Blog: Brickbats and Bouquets

Chris de Jong

I have to admit that my guilty weekly pleasure is to sneakily read the tabloids as I’m waiting in line at the supermarket – it’s a terrible admission, but let’s be honest, who doesn’t? A furtive little update on all things pop culture is usually what I’m aiming to achieve, and usually a quick flick is all that’s required. Cheeky, and at my age, I should know better, but sometimes you just can’t resist a good catch up on all the goss while you’re waiting to have your fruit and veg rung up.

A few weeks ago, as I was in the middle of my usual perusal, an article caught my eye in NW Magazine. The title of the article was “Onstage breakdowns and boozy benders: Stars in Crisis.” The sub heading was: ”These lonely A-listers are cracking under the pressure of their jobs.”

Featured on the ensuing pages were Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, Lily Allen and Pamela Anderson.

The article went on to say this:

“Fame, fortune, talent, good looks...they seem to have it all, but living the Hollywood dream can just as easily be a nightmare for some celebrities. Dr. David Baron, psychiatry professor at Temple University School of Medicine, reveals that the difference between a successful happy career in the limelight and a train wreck ending in tears and tantrums, comes down to the people stars surround themselves with.

”Entertainers have very stressful jobs. How resilient and able to handle stress they are under has a lot to do with their support system,” he explains. The expert also notes that the absence of a network of trusted pals or relatives can make it hard to cope with public life.

”A person with close family and a lot of friends often finds it easier to deal with rejection than someone whose only sense of self is their career,” he adds.

Another factor, warns therapist and author Jonathan Alpert, is that depression coupled with substance abuse can make it more difficult for A-listers to rise about the pressure of fame.”

The article ends with a sad statement. ”Taking in all these factors, we can see why these celebs aren’t coping with the stress of living the high life. Indeed, alone and drunk, it seems they’re heading off the rails.”

It’s such a sad waste of incredibly talented people.

The thing that hit me about what this guy was saying is that community is THE one main thing that supports an artist. It gives them direction and keeps them centered, loved, valued and grounded.

It made me wonder about so many artists that we’ve seen over the years - have they felt supported, valued, loved and connected? Have I made an effort to offer them community – or have I assumed the cool kids haven’t needed it?

Our tendency is to see artists as special – famous, mythical people who are unreachable and untouchable. Our assumption is that they are complete human beings who lack nothing. What we don’t realize, is that, by the nature of their vocation, creative artists are often THE most insecure people on the planet. Their cocktail of insecurity and pride is usually misconstrued as ego, but it’s exactly why they make good art. If they weren’t wired this way, I guarantee their art wouldn’t be as good.

The more we keep artists isolated from the real world and from people who love and support them, we are perhaps subtly steering them into a more dangerous world where drink and drugs will take the place of relationship.

Fame has this strange way of obscuring an artist’s raw humanity. We need to remember that musicians are humans like the rest of us, wrestling with the same emotion, insecurity and struggles. The power of community is just as important to them as it is to anyone, in fact, I wonder if it’s even more important.

Maybe if we remembered to look out for artists, to encourage them, to be interested in them as people and not just their career, to be there when the crap hit the fan – maybe then we’d see artists able to cope a whole lot better with this fame thing.

Fame is a funny journey – people desperately seek it and then when they get it they usually fall apart because they’re not equipped or supported. As the old cliché goes, rock n’ roll can sometimes steal your soul.

An artist’s career is full of highs and lows, knockbacks, brickbats and bouquets – it’s a journey that few of us see the inner workings of but it can be a lonely and hard road.

Imagine magazines filled with A-listers who re grounded, doing life well, happy and healthy, without the boozy benders and breakdowns.

How cool would it be for those artists we know personally to feel the love of a community around them. Championing them on. Speaking life into them.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see our local musicians flailing all over the place. Keep a look out for those in your world and connect with them every now and then.

…and PS: I did buy this mag in the end, but only so I could share it with you. I’ll try to kick my sly wee habit to the curb one of these days.