You’re Just Like a Sick Celebrity!

Are you aware of which celebrities have had the same disease from which you are now suffering? To learn how they handled it might prove instructive, if not inspirational. Sure, unlike you they might have been able to afford the best medical treatment, but even super doctoring is no guarantee against a virulent pathogen. If they survived it, you can do. Maybe.

In fact, maybe you’re already on the same lifestyle page. They worry about negative publicity, while you fret away nary a second on possible bad press. So if you’re not having the life sucked out of you by a virus or bacteria, you can probably breathe easy about the rest of your problems. You’re a winner today!


Wally Cox, 1953

Debby Reynolds wanted to look like Joan Rivers in the worst way, so she went under the knife at the Plastic Surgeon to the Stars clinic on Rodeo Drive, and emerged looking just like Burt Reynolds. Such are the risks inherent in trying to hire someone to accomplish what Mother Nature couldn’t.

Arnold Stang was friends with Wally Cox who had once been Marlon Brando’s roommate when both were struggling actors in New York. Wally had once played a plastic surgeon in a TV drama on Playhouse 90, and after a night of heavy drinking, Arnold persuaded Wally to take a scalpel and turn him into Marlon Brando.

When Arnold looked into the mirror the next morning, he was amazed. Marlon Brando was looking back at him. It wasn’t just Marlon Brando but a younger, better-looking Brando. Wally joined AA the next day, vowing to never pick up a scalpel again.

Donna Reed wanted to look like Eddie Van Halen, and ended up the spitting image of Florence Henderson, who then took her to court for identity theft and lost. The judge had just been on an elevator with two Sigourney Weavers and found the experience life-affirming. Case dismissed.




Marriage used to be for a lifetime, but now its duration can often be measured in nanoseconds. When asked to describe their latest attempts at forming a lifetime union, many Hollywood stars described partnerships that were over the moment they “tied the knot.”

“Marriages that used to last milliseconds are now end in divorce within nanoseconds,” commented one divorce lawyer who uses a Crane Supercomputer to track the couplings of his entertainment industry clients. “Scientists have been able to sustain cold fusion for a longer duration than many of the nuptial unions for today’s emerging stars.”

If this trend continues, it’s only a matter of time before divorce precedes the wedding itself. The division of assets, as well as the determination of spousal support and alimony will now begin on the first date. Wedding planners are not worried that marriage is on its way out, for romance has a way of finding a way despite all obstacles. Said one with many celebrity clients, “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

Sad Celebrity Breakups


It’s always sad when a couple breaks it off, but even more so when they’re celebrities. Then it’s a public tragedy, for we all feel a part of their celebrity family, and thus our kinship is diminished.

It’s bad enough when celebrities die, which they do all the time, because like us, they’re only human. We miss them. We honor them with tributes, pastiches of our favorite film clips starring these newly departed. But when a celebrity couple calls it quits, we lose hope in all possibility for them and for ourselves. We are fatally flawed. If talent, money and fame can’t hold them together, what can?


I’m thinking of that glamorous couple that just threw in the towel. She was that mixed-race woman who was once very cute but then gained a lot of weight at the same time she underwent some unfortunate cosmetic surgery. She lost the weight, but there was something permanently “off” about her appearance from that point on. He was a talented musician and writer, but had a substance abuse problem that kept causing him to be arrested and sentenced to a long string of treatment facilities. Every time he graduated from one he would hold a press conference where he would promise that this time he was done with drugs and alcohol for good. Within a few weeks he would be arrested for drunk driving, in possession of a pound of cocaine or methamphetamine, and carrying an unlicensed firearm.


Indeed, they had more than the usual amount of troubles that most couples have to endure, but their love could not hold them together. Now they still have their troubles, but not each other.


I know there must be something wrong or lacking in me that makes me care so much about people I’ve never met nor am likely to meet. It’s easier for me to care about their problems than my own. This misplaced empathy is what my psychiatrist calls “insanity” and is partially the reason she prescribed such strong medication for me to take on a daily basis. If I skip even one dose I go into painful withdrawal. I can’t sleep. My limbs ache, and if I do drift off I endure nightmares.


It is then that I focus on my Brad and Angelina altar. Even though they’ve been divorced for a few years now, the memory of their happy time together gives me hope. I have little plastic statues of them mounted in a landscape of flowers. The landscape is also plastic, taken I believe from a model train set. I mounted this and the figures inside a shoe box, and made a little window at one end so I’m looking through a portal and into their happiness. When I told my psychiatrist about the altar she changed the subject, but I could tell from the face she made she disapproved.


Brad and Angelina had been given so much, but even with all that they could not stay together. Now they have everything anyone could ever hope for, but not each other. That makes me deeply sad.


I know I should keep the focus on myself. What do I want to do with this wonderful gift of life that I have been given? The fact is, I haven’t got a clue. Deep down I have no ambition. No matter how hard I try, I can’t take an interest in my own life. Who can care what happens to me if I can’t be bothered to do so?


Maybe t by focusing so keenly on the lives of celebrities, I’m practicing an empathy that I could someday focus on myself. At least that’s what I tell myself. Of course, I don’t dare imagine myself with a partner. If celebrities can’t pull that one off, what hope is there for me?


I’ve considered finding a very needy person who might allow me to take him or her into some sort of domestic partnership because they had few options. A refugee, or an invalid. Someone with a terminal disease and no insurance. But then I thought, how would that raise my self-esteem? Wouldn’t their presence be a constant reminder of my desperation? Wouldn’t holding another desperate person hostage only make me feel worse about myself?


Of course it would. So I decided to let that option slide and seek instead more universally acknowledged ways to raise my feelings of self worth. I decided to acquire a certification that would make me an expert. I enrolled in an online school to become a Life Coach. That way I would teach others how to feel better about themselves and in so doing, receive the same reward. And they’d pay me.


Life Coaches can earn big money if they sell their services to wealthy clients. One of the first lessons teaches that wealthy people often feel worthless. Their secret shame can be a goldmine to the right Life Coach.


The training only took a few weeks of reading online materials and passing simple tests. The readings were like a lot of psychology and sociology…stuff you already knew just rephrased into jargon which made common sense seem scientific and profound. I didn’t mind because I could make that stuff up, too. The real skill came in presentation. You had to be decisive and emphatic no matter how obvious and banal were the things you were saying. You could never stop selling your expertise. You were the expert and they were the client. Both of you could never forget that, not even for a moment.


I was surprised to learn how many wealthy people were also hooked on celebrity worship. Many of them had undergone plastic surgery to more closely resemble the celebrities they admired. I met a woman who had endured several surgeries to look more like Heather Locklear. If you saw her at a distance, and her hair was dyed just the right color and she was wearing the right clothes, it was possible to mistake her for the troubled actress who recently had been in the news for mental health issues.


My most successful client was a man who thought of himself as a chubby version of Mark Wallenberg. He kept referring to himself as “Marky Mark,” which was the name Wallenberg used in his hip-hop days. Again, in the right light and setting, he sometimes resembled the action film star. When you got to know him, you realized the true depths of his self-loathing, and it made you sad and somewhat frightened, because the enormity of his shame became palpable. 


I was losing the ability to cheer myself up, so I stopped taking the medicine my psychiatrist had ordered, and stopped visiting her, as well. Instead, I began to buy costumes inspired by various television shows I fondly recalled. My first purchases were outfits that Florence Henderson wore as Mrs. Brady, avocado and canary yellow, lime green and light pink pant suits.


Although I am technically male, I consider gender to be an invented notion of little consequence. Dressing like Mrs. Brady made me happy and nobody seemed to mind when I went out in public. When heads turned it was often in approval, or at least surprise.


I was not yet to the point where I dared wear my “happy outfits” to work. It would disrupt the workplace and draw undue attention to myself. When you work in a bank, it’s best to keep a low profile. When in doubt, sit at your desk and pretend to be absorbed by a spreadsheet.


I was as surprised as anyone to see large photographs of me wearing the lime-green and pink outfit on the bulletin board in our break room. Some candid cameraman had been following me. Was it a chance encounter, or was I being stalked by a co-worker?


This led me to further introspection. Was I an object of derision or a message of hope? No one said anything to me, but I did encounter some whispered conversations which quickly ended as soon as my presence was known.


I continue to hold my head high at work or out on the town. Not all of us can be bona-fide celebrities, nor should we wish to be. We live as productively as we can, sure in the hope that integrity is its own reward. If we die alone, so be it. We all ultimately die alone. But the journey is the destination. Brad and Angelina know that. Now, so do I.


Top of the World



She had a child’s mind in a lush woman’s body and she reached for evil with both hands…


I saw this and it reminded me of my youth. Ann Margaret was a few years older than me, and as I entered puberty in the early sixties, she was already a goddess on the silver screen. Like all pre-adolescents, I was morbidly fearful about being thought attractive and hence “popular.” None of those things came easy for me. I’m not sure even Ann Margaret had an easy time of it. I know Elvis didn’t. He was the pimply, friendless kid at Hume High in Memphis when he dared to sing “Old Shep” to a crowded auditorium of his classmates who were less-than-wowed by his presence. But he managed to turn that around within a few years.

I’ve done all right. It’s been so long since I was an early teen that I can’t remember what I imagined I would accomplish in the time I’ve been given. Probably I would have been shocked to learn that I’ve made it this far. Sixty-eight! Good god! Are you in a wheelchair? Do you hobble around using a cane?

The things I worried about the most, whether girls would like me and whether I would achieve any status at all, turned out to be non-problems. Yes, it’s easy to find a girl to like you, but the real question you should be asking yourself is “which girl?” Impressing other people with your capability or talent is never a complete success. For everybody who’s impressed there’s another one or two who think you need to be brought down a notch or two.

But, as Jimmy Cagney says in the seconds before he blows himself up while standing on top of a natural gas storage tank “Top of the world, Ma!”

Just Another Shmuck



When you take a long view, it’s obvious that we are all in this together, though often we feel alone. Our concern is mainly centered on ourselves. “How am I feeling right now?” If we could change this, we could change everything. If we could ask “how are we doing?” we might actually engender good will and get somewhere.

When artists create, are they mainly motivated by a desire for self-expression, or a desire to make the world a better place for others? Hard to know. Maybe a little bit of both.

In the long run, those who are not self-obsessed have an easier time of it. They find they are propelled by the power of a group. Sometimes that group can be large and influential.

When you’re an egomaniac bent on self-promotion, you’re just another schmuck screaming “look at me!” Your voice is already drowned out by the cries of the hundred million people you’re standing with. It’s Day of the Locust. It’s the beach at Coney Island on a summer day in the forties. It’s Chinese tourists at the Louvre.