Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Stars Who Have Struggled Back from Ignominy

stephen collinsHas there ever been a faster fall from celebrity to ignominy than that of Stephen Collins? With TMZ’s release last week of a recording made during a therapy session — in which Collins apparently admits to three instances of exposing himself and/or inappropriate touching with three girls under the age of 14 — he immediately became poison to the public and the industry. His scenes were cut from “Scandal,” he was dropped from the film “TED 2,” and countless media outlets reaped ratings, sales and page views from his shame. The TV Guide Network and UpTV dropped “7th Heaven” series reruns from their schedules. And all before a single charge was filed.

Criminal charges may happen, of course. People magazine confirmed that the NYPD had received an official complaint about Collins after the audio came out, and that the case is under investigation by the Manhattan Special Victims Squad. The LAPD reopened a 2012 investigation. Collins’ estranged wife, Faye Grant, secretly made the tape and then handed it over to police that year. She now claims she had nothing to do with the TMZ leak, although Collins’ attorney has pointed out that the timing, on the eve of their divorce trial, is questionable to say the least.

Given the fact that Collins once enjoyed a squeaky clean, religious faith-inflected image, his fall from admiration is particularly brutal. And of course, the accusations are much uglier than in most of even the worst celebrity scandals. But not all.

Going all the way back to the death of actress Virginia Rappe at a wild party in 1921, some of Hollywood’s famed have dropped to the lowest depths. Then-superstar Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of raping the young ingenue violently and assaulting her with foreign objects, leading to her death. It was also said, however, that she was ill with venereal disease when she went to the party. Three manslaughter trials later, Arbuckle was exonerated, with a public apology from the jury, no less. Nevertheless, he remained persona non grata to his formerly adoring public. The case is still argued about today.

From 2003 into 2005, the media was full of awful step after awful step of the case against the late Michael Jackson. Some 70 investigators from the Santa Barbara D.A.’s office descended on Neverland Ranch with a warrant, you may recall, and accusations led to his indictment and trial for child molestation.

On June 13, 2005, the jury found Jackson not guilty on all fourteen charges, but he was a shell of his former self; his old life was over. He lived in self-imposed exile for a while. His health deteriorated and his dependence on pain medication increased, until he died in 2009.

On the other hand, director Roman Polanski’s life and career went on with a great deal of success after the 1977 incident when he was accused of raping a 13-year-old girl. He pled guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor, but fled the U.S. before he could be sentenced. Last year, “The Girl,” Samantha Geimer’s disturbing memoir about the rape, was released. Polanski has said he’s regretted the incident ever since.

There were many who believed the star best known as Pee-wee Herman would never come back from lewd conduct charges filed against him in 1991 — the masturbation incident in a Florida adult theater — or the 2002 scandal when his home was raided by police and the L.A. City Attorney’s office seized what they claimed was a massive collection of child pornography. But Paul Reubens has reclaimed his career — possibly due in part to his steadfast insistence that his collection of vintage gay erotica was not child porn.

He issued a statement that people “may think I’m crazy or anything that anyone wants to think about me. That’s all fine. As long as one of the things you’re not thinking about me is that I’m a pedophile. Because that’s not true.” The child porn charges were dropped. Reubens went on to a series of high-profile TV guestings including the role of a European prince on “30 Rock” (created for him by Tina Fey), then his triumphant return as Pee-wee in 2010. This year, movie audiences saw him in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and TV viewers watched him in “The Blacklist.”

Only a few years ago, an Access Hollywood poll showed that 72 percent of moviegoers planned to pass on future Mel Gibson films — that after the star’s anti-Semitic tirade while being arrested, his hurling of the N-word, and his accusations of abuse by ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

However, industry insiders we spoke to at the time predicted he would overcome. After all, he was worth almost a billion dollars and had an entertainment empire. “If you’re saying people won’t come to see his movies because of this, no,” one writer-producer who had worked with Gibson said flatly. “That’s just not how it works in this business. As long as he’s productive, he’ll have an audience.”

You may have noticed that in the recent “The Expendables 3,” Gibson’s villainous character’s wife is a beautiful young woman with a Russian accent. The casting was not a coincidence. Some joke.

Some stars have struggled back from ignominy. Whether Collins can find a pathway to some sort of public reconciliation is a question that won’t be answered for a long time.

New Version of Michael Jackson’s Last Days Coming from Kai Chase

Kai Chase

A new version of Michael Jackson’s last days will be coming to light by year’s end, with the release of Fit for a King, the first cookbook from celebrity chef Kai Chase.

We were chatting with Chase about the March 18 Drawing Hope International Gala Masquerade event in Beverly Hills, for which she is providing some of her trademark cultural fusion cuisine.  (Tandoori Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Fruited Marsala Couscous, anyone?)  However, the culinary master, who has cooked for luminaries including Mary J. Blige and President Obama, was also Jackson’s personal chef, and as soon as his name comes up, the conversation shifts.  Chase makes it clear his impact on her life was profound.

She tells us, “When you read the book, you’ll see how things were different” as far as the portrayal of Jackson’s world.  “I was feeding him and his children.  He was going to rehearsals and the recording studio.  He was energized, looking good, feeling good.  I want to talk about the fun times  — the practical jokes played on me in the house, me and the kids planting gardens.  I was seeing him every day and working with him every day.  He talked to me about a lot of things, as a boss and as a friend — how to move on with your career, write books, this and that.”  However, “I was let go at a certain point,” recalls Chase.  She was back at the mansion the day Jackson died.

Since then, her list of celebrity clients has grown, and “a lot of things are really coming to the forefront right now,” notes the beautiful chef, who listens to Jackson’s “Keep the Faith” song because “it keeps me inspired and motivated for greatness.  The blessings keep pouring down.  Sometimes I think he has something to do with that, and imagine him and God high-fiving.”

Chase is also offering an at-home cooking lesson to be auctioned off at the fund-raiser for Drawing Hope, which helps survivors of rape and sexual abuse in some 150 countries.  Celebs excpected to be on hand for the event range from Garrett Morris to Kyle Massey to honoree AnnaLynne McCord of “90210.”

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.