Saturday, June 27, 2009

Deja Vous? I hope not...(Michael Jackson / Anna Nicole)

While the world awaits the coroner's report on the death of Michael Jackson, and the cause of his death is purely speculation, details that are coming out in the media seem all too reminiscent of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Whether that turns out to actually be the case, we do know that Michael Jackson struggled with addiction to painkillers...which is enough, IMHO, for a bit of reflecting on the care (notice I did not say "handling") of addicted clients.
On Friday, February 09, 2007 on this very subject. I wish I'd never have to repeat it again, but maybe it might help someone.
Did Hollywood Kill Anna Nicole Smith?

While the definitive cause of Anna Nicole Smith’s death probably won’t be in for weeks, regardless of the autopsy result, anyone who saw her recent interviews on Entertainment Tonight could see she was obviously impaired by substance abuse. (When someone’s eyes are going in two different directions…) So, I’d like to talk about the addicted celebrity client.

Did Hollywood kill Anna Nicole Smith? Speaking as someone who grew up around chemical addiction in a small-town, non-showbiz family, I really don’t think so. I think the addiction gene or addictive personality (whatever your belief happens to be about the root cause) is either there, or it isn’t.

But, also speaking as someone who’s been in the role of agent, artist manager, and prior to that, as personal assistant, do I think Hollywood contributed to the death of Anna Nicole Smith? Absolutely.

When you have people making money from whatever the celebrity’s status quo is at a given moment, someone in the mix will have an interest in keeping the celebrity in that money-making status quo…Even at the risk of a self-destructive celebrity. (The same status-quo dynamic happens in non-showbiz families too, by the way, but because the motivation is usually more about fear of change than about big money, it’s less overt and is more subconscious.)

It comes down to the kind of people the celebrity surrounds him or herself with. If a celebrity with an addictive personality (or the addiction gene) is surrounded by “yes” people who tell them what they want to hear, that celebrity is going to be in trouble.

I’ve heard some managers and agents say, “It’s none of my business.”

I disagree. It is their business, and getting help for a troubled client is part of being a good manager or agent.

If you work in the industry long enough, you see first-hand that creativity is often borne of pain, and that many clients had troubled childhoods or estranged family relationships and seek fame as a way to fill a void. So to make money off that client and then ignore their need for professional help when that pain (or the attempted numbing of it) gets out of hand is not only irresponsible, it’s inexcusable.

If you have signing privileges (i.e., power of attorney) and can sign your clients’ name on contracts, it’s your business. If you travel in the immediate vicinity with your client (reports say at least 6 people were staying at the hotel with Anna Nicole Smith) or are privy to the details of your clients’ day to day life, it’s your business. If you have keys to your clients’ home, it’s not only your business, you have no excuse not to get them off to rehab ASAP. More than once if necessary.

(And I’m talking hard-core, real-deal rehab like-Betty Ford or Hazelden…not Rehab Lite.)

I’ve heard a lot of people comparing Anna Nicole’s death to that of Marilyn Monroe. I disagree with that as well. Marilyn died in 1962, pre-Betty Ford Center, when very little was known about addiction or even about the addictive nature of some of the prescription medications she was taking.

This is 2007, and we all know better.

Meanwhile, the headlines surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith are getting stranger by the minute…The latest, courtesy of MSNBC, is that Zsa Zsa Gabor’s 9th and current husband, Prince Frédéric von Anhalt, says he could be the baby’s father. And it gets even more bizarre: In his press conference today, Prince Frederic (who allegedly essentially bought his title) said Anna Nicole told him she’d always wanted to be a princess, so he’d tried to make that happen for her by attempting to adopt Anna Nicole. But, Prince Frederic said, Zsa Zsa wouldn’t sign the adoption papers. (I kid you not, folks. I saw him say this in the press conference with my own eyes.)

That all these people are coming out of the woodwork with press conferences after her death just proves my point: Anna Nicole needed someone to protect her. If not a good family, then at the least, by very good management…

Very good management does exist, by the way. But unfortunately it doesn’t usually make for very interesting headlines.
Copyright 2007 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.