By: Jeff Katz – August, 2011
They tried to make her go to rehab, but she said no, no, no. It looks like she should have said yes, yes, yes. Amy Winehouse has become the latest member of the so-called 27 Club, singers who died at the age of twenty seven. The late Miss Winehouse joins Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Curt Kobain. She is simply the latest member, but we all know that she will not be the last.
There are times that we envy celebrities. Sometimes that envy is understood and indeed well deserved. Who wouldn’t want to play guitar or drums like some of those who make music day in and day out? How many American Idol wannabes would have given their left arms to be able to sing like Amy Winehouse? So why is it that so many gifted, talented performers have assumed room temperature prematurely?
Some degree of excess has always been associated with performers of all genres. For some the travel provides an opportunity to indulge in all types of hedonistic behaviors without ever being held really accountable, since they are on the road again just a few hours after their partying. We’ve all heard the tales of rock stars and athletes and the hot and cold running groupies. Making music in a bar until the early morning hours does not seem to provide the best atmosphere for a lot of clean living. Jocks that are coddled from elementary school on because they know how to throw a ball. The ego grows and the belief that they are above everything takes root. For many the sense of invincibility leads them to take part in activities that are not only wrong but injurious. For others, the internal low self-esteem comes into play. The so-called imposter complex takes over and people with huge voices and small feelings of worth take to stages and beg complete strangers to provide approval and validation.
I remember as a kid, about ten years old, being a huge fan of Evel Kneivel. If you remember he dressed in red, white and blue leather jumpsuits and jumped Harley Davidson’s over cars and buses. I was Evel’s biggest fan in the city of my birth, Philadelphia. I was pumped to watch his jump in the so-called Sky Cycle over the Snake River Canyon. During the course of granting an interview Evel announced that he hated three types of people…New Yorkers, lawyers and Jews. I was crushed. I was Jewish and I planned to be an attorney. How could he simply trash me like that I wondered? I wrote a letter to the best newspaper columnist in town at that time Larry McMullen of the Philadelphia Daily News. My Dad regularly read Larry and I did too. He seemed to me to be wiser than Solomon. Much to my surprise, Larry McMullen published my letter to him in his next column and proceeded to offer some sage advice to me. He cautioned me not to place too much stock and admiration in celebrities. I will never be half the writer that Larry McMullen was, so I will simply repeat his advice from 1974 which is as valid today as it was then. Beware of hero worship when those we worship are simply famous and not really heroic.
Make sure that your children know, that plenty of cops and firefighters and military personnel really are heroes and many are also members of the 27 Club and the 22 Club and the 18 Club.
Worship God, salute heroes and pray for all of us who are indeed flawed creatures. Remember that some demonstrate those flaws somewhat more publicly than others.