Granny & I Converse about American CelebrityPublished Jun 11, 2012
Granny Gheeta loved music and films, however, she was never the sort of person who indulged in idol worship or got her knickers in a crease over famous people. There were a few celebrities she watched from time to time, but she always put their lives in perspective by commenting, "All that glitters is not gold".
Her meaning behind this remark was, eventhough they may seem picture-perfect, their real lives were not without battles, sorrow and grief. Therefore, what we see, may not necessarily portray the depths of their personnas. Granny emphasized, "They have triumphs and tribulations like everyone else. They are human beings having surreal experiences."
I remember when Elvis Presley died, Granny was a bit upset, but she always felt that when an ordinary person pursued the path of fame, they somehow lost themselves in the process. Granny Gheeta felt that Elvis did not have to die, and that if he was monitored more closely and advised by well-meaning individuals he would have lived a longer life.
It was a lovely, Jamaican Sunday afternoon, and I had come by Granny's house to keep her company while she tended to her garden, she had decided the topic of her discussion was going to be, "The lives of American Celebrities", perhaps it was a dream she had, but no one ever knew what prompted Granny's conversations at times. Granny could talk about any subject eloquently, with vigor and her own opinions for hours.
She started off, "You know, when someone becomes famous, especially in America, it seems as if there is a process where they get isolated from their families and are changed overnight into another personna. If that person is not strong enough or does not have deep family roots, culture and heritage, as fans, we get to watch them turn into their own worst enemy."
As Granny expressed herself intently. I realized, that she had been ired by a death of a notable person highlighted in the Gleaner.
I gazed at her as she continued to make her point, questioning, "Why do you think so Granny?"
"First of all, the team that they often select to watch and guard them are usually "regular" human beings. Some may have the formal training, while others are basically their "yes men and women" who are along for the tumultuous ride. A celebrity can easily persuade or order these individuals around, manipulating outcomes to their advantage. Orders are very rarely carried out to the letter and very often they are placed in precarious situations, where only luck and the grace of God saves them. Left alone, and without supervision, most celebrities will get themselves in a heap of hot water. They are like children, you know the old Jamaican saying, "once a man, twice a child". While most people experience their second childhood at old age, celebrities experience theirs when they embark on fame."
Over the years Granny and I discussed several topics, but none were more poignant than the subject of fame and celebrity. Primarily because her observations could be applied to many ranks in life. For instance, over the past few years we have experienced the deaths of Marilyn Monroe, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, along with Elvis Presley. The common denominators that connected these celebrities were overindulgence in recreational drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol.
For the most part, people on a whole, turn to drugs and alcohol as an escape from themselves or because loneliness has taken hold of their lives. Many stars die because people stop paying attention to them. It is my belief that if the stars were guarded more closely, despite their reckless behaviors or overindulgencies, they would still be alive.
Granny Gheeta's conversation with me many years ago resonated in my mind as I analyzed the demise of certain celebrities over the years.
She was certain that if the people who were paid to protect celebrities were more stalworth, faithful and non-wavering, regardless of consequences, their private lives would be less public and their safety would be more secure. However, in a world where money changes the game continually, most, can be easily bribed or dissuaded from doing the right thing.
A celebrity can basically order around bodyguards or dole out severe consequences to anyone in their camp who goes against them. Granny Gheeta was certain that if the people paid to watch them, answered to a higher authority and were compelled to abide by strict orders, many disasters would be averted. But as we all know, with money and fame, comes power and control and no one wants to go up against a powerful Star.
Granny was a woman who had an extraordinary talent for assessing situations, she would say, "Magli, you know it takes approximately six people to guard one body."
I would say to her, "Granny how do you know these things. "
She would smile shyly, "I have seen the procession of enough dignitaries to know these things. You need two people to guard the person, two to guard the outer parameters and two more, to guard the inner circles. That way, a fanatic would have a difficult time getting to a star. Have you ever heard of a President, Governor General or Prime Minister overdosing or dying from an unnecessary situation?"
I thought long and hard....."No, Granny..I think you might be right."
One thing I did know was, in Jamaica, our celebrities tried not to stray too far from home, and although they relish and embrace stardom, the ones that are well anchored, do not believe the hype. In other words, they try not to get carried away by their own publicity. Or as we say in Jamaica, "Get too souped up". Also, if someone is paid to guard you, come hell or highwater, they are not going to be the bearer of bad news, especially on their watch. Dem shadow yu till yu sick an tiad of dem.
Granny went on emphatically, "Politicians don't fizzle, because the Secret Service people stick to them like glue. Their orders are rarely changed, or waived. They answer to the People, so if anything happens, there is a lot of explaining to do. It is an important task when one is in charge of the life of another, the object being guarded, should respect the people who are taking great pains to make sure he/she is safe and the Body Guards should always be on task. Their only concern should be keeping their charge alive at all times. They are accountable for every waking hour of stars and celebrities. So when someone dies needlessly, people are always going to ask, where were the bodyguards?"
Granny Gheeta always amazed me with her prophetic thinking and simple assesments of modern life. The conversations that we had so many years ago have become very important for this century's living. Most recently, we have watched the lives of several stars implode and resulting to death, and deep down we all feel that if someone was paying closer attention, death would have been defeated. The Amy Whinehouse song, "They wanna send me to Rehab, but I said No, No, No....." captures the essence of celebrity status. Whatever the star wants, the star gets, but at what price?
If these individuals' lives were insured like a priceless piece of art, I believe that closer attention would be paid. Some may say, that privacy becomes non-existent once one becomes a celebrity. This may be true, but as long as drugs, alcohol and other vices become the focal part of their lives, then, privacy is not an option. Because death will follow swiftly and with certainty.
We all admire our celebrities and the lives they lead, "glamorizing" every detail of their lives, the good, bad and torrid, but no one really places any emphasis on what goes on behind closed doors. As Granny Gheeta would say, "When folks are left alone to themselves, that is when the demons and the inner monsters come out , it is then, they need the most attention, not when they are shining brightly in the sky for all the world to see."