Monday, February 13, 2012

Unfortunate Celebrity Overdoses

This week we learned of the passing of Whitney Houston, one of the most talented singers of this generation, and a pop icon that ruled the charts in the 1980's and 1990's. She was considered America's sweetheart before Jennifer Aniston came on the scene and took that mantra. However, despite her raging popularity and talent, and despite her good girl image, she married someone considered very much her opposite (Bobby Brown) and later in life admitted to her crack cocaine addiction. Despite the rumors surrounding her death, her family said today that her death was a result of drugs and alcohol, according to TMZ.

It makes me wonder why some of the most talented people throw their lives away and check out way too early like her. As you think about the excesses of famous people, just remember that we have seen this before.

Here is a list of some of the best talent in years that tossed it all away because of drug and alcohol abuse:

John Belushi: There were stories that after SNL rehearsals, Belushi would walk unannounced into nearby homes of friends or strangers exhausted, scrounging for food, and often falling asleep unable to be located for the next day's work. He starred in the Blues Brothers and Animal House.

He was found dead on March 5, 1982 due to a speedball, the combined injection of cocaine and heroin.

Jim Morrison: Lead singer of The Doors. Having struggled with with both drug and alcohol abuse throughout his life, Jim Morrison died of a heart attack triggered by an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 27.

Brittany Murphy: Actress in films such as 8 Mile, Girl Interrupted, Sin City, and Clueless. She collapsed in her bathroom on December 20, 2009. The primary cause was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication.

The drug overdose is what did her in, as vomit was found all around the surrounding areas where her body was discovered.

Chris Farley: Famous SNL alum and star of multiple comedic hits such as Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, Beverly Hills Ninja, and the Wayne's World movies. He died December 18, 1997 at the age of 33 from cocaine and heroin overdose...just like John Belushi.

Dana Plato: The lead female role of Differnt Strokes in the 1980's, Plato fell into a life of drugs and pornography. She overdosed on prescription medication on May 8, 1999, a couple years after she was found with no work in Vegas and having gone to jail for robbing a video store.

Jimi Hendrix: Everyone probably has a copy of his album "Are You Experienced." A drug-drenched life of rock and roll finally led to a respiratory arrest caused by alcohol, barbituate, and vomit inhalation on September 18, 1970.

Corey Haim: The star from the 1980's was in hit movies such as Silver Bullet, The Lost Boys, Dream A Little Dream, Lucas and License to Drive. He was later just as well known for his drug abuse and angry tirades as he was for his movies. He died on March 10, 2010 from pneumonia, with many believing his past drug addiction caused a weakened immune system.

There are too many talented comedians, musicians and actors that have checked out way too early because of their own excesses, too many to list here. You would think that lessons would be learned, but alas we'll only have the chance to wonder who's next in line for a sad ending.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What the heck happened to the "Home Alone" kid?

Today, ET released a photo of Macaulay Culkin strolling along the streets of NYC with a can of Red Bull in his hand. But from the looks of this guy, I wouldn't have been surprised to see a bottle hidden in a paper bag instead of an energy drink. I'm sure anyone who grew up in the 80's that stumbles across this photo (seen here: will wonder if the former child actor has been hanging around in the gutter or maybe ran into Whitney Houston's drug dealer. The guy looks a wee bit sickly.

I'd post the photo on here, but I think ET has the only photo and that is probably copyrighted. So click on the link above. Wow, what a differce a few years makes! Or hard drugs---just wondering out loud.

It's kind of sad that every few months we have to read about another child star who grew up to become a complete mess. Some have grown up and have fallen to the allure of drugs and alcohol that comes with stardom. Take a look at the public struggles of Britney Spears who found it necessary to hang out with Paris Hilton and learn the habit of leaving her panties at home so all the camaera on her can get a photo of that. Or Lindsay Lohan...the lush. Or Corey Haim (RIP). For some people I guess it's better to burn out than to fade away.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What's Holding You Back?

I’ve spent some time recently lost in thought, pondering my future, and seeing changes in the lives of friends and family (even very simple changes). I have become a bit philosophical about change and the stresses in can bring into our lives. And I’d bet a dollar that every day everyone of us talks with a person we know that wants a better life and feels that they’ve worked hard for it but seems to be stuck in place. Stuck in place…sounds like a jail sentence, huh? I’d feel the same way if I were stuck in place.

What got me to thinking about this today (enough so to write about it) was a video that a friend and colleague emailed to me yesterday. It was a video about entrepreneurship, and what kind of person becomes an entrepreneur. For the record, I am one of those zany entrepreneurs. But I think that our own happiness comes down to a simple question. How do you define your own success?

By success, I am referring to anything that would make our lives better, not just the financial and work-related successes. Most of us may be generally happy even considering the lousy state of the economy, but do we feel successful? Even I struggle with that more than I’d care to admit. And if we’re not, then what is holding us back from changing our lives for the better? To find that answer we only need to look in the mirror.

So as I ponder this, I think what holds most of us back is either the fear of failure or the fear of success. I’d guess that for most people it is the fear of failure. The fear of failure is the reason why many people (even a lot of folks that I know) continue to sit in a cubicle and earn just enough money to keep them from looking elsewhere for employment, but not enough to give them the financial success they’ve likely earned. I was caught up in that situation a few years ago. I worked for one the largest investment firms in the country (actually, one of the larger ones globally).

But it didn’t take me long to figure out how disgusting office politics in the corporate world can be. Childish, actually. And how most of your “managers” were not qualified to do the job you were doing, and that they judged you at. And it didn’t take long to figure out that the corporate America demands loyalty from their employees, including many of your Saturdays away from your family. But when trading volumes drop (referring to where I used to work) a bit they quickly escort those that have occupied the cubicle long enough to make more than the average salary at the place and replace you with someone new that can be hired and trained for under $30,000 a year. What can I say, that business model works…keeps the owners with their expected minimum of a 12% profit margin.

So, instead of looking out for opportunities, I guess most of us just see the difficulty of changing our environment and see nothing but uncertainty ahead. It’s a lot easier to tolerate a job you’re not satisfied with, a relationship that is stale or miserable, or staying put in your daily routine instead of putting energy into setting some personal goals for yourself.

Taking risks can be painful. Failure can hurt. What if you strike out to achieve those goals or start your own business and fail? You will undoubtedly be judged by friends and family, and those are the stings that hurt the most. No one likes criticism or to be told “I told you so.” That is equal to being called an idiot. But if you listen to those words, those are the same kind of people that kill the human spirit and have you sitting in a cubicle, stuck in a bad relationship, or afraid to reach for a personal goal in the first place.

After years of working for corporations, a few years ago I decided to leave that job and strike out on my own with a few business partners. I figured “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Is it easy? Heck no! I have failed more times than I can count at the goals I have set for my professional life. There is no steady paycheck and a 401K with what I do. Sometimes it gets downright brutal, financially. But there are rewards that go beyond the financial aspect. Freedom is the best reward. I am responsible for my time, not a mid-level manager, not some guy that tells me that if I don’t put in significant overtime on weekends that it will impact the already lousy quarterly joke of a bonus paid to workers (yep, have had managers tell me that, too).

I have failed a lot of times. Failed at work related things, failed miserably at relationships, and failed with personal goals I have set for myself. But if you ask me, there is no way to find success unless you’re not afraid to fail. Things might be greener on the other side of the track. They could be worse. But do you really want to be sitting around in a couple of years wondering “what if?” Me either.

Here is the web address for the video that got me to thinking, just in case you want to check it out.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Trump Endorses Romney

The Donald has made it official. He will not run as a third party candidate for President if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee. Since this will hit the 6:30 news shows tonight, and since this man is as much a celebrity as he is a real estate mogul, I thought I’d take a moment to share a pet peeve of mine. I absolutely hate for celebrities to mix up in politics and then tell the rest of us how we should think and vote. And that goes for celebrities on both sides of the political aisle. And more and more that aisle seems to get blurry to the point where it’s hard to tell any difference between the two parties unless you’re hanging around at the fringes.

Before I go on a rant about Trump endorsing Romney, allow me to get the kudos out of the way first. Trump is a gutsy businessman, not afraid of risk, and is a winner. He’s outspoken, usually the smartest guy in the room, and can work the world of marketing and advertising like no other. I own a few of his books and learned a few things from them. That being said, didn’t this guy just threaten to run for President as a Reform Party candidate in 2000, and a few years before that claim he was a democrat and threatened to run for the big office then, too? Yes, he did. So which side of the aisle is it, Trump? Are you just that hungry for attention?

I don’t mind the endorsements of celebrities, but the constant preaching and complaining is a big turn off to the public at large, or so I suspect. We all have our political opinions. But there is just something about celebrities that look down their noses and tell us how to vote as if they are smarter than you and I.

Take for example the rock bands U2 and R.E.M. Incredibly talented bands. I bought a few of their CD’s and cassettes back in the day. I own nearly every album made by U2, the music is great. And when musicians involve themselves in humanitarian causes I think it’s great, a great example. But when you stand up with your microphone and tell me to vote for a candidate…well, that’s my decision. Not yours. And when celebrities become too involved it’s a downer for me. Politics always gets dirty. Are you endorsing dirty campaign tactics, too? If you endorsed Obama are you endorsing 8% perpetual unemployment or are you going to be his cheerleader or still blame Bush? If you endorse Romney are you going to stand by the unethical negative campaign ads that distort someone’s records or take their statements out of context? Ads like that are nothing more than lies, if you ask me.

I missed the entire season of Sunday Night Football (NFL) during the 2010 season because NBC had Keith Olbermann as a host. I love football, but I refuse to put a dime into anyone’s pocket who is so smug as to literally call half of America “idiots” because they did not vote for his candidate. It doesn’t mean that the guy hasn’t made some good points on his show or been clever and funny when he was on ESPN. I just don’t like the divisiveness.

A celebrity runs the risk of alienating the very people who made them what they are when they go political. It’s just a bad mix. Sean Penn is a great actor and I’ve seen a ton of his movies. He’s probably a cool guy to have a cold one with and talk sports and movies. His last movie might have been the best work he’s ever done but I’d never know. When he started hanging out with dictators and telling me how I should think I decided that I’d given Spicoli enough of my money.