told the world.  “We will report what she said as soon as we figure it out.”

Eventually, Duke gained control of the bipolar illness at the root of her troubles, and with therapy found some healing for the agonized childhood she wrote about in her best-selling “Call Me Anna” memoir.  She was also able to resume her distinguished career, including serving as Screen Actors Guild president.

A few years ago, commenting on the press hounding of Demi Lovato, as the former Disney Channel sweetheart coped with a breakdown, Duke urged media restraint.  “”Be quiet and let the girl figure it out,” she said.  “These are people, these young girls.  Some of them can build a shield against the negative media, but most of them can’t — and it hurts.”

Lovato eventually went public with her own struggle, dealing with bipolar illness as well as eating disorders.

While mental illness affects people in every walk of life and every social strata, the show business realm is filled with circumstances that make things worse – particularly the obvious aspect of being in trouble while being watched by thousands, even millions.  Top level performers’ demanding, high-pressure lifestyles often include very little in the way of the stability and structure that afford the rest of us some semblance of order in our day-to-day existence.  Hangers-on who party and bring the drugs are a poisonous accompaniment to success for all too many of the famed.  On top of that, the sensitivities of creatively gifted people can open them up to mental and emotional danger on the job.

“To be a good actor you have to be something like a criminal, to be willing to break the rules to strive for something new,” Nicolas Cage once remarked.  The Oscar winner, whose passion for method acting led him to such antics as eating a live cockroach on camera in “Vampire’s Kiss” and smashing a street vendor’s remote control car while playing a brutal gangster in “The Cotton Club,” went on, “There’s a fine line between the method actor and the schizophrenic.”



As ‘X-Factor’ Competition Nears its Peak, ‘Excellence is Highly Expected’ Says Brian Friedman

            The “X-Factor’s” Brian Friedman dances skillfully around queries about the dramas going on behind the scenes on the Fox competition show that’s now in semi-finals, gearing up for its Dec. 20 grand finale.  For example, gossip maven Perez Hilton’s report that Britney Spears has been shunning fellow judge Demi Lovato as well as cohost Khloe Kardashian.

“It’s definitely a high tension work environment, that’s for sure,” he says, laughing.  “There’s never a dull day, I can give you that much.”

On top of his on-camera presence, Creative Director and Supervising Producer Friedman directs and stages every “X-Factor” performance, and heads up its team of choreographers.

It’s not unusual, he says, for dress rehearsals to generate “tons of notes for wardrobe changes, lighting changes, things being moved around” – and he’s in the middle of all the artists’ camps.

“There is a lot to take in, for sure, and that doesn’t even include the personalities that are around a show like this.  Everyone wants to win, so you see their attack mode come into play.  You’re dealing with egos.  It’s definitely a people position having to navigate through all the different personalities who are on the show.  It’s not easy at all times, but it helps me learn how to have patience,” he says.

Now there’s an understatement.

Regardless which of the “X-Factor” semi-finalists (pop princess-in-waiting Carly Rose Sonenclar, country star-to-be Tate Stevens, and boy and girl groups Emblem3 and Fifth Harmony, respectively) winds up nabbing the $5 million recording contract prize, they’ll be ready to move seamlessly into their professional career.  At least, that’s certainly the sense one gets from Friedman.

“The rehearsals we have with the contestants are straightforward and to the point.  We get them the information they need and they’ve just got to learn to work at a pace that is required when they’ve got changes at the last minute.  Sometimes they go on stage and they’re being redirected as they’re singing their song, where to go on stage,” says Friedman.  “Excellence is highly, highly expected.”

Friedman’s list of credits includes Spears’ videos and tours – as well as work with such names as Prince, Mya, Rihanna, *NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Usher, Pink and Mariah Carey.  He says that “All the artists I worked with outside of the show gave me a bar for the contestants to have to achieve to.  I don’t expect anything less than the greatness that I’ve worked with.  Although they are amateurs and they’re brand new, they want to compete in the industry with the professionals, so we treat them as if they are at that caliber and at that level already.

“I know what it takes to put on awards show performances.  I know what it takes to build massive tours for the biggest artists.  So, that’s essentially what we’re doing for these contestants here every week – we’re giving them a taste of what the real world will be like and also giving them a challenge to see if they can work within it.”

On the other hand, Friedman points out that contestants are under pressures that are different from the pros.  “This is a competition, and every week there is so much more at stake, they are a little more stressed, I would say, than your average recording artist, who is in rehearsal for a long period of time, getting time to work their show out.  There is a high stress factor here.  Sometimes it’s difficult.  ”

Interestingly, Friedman — who has spent more time working on the British version of “X Factor” than the American one – finds at least one big difference between the two Simon Cowell shows.  “It feels like over-all, the U.K. in general, they seem to have more fun.”

As for himself, he says he handles the tension by going to the gym.  “I work my troubles away in the workout.”  And “I’ve been doing some fun stuff for me.  I’ve spent so much time working behind the scenes, I’ve been inspired to create more.”

That includes his just-launched clothing line, BSBF (for Brian Says Be Free). “My experience with casual wear has been that if you want really great, sporty casual wear that is moveable and danceable and something you could wear on an airplane and look great, you have to spend crazy amounts of money on designer stuff.  The average casual clothes don’t have the same style. And I want that style, I come from a fashion, style world.  So, if I can’t find them I’m going to make them and make them available for the public to buy because style should be available at any budget.”

Whatever the drama factor may be, he’s glad the show has brought him and Britney together again.  “It’s just a coincidence, but it’s great.  I started working with Britney in’99, and I was with her through many tours and choreographed her through many so many of her videos and awards shows and I’ve just been a friend of hers through the years.  This is sort of full circle to see her sitting up there at the judges’ table.  It’s really cool, it’s somewhere I don’t think either of us could have said 10 years ago, I bet we’re going to be sitting on a reality show, judging together.”


Britney Spears and Jason Alexander

           With the celebrity-watching world sputtering and tweeting over the abrupt ending of Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marital union with Kris Humphries, at least the pair can take heart in knowing they’re not alone when it comes to enduring a brief, humiliating celebrity marriage. 

            Charlie Sheen’s wedding to model Donna Peele in 1996 came as a surprise to many — with him having testified just a few weeks earlier to having spent $53,000 on trysts with Heidi Fleiss’ call girls. Cynics groused that the marriage was all about Sheen trying to clean up his image. He insisted that wasn’t true, but either way, six months later it was over, and he went on to…Well, we all know what he went on to.

            In 2008, Pamela Anderson requested that her Sept. 29-Dec. 13, 2007 marriage to third husband Salomon be annulled in court, citing fraud.  In 2006, she was married to Kid Rock from July 29 to her Nov. 27 divorce filing.  

            Of course there was Britney Spears, with her Jan. 3, 2004, 5:30 a.m. “joke” wedding inLas Vegasto childhood chum Jason Allen Alexander. She reportedly arranged to have it annulled within hours.  By Jan. 4, Alexander was back home inLouisiana, with his grandfather telling reporters he’d “been through a lot” and didn’t have much to say.”

            Then there’s Drew Barrymore. In 1994, she suddenly and surprisingly wedL.A.bar owner Jeremy Thomas. That marriage lasted less than two months.

            And who could forget this one? On Nov. 14, 1998, former “Baywatch” actress Carmen Electra wed rainbow-haired, cross-dressing then-Chicago Bulls basketball star Dennis Rodman at the Chapel of the Flowers in Vegas. The bride wore a black Mark Wong Nark shirt and capris, and black high-heel platform shoes, and the groom wore a t-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap. After the ceremony, they went to breakfast at the Hard Rock Hotel with friends, and later, Carmen headed back toL.A.to shoot her “HyperionBay” series.

            Two days after the event, Rodman’s agent issued a statement claiming the marriage was “not legal” and that his client had been too intoxicated to know what he was doing. On Nov. 23, Rodman filed for an annulment citing “fraud” and an “unsound mind.”

            Michelle Phillips and the late Dennis Hopper were show business royalty – he, the hot star and director of “Easy Rider” glory, and she the lovely Mamas and the Papas singer — when they married in a surprise Halloween quickie wedding in 1970. But the marriage lasted a mere eight days, with Hopper publicly confessing he was in a fog of drugs and alcohol much of the time. Both survived the embarrassing fiasco well, however, each racking up career and personal successes in following years.

            Producer/former studio chieftain/Hollywood legend Robert Evans hastily wed 32 years younger actress Catherine Oxenberg in 1998 — and the marriage was annulled in nine days.  He explained to Variety, “I forgot it had only been six weeks since I had been hit with a stroke.”

            In 2000, Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton surprised the public (as well as Billy Bob’s fiancé, Laura Dern) with an impulsive wedding on theLas Vegasstrip. It lasted a comparatively long time — into 2002 — but there was plenty of embarrassment along the way. They shared intimate oddities about their relationship and gave lots’a public displays of affection, attesting to their wild passion. He said he liked to wear her lingerie under his clothes. They had his ‘n’ hers tattoos and wore vials of each other’s blood around their necks.

            Come to think of it, we were the ones who were embarrassed — not them. 

            From the looks of it, Kim Kardashian isn’t exactly red-faced either, heading off to Australia to promote her clothing line while gossips speculate on her feelings — or lack of feelings — for Humphries and the chances she might get back together with former beau, Reggie Bush.  At least for awhile.

Ryan Dunn Part of Growing Crowd of Anti-Role Model Celebrities

Ryan Dunn MTV photo

It’s sad, but it could be that the late “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn’s greatest legacy might be as an anti-role model. The daredevil, whose Porsche is said to have been traveling between 132 and 140 miles per hour when it crashed, killing Dunn and passenger Zachary Hartwell last week, had a stunning blood alcohol content of .196, according to a preliminary toxicology report. With an estimated 11 drinks in him before he got behind the wheel, he automatically becomes the poster celebrity for what can happen to you when you drink and drive.

Indeed, Roger Ebert’s notorious tweet — “Friends don’t let Jackasses drink and drive” — over a photo of the horrific remains of that car could serve as an effective public service billboard.

Recent years have, unfortunately, brought us an phalanx of
anti-role model celebrities — who teach us by example what NOT to do.

Two years after Michael Jackson’s death of acute propofol intoxication, his doctor, Conrad Murray, is due to go to trial in September on involuntary manslaughter charges. But certainly, details of Jackson’s gargantuan prescription drug usage that set the stage for the overdose have given people pause.

The same is true of Heath Ledger, who seemed destined to become one of the greatest film actors of our time, until his life was cut short by what the New York City coroner’s office determined was an accidental overdose of  painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs: oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine.

Look out, because, as the late Jeff Conaway pointed out, getting addicted to pain pills can creep up on you.

Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen are just two among the current crop of celebrities who have all but destroyed their careers with wild and sometimes violent behavior — behavior that’s landed each of them behind bars more than once. Lohan and Sheen have each demonstrated how even the most prodigious talents can be thrown away. Let us hope not their lives.

Their poster would have to say something along the lines of “Here’s what excessive partying can do to you, kids.”

Anti-role model celebrities show us so many things — how NOT to divorce (e.g. Madonna and Guy Ritchie), how NOT to parent (Britney Spears), and how NOT to utilize cosmetic surgery (Joan Rivers). The idea of actually looking up to stars sometimes seems positively quaint.

Miley Cyrus Latest Disney Darling to Go From Virginal to Vixenish

Miley Cyrus at 2009 Teen Choice Awards

As Miley Cyrus contemplates her disappointing “Can’t Be Tamed” album sales and absorbs response to her latest stream of “Let Me Prove to You I’m a Grownup” antics – lap dancing with a director, vamping it up in tarty outfits on stage – we can’t help but compare her journey to those of so many Disney darlings before her.

What is it about crashing a sweet, virginal image to smithereens that makes it so inviting?

Of course, Britney Spears leaps to mind.  Miley has made it clear she’s a huge fan of  the 28-year-old superstar whose rollercoaster life has provided careers for tabloid writers and bloggers and paparazzi since 1999, when the former Mousketeer caused a stir with a Rolling Stone magazine cover in which she appeared lying on her bed clad in shorts, bra, and open top.  The American Family Association called for a boycott of stores selling her albums.  Shades of Miley’s Vanity Fair Lolita-esque photo brouhaha.

Christina Aguilera, Britney’s fellow former Mousketeer, traded in her girl-next-door wholesomeness for piercings, a neck tattoo, and a string of raunchy songs and videos.

Older audience members remember original Mousketeer Doreen Tracy, who posed for the men’s magazine Gallery wearing her Mousketeer ears and not much else, and who came out with a book, “Confessions of a Mouseketeer.”

Sadly, there is the train wreck that is once-promising Disney movie star Lindsay Lohan.

Somehow, “Princess Diaries” star Anne Hathaway managed to transition to adulthood in such a deft and sophisticated way, her audience accepted her doing nudity in movies and handling exceptionally gritty material – as in her Oscar-nominated turn in “Rachel Getting Married” – with little turmoil

Which is more than can be said for Hathaway’s onscreen grandma, the Queen of Genovia herself, the great Julie Andrews.  Globally adored after successes including “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music,” she was delighted when her husband, Blake Edwards, put her in his 1981 satire “S.O.B.” as a goody-goody actress who makes a musical that flops and is then re-shot as a pornographic film.

Julie Andrews in "S.O.B."

“Mary Poppins Goes Topless” screamed headlines.  It created a furor at the time, but was eventually granted grudging acceptance.  Sure, she did it – but we’d rather watch the movies that have our Julie practically perfect in every way.