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Price of early fame

Fame's a spur that often leads people on to success, but more often than not a downward spiral follows once it has been achieved. Celebrities make a Faustian pact in which they trade away their privacy and regular life for the perks of fame, and then cry foul when they realize the price they have paid. And with increasingly aggressive strategies to invade the lives of the glitterati, the price of fame is becoming increasingly steep.

It wasn't before the day Michael Jackson died, or the day after when I found out about it... I heard his song 'Childhood' for the first time a month after his death. In a live chat he did on Christmas day, 2003, Jackson said "If you really want to know about me, there's a song I wrote, which is the most honest song I've ever written. It's the most autobiographical song I've ever written. It's called, Childhood."

“Before you judge me / Try hard to love me / Look within your heart then ask / Have you seen my Childhood?” goes the song. “People say I'm strange that way / 'cause I love such elementary things / It's been my fate to compensate / For the Childhood I've never known ... Before you judge me / Try hard to love me / The painful youth I've had.”

Growing up in the '90s, Jackson's music provided much of the soundtrack to everyday life. In his adult life he was accused of child molestation, charges against which he was later acquitted. The man who had his first number one album at the age of ten, which did little for his fragile psyche already forced to deal with his father's abuse. One may laugh all they want at his later appearance but the clear psychological explanation is Jackson strove to alter his looks drastically because he did not want to look like his father.

The downward, bizarre and off-putting trajectory Jackson's life had taken in the last decade and a half was upsetting to countless fans. But fans are seldom friends, and few realized that his incredible musical achievements as a boy and young man had been overshadowed by his personal demons, because clearly there was damage there, whatever was going on, that dominated his adult life. Ultimately one must realize that the Michael Jackson who died a middle-aged man wasn't the Michael Jackson from our youth.

Even though he has been the focus thus far, Michael Jackson isn't the only celebrity for whom the price of fame, specifically early fame, has been deceptive and corrosive. More and more research is being done on the area, but enough data exists to state, with factual backing, that celebrities meet an earlier end. Rock stars in general are frequently characterized as indulging in high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, with high-profile deaths amongst such celebrities creating an impression of premature mortality.

From Elvis to Cobain, a life at the top of the pantheon, devoutly sought after by millions of fans, doesn't come free of risks. For rock stars, the toll of high-velocity lifestyles pursued on a tide of popular acclaim makes it twice as likely as the rest of us to die an early death. Alcohol, drugs, accidents and violence are the chief perils but as rock stars age, cancer and heart disease pose an increasing threat to abused bodies and shrivelled livers. Add to that the worst kind of peer pressure, because if high school wasn't bad enough, now they have thousands and millions of people to impress. And what's more is, a lot of these celebrities never even made it through high school in the first place.

Stars can suffer high levels of stress in environments where alcohol and drugs are widely available, leading to health-damaging risk behaviour. However, their behaviour can also influence would-be stars and devoted fans. It's a two way death street where stars and fans influence each other in the most damaging ways possible.

The prise of early fame is damaging in stars as Jackson's example proves. But Jackson made it big and went on to achieve great success even in his later life. What about one-hit wonders? Stars we shower down on and forget about weeks later? Most of them can never continue their life because they can neither go back to an average life nor earn further success in the limelight. As tempting and wondrous as life in the middle of a crowd is, the strings that come attached with it are less than inviting.

*assessments about early mortality of rock stars have been made based on research done by University of Liverpool on the topic

By The Anarchist Kitten

Book Review

A Snowball in Hell

That the King of Pop should have passed on with the last year of the past decade was perhaps significant; considering that with the wonders of auto-tuning, anyone from Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking to Paris Hilton could 'sing', and parading about onstage with pyrotechnic underwear would grant you instant fame. Heck, with a track like 'My Humps', the formerly respectable Black Eyed Peas proved to the world that you didn't even need decent lyrics. This slow decay isn't just confined to the music industry; one look at MTV with such travesties as Splitsvilla will have you agreeing with Robbie Williams when he says 'Reality Killed the Video Star'. It's almost enough to make a sane man turn Joker and want to blow it all up.

That's precisely what Christopher Brookmyre sets out to do in A Snowball in Hell, the final book in his Angelique trilogy, albeit with a lot of style. The first book in the series, 'A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away' introduced Angelique de Xavia, female, Asian and an oddity in the Glasgow police force, who brought down a deadly serial killer. The sequel, 'The Sacred Art of Stealing' pairs her with the irrepressible Zal Innez, master conman and escape artist.

'Snowball in Hell' introduces a nemesis worthy of Zal and Angelique. A returning villain from the previous books has the entertainment industry on the hop, as he brutally murders a leading journalist and a music band, and releases the snuff video. He goes on to kidnap more celebrities, holding them hostage and inviting the public to participate in a gruesome parody of reality shows. Officer De Xavia is called in to deal with the criminal, but soon finds herself way out of league. The only person she can think of who can match this sly number is Zal, who's been MIA for three years. With the clock racing, Angelique must track down the elusive Zal before she can take the kidnapper out. What follows is a story fraught with suspense, peppered with shocking rants that you somehow can't entirely disagree with, super slick capers and more than a little bit of romance. While the gore and the explicit language might stick this book in the 'lad lit' category, there's something here for everyone.

Whatever one can say in praise of Brookmyre's writing would feel inadequate; he's funny, he's sarcastic, he's insightful, and he's not afraid of speaking the ugly truth, even if it is through the perspective of a heinous criminal. He even shows a softer side with the romance angle, and this might tick off fans of Sacred Art, but diehard romantics will definitely go *squee*. As Adam Lambert puts it, “Do you know what you got into? Can you handle what I'm about to do? 'Cause it's about to get rough for you.”

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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