My father, in my childhood, often relayed to me a word of wisdom from famed Gospel Artist Mavis Staples: "You may not like the person behind the music, but God bless them for doing what they love."
Those words have often crept into my mind when I see celebrities or artists on the news getting busted for hiring a prostitute or throwing up outside Kobe Bryant's house. Like or dislike them, you ultimately feel a special sort of pity, one that doesn't necessarily chain you to liking the poor sod. We think, "Oh my God, how could they stoop so low?"
In these moments you see disparate creatures who, in essence, are leading a double life: The Public Persona and The Artist in Private.
Yet how do we, the listener/watcher, react when an artist we respect gets caught getting a reach-around from a prostitute behind an Arby's? I would like to see the most talented wordsmith in the world to try and talk away the fact that someone they admire got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
There are three types of these celebrity encounters we face, as illustrated by these three male examples:
Phil Spector (The Hated Genius Type):
One of the most brilliant creative musical minds of our time, with the patented "Wall of Sound" and his innovative use of the medium of recorded sound. Yet, he is also one of the most reviled criminals in music history. He was found guilty of murder in April of 2009, after displaying an erratic and shocking attitude (and appearance) during the court proceedings.
I call Spector an example of, what I dub, The Hated Genius. I have not met one person to this day who refutes his place in music history, but I have heard of quite a few who revile him personally. He cheated Darlene Love out of royalties and sexually abused more than a few of his protegees, yet we still marvel at all he was able to foster and create in his musical life.
With these poor souls, we only need to revel in what good they brought into the world and try not to remember the fact that the skeletons in their closets have become mobile.
Oh "Baby", where do we start with this one? The Beeb came to prominence because he had the idea to put himself on YouTube and, in a happening of miracle proportions, grew into the biggest douchebag to ever roam the earth. Every opportunity he has ever been given he has abused, cussed out, and pissed on (literally...look it up!) His artistry, mostly digitally-corrected, is negligible and, once he takes his leave in the public sphere, we certainly won't be speaking of him in terms of The Beatles or even, God forbid, Celine Dion.
I put forth The Beeb as an example of what I deem The Rightfully-Hated Type. He has not innovated or even entertained 9/10ths of the population, yet he still hangs around the earth like an old buzzard refusing to die. The younger set, as can be expected, will still rally around him and extol his virtues, not knowing how misogynistic he is and how much he reviles his fans. If you've achieved a certain amount of fame through a twist of fate, your fans deserve better than to be literally spat on.
With this brand of vile nuisance, it is best to just adopt the attitude of this famous adage: "Out of sight, out of mind!"
Paul Lynde (The Pitiful Type):
Sometimes the most brilliant comedians are those born before their time. Paul Lynde is a prime example of a life aborted before it began, a beautiful light lost in the light of noon. With some successes early in his career, Lynde petered out after a while, despite gaining fame from Bewitched and Hollywood Squares. He was gay in a time where you were not able to publically admit it, despite the fact that any person with half a brain knew he was. In that way, specifically, many comedy historians dub that he was born before his time. In our time, with openly-gay comedians, Lynde would have been accepted with open arms and have an incredibly lucrative and long-lasting career.
I call Lynde, and his ilk, The Pitiful Type. These are the people born before or after the prime time that they'd be able to thrive. Lynde, and thousands more, are never given a fair shot at innovating the way they truly needed to.
This type should be approached with caution: Paul Lynde is still a hilarious son-of-a-bitch, if you don't dwell on the fact that he died in his fifties with the heart of an 88-year-old man from years of drinking.
These three examples show us exactly how celebrities differing and how we should approach their types if we are ever to make sense of this crazy, mismatched bunch of human beings.
Separating "Art" from "The Artist" is extremely difficult but, with a little knowledge and a battle-stick, you can protect the celebrities you love and bludgeon those you despise.
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