I promised myself I wasn’t going to write about Charlie Sheen. I wanted to avoid that bottomless pit of disaster like the plague, ignore it like it never happened (and isn’t happening as we speak), and wish that if more people hoped he’d disappear, it just might happen. The publicity that he’s continuously getting, even if it does have a negative spin, may be giving him legs to run with on his path to complete self-annhiliation, but it’s also encouraging every media outlet to dissect his every move and every Tom, Dick and Harry to make stupid #WINNING! and #TIGERBLOOD jokes. Which I’m so over, I was over before they started.
But the annoyance aside, the collective public is talking about a man who is clearly mentally disturbed. He has an ongoing history with consuming exponentially more drugs and alcohol than humans are supposed to be able to consume without keeling over dead. His mind is literally pickled and sauteed. He should definitely not be alive today. And I don’t blame tiger blood. It’s dumb fucking luck, is what it is. There is nothing super-human about dumb fucking luck.
We’re also talking about an abuser of women here. Not allegedly. Previous charges were not contested. This man is a horrendous human being and now he has a travelling one man show so people can hand over their hard earned money to hear this mentally ill, drug soaked, wife and girlfriend beater verbally masturbate for over an hour and use his go-to Crazy Words to tell his audience why he thinks he’s better than everyone else. His show, My Violent Torpedo Of Truth: Defeat Is Not An Option, is sold out, nation-wide. People want to see this? Apparently, people want to see this.
As Wil Wheaton so brilliantly Tweeted:
Good news is apparently it’s terrible. A 70 minute diatribe, 50% weird music and self-depreciating video, 50% question and answer period, during which he answers only questions he deems not boring, and 100% watching this douche trying desperately to stretch this loose cannon schtick as far as it will go.
Charlie Sheen’s star has fallen. My prediction and my hope is that it will be for good. I can’t bare to watch this go on much longer and the nature of the entertainment business is that if you want to pay attention to any of it, you must pay attention to all of it.
In recent Hollywood history there have been a plethora of celebrity breakdowns. Few have been to the scale as Charlie Sheen’s ongoing fall from what little grace he had, but those who have broken down have broken down good and hard. A loss of wits is almost to be expected when the eyes of the world are watching you day in and day out. Every move you make, every breath you take. Watching you. Between that pressure and the strange Bizarro World that it must feel like they live in with a neverending rollercoaster of adoring, devoted fans and biting, seething critics. I’m sure I would crack.
Some of those who have fallen have recovered. Lived to see another day in the life of being adored. Learned from their past and taken their second chance as an opportunity to thrive. Those are The Good. Some have worked hard at righting their wrongs, whether it be separating from those people, places and situations that dragged them down or just by keeping their mouth shut. Those are The Bad (But Not Hopeless). And then there are The Unrecoverable. They’ve sunk themselves so deep into the muck that they’ll never crawl back out. Even if they clean themselves up, make all their legal difficulties disappear, and vow to be better people, the damage they’ve done has destroyed them in the eyes of their once admiring public.
Let’s look at the most notable examples of each of these types of celebrities who have suffered their own mental, physical, or emotional breakdowns.
The Phoenix – Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect example of a celebrity rising from the ashes of his own near-demise. Robert has had a long and difficult struggle with substance abuse, but his main issue, which I’m not sure was fueled by or caused by the drugs, was his ego. Look at the smug look in each of those mugshots. He believed himself invincible and above the law, having said “It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger’s on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.” Thanks to this delusion, Mr. Downey spent four months in L.A. County jail in 1997 and another year in the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 1999, both times for failing to submit to a court ordered drug test, as was a part of his probation.
After years of struggle and legal issues, Robert finally made a commitment to bettering himself. By 2001, he was ready to get back into acting. With smaller roles to dip his toes back into the water, he regained the respect of his collegues and of his audience. By 2008, with Iron Man, he had officially returned to the Hollywood A-list and our faith in the man and his ability to amaze us on screen had been solidified.
The Comeback Kid – Britney Spears
Britney Spears is living proof of what they warn about “too much, too soon.” Her rocket to stardom was so fast and so intense, her breakdown seemed predictable and inevitable. In 1999, at age 18, she had the biggest selling record of all time by a teenaged artist. She remained in a spotlight, beneath the media and public’s microscope, for nearly a decade, all the while keeping her reputation if not squeaky clean, at least fairly age-appropriate. She got married, had two children in very close succession, and continued to release hit album after hit album. Then, beginning in 2006, just a few months after having her second child, her downward spiral began with her separation from her then-husband, Kevin Federline. Over the course of the next two years, Britney dealt with (or failed to truly deal with) familial deaths, multiple stays in a various treatment facilities, shaving her signature blonde head bald, and losing custody of her children with the help of a series of ill-advised events captured by paparazzi cameras. That final stressor, which was the icing on the cake, pushed her to the brink. Britney locked herself into her bathroom with her children and refused to relinquish custody. Following the incident, she was taken to a psychiatric facility for a week. She was placed under temporary conservatorship of her father.
Since then, Britney has been recovering slowly, staying out of trouble as much as humanly possible, spending her time putting out music and being a mom to her boys. Even through all her difficulties, she remained at the top of the charts and relevant to the ever-evolving taste of pop fans worldwide. Her latest album, Femme Fatale, was just released on March 29, 2011, 12 years after her debut, and has received rave reviews, securing her a place among the very short list of artists with staying power.
The Bad (But Not Hopeless)
Crazy In Love – Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise has always been a part of Hollywood’s elite, and as such, has been in the spotlight since he arrived on the scene. But he never really became a staple and a mainstay of the daily gossip pages until his romance with much younger B-list starlet, Katie Holmes. Their relationship came out of nowhere when the story leaked (by him, nonetheless) of their blossoming coupledom. They were truly the business’s most surprising couple, with him being so much more famous and older and she being so much more tall. But his downward spiral involved more than just his relationship. His expression of love on Oprah made the whole world say “WUH?!?”, as did his biting criticism of Brooke Shields and, later, his harshly worded interview with Matt Lauer regarding his firm stance against antidepressants and psychiatric drugs, which were both thanks to his enthusiastic and outspoken advocacy of his religion, Scientology.
In the years since his outbursts, he has remained out of the spotlight as much as possible. He’s been raising his daughter, Suri, supporting his now-wife, Katie, by cheerleading her professional efforts, and has been taking it easy himself. He received positive reviews for his portrayal of Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder and has starred in Mission Impossible III, Valkyrie, and Knight and Day. He has 12 projects in the pre-, post-, or in-development phase.
If he can keep his mouth shut and his eyes on the prize, Tom’ll be just fine. His breakdown was a bump in the road. Or so I hope, for his sake.
The Underdog – Whitney Houston
I don’t blame Bobby Brown completely for Whitney Houston’s transformation from Top Diva to Crackhead Has-Been, but I think the lion’s share of the blame can be placed on them being together at all. Married in 1992, the two quickly became headline news, with his frequent arrests and her public appearances, looking dazed, confused and strung out. During the 80′s and 90′s, Whitney was seen as a good girl, a clean-cut Diva with a shitload of unparalleled talent. By the late 90′s, she was becoming a cautionary tale. She was often late for appearance, cancelled concerts, her physique began to waste away. She was displaying all the tell-tale signs of a woman consumed by addiction. During an interview with Diane Sawyer in 2002, Houston admitted to doing drugs. “First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. Okay? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is whack.” She also told Oprah in an interview later, reflecting back on her life at that time, that she ”laced marijuana with rock cocaine”.
In 2006, Houston finally separated from Bobby and was granted sole custody of their only child, Bobbi. Since then, she has continued to make music, what she was born to do. Her live performances have received mixed reviews, but she continues to have one of the best voices in the business, which garnered her two nominations at the NAACP awards last year.
If Whitney heeds her own words – crack is whack – and keeps pushing out quality music, she’ll stay on top. Or, if not on top, at least not at the rock bottom like she was just a few years ago.
The Fallen Starlet – Lindsay Lohan
Good lord, this girl is a hot mess. And I mean, truly. Lindsay Lohan had the whole world ahead of her. She was a talented, smart, spunky little redhead with potential to be enormous. But as is with too many child stars, after starring in a slew of movies as a preteen and teenager, she began to quite literally ruin her life. She slipped into the habit of partying too hard, developing a thirst for alcohol and drugs. In 2007, Lindsay was arrests twice for DUI, both times she was also found with cocaine on her person. During that year, she attended rehab twice and was eventually sentenced to one day in jail. She served 84 minutes. In 2008 and 2009, she was accused of stealing not once, but twice – once was a fur coat that miraculously returned itself to its rightful owner before any charges were laid, and once was $400,000 worth of jewels worn in a photo shoot. No charges were filed in either case. Her extra curricular illegal activities in 2010 are too plentiful to name during the time allotted. She has most recently been a regular in court, defending herself against allegations of once again stealing jewelry. This time, though, charges were laid and she faces potential jailtime. More serious than an hour and a half.
I really see no hope for this girl. I mean, I wish her the best in finding a way to remain sober and out of legal trouble, but as far as her career in Hollywood? How on earth do you recover from that much self-inflicted adversity?
The Unrecoverable – Mel Gibson
What can I possibly say about Mel Gibson that hasn’t been said a million times before? He’s an alcoholic, drunk-driving, anti-Semite, who verbally, emotionally and physically abused the mother of his child.
You made your bed, Sugar tits. Lay in it.
There have been far too many celebrity breakdowns to rank or to list or to even talk about every single one. Nearly every star at the top of their game goes through some sort of life changing event that alters the course of their personal and/or professional career. Some can regain their focus, heal their minds, and jump back into the whole Hollywood game. Others…can not.
What celebrity breakdowns are the most memorable to you? Were there any that truly disappointed you? Did you have high hopes for someone who fell from grace, but who never regained their spot among the elite? Or someone who did?