Celebrity Columnist, Director Edward Bass’, Top Ten List of Hollywood's Tormented Souls
Last week our column said goodbye to Betty Ford, who lived to 93. Not only did she make it through rehab, she reinvented it. This week we must say goodbye to Amy Winehouse who passed away on Saturday at the age of 27.
Marilyn Monroe remains an icon the world over but even more so for every 18 year old girl who gets on a bus to Los Angeles. Whatever else she is remembered for, Monroe will forever reign as the Number One "Most Popular Tormented Soul".
Winehouse, whose musical talent has been described as "genius", expressed an affinity with Monroe and stated that it was a dream to be like her and have the opportunity to act. She was inspired by Monroe's films and turned to them whenever she felt depressed. Winehouse achieved fame by singing about getting away from rehab, but like so many addicts who felt in control she slipped away.
Who didn’t make the list? We have a list of honorable mentions to follow.
Why do the most famous, glamorous, inspirational and powerful die in such a tormented state? The number one reason could be their propensity for over-indulgence or a mistaken belief in their invincibility.
In the case of Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson it was possibly the delay in phoning 911 that took their lives. Ledger's masseuse Diana Wolozin found him unconscious, but first called Mary-Kate Olsen and then 15 long minutes later the Emergency Crew. Jackson’s doctor also lost precious minutes to “cover the tracks” and Jackson's security team did not call 911 for thirty minutes.
Marilyn’s death is still shrouded in mystery, was there really a Bobby Kennedy angle to silence her or was it a case of a broken heart after losing both John and Bobby?
The amazing thing is that many of these people became even more famous after their passing, their work gains new followers and reaches a new audience.
My Top Ten:
10. Chris Farley (1964-1997) too funny to ignore and a nice guy, Farley was a popular Saturday Night Live alumn and, before his death, had been cast as the voice of Shrek.
9. John Belushi (1949-1982) one of the original stars of Saturday Night Live, Belushi is credited with reinventing comedy and is perhaps best known for his starring role in The Blues Brothers.
Belushi's story echoes that of fellow comedian Freddie Prinze to a certain extent, both known as the funniest man in room and dying in tragic circumstances. Prinze went first after a cocaine overdose and has been overshadowed by those who came later, but he broke barriers with his starring role as Chico in Chico and the Man.
8. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Howard Hughes (1905-1976) tie for this one. Freud, an Austrian coke freak who invented psychology as we know it, was dying from cancer and his assisted suicide became one of the best known cases of euthanasia.
Hughes reinvented greed and became America’s first billionaire despite his almost debilitating OCD and agrophobia. Both men's lives are still inspiring people and biopic films today.
7. Club 27 - an exclusive club of influential music stars who died at the age of 27, the four best known members who died from overdoses are Brian Jones (1942-1969), Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), Janis Joplin (1943-1970) and Jim Morrison (1943-1971). Amy Winehouse, with her death on Saturday 23rd July 2011 at age 27, is the latest to join this extremely talented but troubled group.
6. Heath Ledger (1979-2008), after playing the Joker in The Dark Knight and breaking boundaries in Brokeback Mountain, we have to give Ledger a “James Dean” award for another actor loved by men and woman alike, gone before his time and before he had the chance to fulfill his great potential.
5. River Phoenix (1970-1993) - an extremely promising and talented young actor, River Phoenix died at only 23. Even at such a young age he had many acclaimed performances, notably in Stand By Me and his award winning turn in My Own Private Idaho. Rumours still abound regarding his private life and those who knew him prior to his death have kept silent on the subject.
4. Judy Garland (1922-1969) with international stardom and acclaim, Garland's troubled life is cause for great regret. She was an icon and a hero not only for the gay community, but for all and especially children - every child around the world has watched the magic of The Wizard of Oz. Praised for her talent and versatility, her legacy has lived on.
3. Michael(1958-2009), and that says it all. Beloved of generations and with some of the best known, popular and successful music ever, the scandal attached to his name in later life is perhaps the only thing that bars him from the number one spot.
2. Elvis (1935-1977), white trash who made it big, a heart of gold and platinum records to go with it. He had a certain mystique about him and loved children. Even though their relationship didn't last, the love story between Elvis and Priscilla resonates with many people and the scandal of them getting together when Priscilla was only 14 has not been forgotten. Throughout the phases of his career, Elvis had many iconic looks from his rock 'n' roll bad boy image to All American G.I., through the black leather that made his come back to his white jump suit complete with cape, Elvis' fashion evolved with his career but was always topped by his carefully sculpted hair. Each look immediately conjures images of his performances and the sound of his music. He was known to be generous, giving impoverished people cars simply because it was a wednesday and donating the rings from his fingers. Musically, he brought black music to a white audience, making a huge contribution to breaking racial barriers.
A soldier, an actor and a ladies man he was beloved by men and woman alike, including me. I remember Elvis driving one of his studs spare cars down Rodeo (he had a black and white one) and thinking “Wow, this guy is dating all the really hot chicks that an 11 year old can just dream about!” And when The Beatles came dressed in suits to the Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis was shot from the waist up, because controversy always wins.
1. Marilyn (1926-1962) - vulnerable, imperfect, and the Cleopatra of our society - had the greatest loves of all time, well loved movies, and iconic photos. A lot of people think she "committed suicide" just as Virginia Hill did, the late Mrs. Bugsy Siegel.
Her boyfriends included the Kennedys, Sam Giancana, Arthur Miller, and Frank Sinatra. She was famous not just for the films she did, but the men she made. The love story between Monroe and her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, is perhaps the most famous. Despite being married for only nine months before they divorced, it was DiMaggio that Monroe turned to after being admitted to a Psychiatric Clinic and after her death he had half a dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for twenty years. When Simon & Garfunkel asked "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" it was in praise of his honourable nature and the silence he held over his private life with Monroe. An American icon, DiMaggio helped galvanize Monroe into our consciousness.
I was fortunate enough to meet DiMaggio at the Del Mar racetrack during the time when he was known to a whole generation as "Mr Coffee". In my office, I have two photos side by side - one of Joe DiMaggio and one of Queen Elizabeth, when people look at them they always want to know about DiMaggio and say "Is that Joe DiMaggio?". A legend before he died, DiMaggio's love for Monroe was contagious.
Marilyn Monroe has taken the number one spot because while there are hundreds of Elvis impersonators, who look like each other if not like him, there is only one Marilyn Monroe and every girl growing up wants to be her. She's icon and it's impossible not to love her.
- Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) - American painter who died from a heroin overdose.
- Charles Boyer (1899-1978) - French actor who appeared in more than eighty films, died from a Seconal overdose two days after his wife died from cancer.
- Lenny Bruce (1925-1966) - a prolific and prominent comedian who died from an accidental morphine overdose.
- Richard Burton (1925-1984) - one of the most famous of Hollywood actors (despite being Welsh), nominated for an Academy Award seven times without winning, Burton died from alcohol related health problems.
- John Cassavettes (1929-1989) - American actor, writer and director who pioneered American independents films. He died from cirrhosis of the liver due to his alcoholism.
- Truman Capote (1924-1984) - an American author whose many works are recognised as literary classics. He died from liver cancer complicated by drug use.
- Ted Demme (1963-2002) - American director with many credits to his name including Blow as well as some acting roles. He died from a sudden heart attack that was possibly related to the cocaine found in his system.
- Margaux Hemingway (1954-1996) - American actress and highly successful fashion model, Hemingway died from an overdose of phenobarbital.
- Jennifer Lynn Jackson (1969-2010) - a Playboy Playmate, Jackson died from a heroin overdose.
- David Kennedy (1955-1984) - the fourth of Robert F. Kennedy's children, David died from an overdose of cocaine, Demerol and Mellaril
- Alan Ladd (1913-1964) - an American actor who appeared in 95 films, Ladd died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and three unspecified drugs.
- Bruce Lee (1940-1973) - renowned actor and martial artist, Lee died of a severe cerebral edema caused by a reaction to prescription painkillers.
- Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) - United States Sentor known for his harsh, and often unsubstantiated, persecution of communists and socialists in America. Died from hepatitis exacerbated by alcoholism.
- Keith Moon (1946-1978) - the drummer of English rock group The Who, Moon died from an accidental overdose of anti-seizure medication prescribed for alcoholism.
- Brittany Murphy (1977-2009) - American actress and singer who appeared in a wide range of roles and movies. She died from a "[C]ombination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and 'multiple drug intoxication'"
- George Sanders (1906-1972) - Russian born, English actor whose deep voice and heavy English accent often caused him to be cast as the villian. He committed suicide via Nembutal overdose.
- Margaret Sullavan (1909-1960) - American stage and film actress, she committed suicide via Barbiturate overdose.
- Ike Turner (1931-2007) - American musician who is widely considered as one of the fathers of rock and roll. Turner died from a cocaine overdose.
- Daniel Webster (1782-1852) - leading American statesman and Senator during the Antebellum Period. Webster died from a cerebral hemorrhage complicated by alcohol-induced cirrhosis of the liver.