The year has been especially unkind to a certain type of celebrity. Those beautiful, clearly unbalanced personalities who, subjected to the hothouse conditions of wealth and fame, mutate and blossom into bizarre and fascinating creatures — the wild orchids of the celebrity species.
Over the summer, we lost the biggest and most flamboyant of these celebrities, Michael Jackson, whose castle-and-face-building and assorted colorful behavior kept us riveted for over two decades. Last month, Brittany Murphy, the gaunt, anxious-eyed star of Clueless suddenly died at 32. Now Casey Johnson, the blond Johnson & Johnson heiress and “Page Six” fixture who was frequently vocal about the disadvantages of being Born Rich, has died of the same “natural causes” at 30, just a month after being jailed for theft after allegedly stealing the clothes and using the vibrator of a reality-star friend.
In the past, we’ve enjoyed watching celebrities act outrageously, because we’ve felt secure in the knowledge that, at least two out of three times, they’d eventually end up going to rehab, then writing a book about the experience, showing up on a reality show, or even going on to have an insanely successful career and their own production company.
But now it feels like something has changed. In spite of (or maybe because of?) the mainstreaming of Celebrity Rehab, our craziest celebrities don’t seem to be following that trajectory any more. Upon hearing of Johnson’s death, our minds immediately began tallying a list of other celebrities whose lives are, we feel, in jeopardy: Courtney Love. Mischa Barton. Tara Reid. David Hasselhof. What about Kanye West? We briefly considered adding Johnson’s fiancée, Tila Tequila, to our list, but we suspect it’s more likely she will outlive us all, and even after death will probably continue to exist in her current form, seeing as she is made entirely of plastic. But from now on, when celebrities act a little bit twitchy, when they lose half of their body weight, show up “completely out of it” at photo shoots, completely reconstruct their faces, and/or purchase monkeys — or, in Johnson’s case, a child from Kazakhstan — we won’t enjoy it as much, because a part of us is going to actually worry. At least until the next celebrity rehab book comes out. Hopefully, it will be from Lindsay Lohan. The messy — and lately, disturbingly swollen-lipped — actress indicated that Johnson’s death might be the catalyst for a turnaround last night, when she tweeted:
“Am so sick of those 3 letters, so tired of losing friends to something as senseless as a drug overdose. WAKE UP people.”
OD is only two letters, it’s true, but, baby steps.