Yes she has a gazillion dollars. And yes she’s one of the most famous people on the planet. But from what I can tell of Britney Spears, she is also a human being in great pain and in danger of falling down a deep, dark hole from which it is very difficult to see the light.
First, the story - if you’ve been hiding in a cave the last day or so:
Britney Spears checked into a rehab facility and then abruptly checked out, a source confirms to PEOPLE. And then on Friday, she returned to Southern California â€“ and she shaved her head completely bald.
Video of the newly bald Spears, 25, was captured at a Sherman Oaks, Calif., tattoo parlor by KABC-TV in Los Angeles and posted on its website.
The pop star checked herself into Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antigua “two or three days ago” but left after just one day and headed to Florida, the source tells PEOPLE.
TV’s Extra first reported that the singer had entered a treatment facility. TMZ.com later reported that she checked out less than 24 hours later.
That’s from the MSCM (Mainstreatm Celebrity Media) publication People Magazine. This “report” is from a site with even less credibility but, judging by Spears’ actions, rings true:
Britney went to a hair salon on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. Apparently she had called someone from the salon, which was closed, to come back and open the doors just for her. Our photographers say she was crying in the car for 10 minutes before she went inside – you can even see the wet tear stains on her sweatshirt. She then went inside and did the deed herself – picking up the shears and shaving her head.
Despite what Drudge and others are referring to as a “cry for help,” I can tell you that Spears’ actions are no such thing. I have been in the dark place that Spears now finds herself. I have been where she is – looking up the huge mountain she must climb to get her life back from addiction and saying to yourself, “I can’t do it. It’s too hard.” To be told on that first day of rehab how the journey she will embark on is one she will travel the rest of her life, that she will have to fight the demons that now possess her every day forever is the hardest thing anyone can ever hear. The feeling of utter and complete helplessness that engulfs you when you realize exactly what you are giving up, what you are asking of yourself is too much for most people.
That’s why recidivism rates top 70% for most substance abusers who have gone through rehab after two years. For cocaine, it is more than 90%. For Alcohol, slightly less than 60%. The problem isn’t that the programs aren’t good. The problem is one of the patient not being ready to change. And for that to happen, most addiction experts agree that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the patient must first hit rock, solid, bottom. Only when in the depths of despair and bereft of hope will the patient finally come to realize that rehabilitation is the only road to salvation and begin to make an effort to do the things necessary to free themselves.
Spears’ flight from rehab is the classic first impulse of the addicted. The feeling of panic is real, almost irresistible. You realize they want to take away everything that is familiar and comfortable – how you feel when you take that first hit or gulp or shot or even how you feel when you get up in the morning regretting the night before. Indeed, subconsciously that is the nub of the matter. You have been feeling bad for so long that it’s like a comfy old shoe. Dragging it out of its little box and looking at it in the mirror, glorying in it, revelling in it, is so much a part of your self identification that you dread having to put the box away forever.
Hence, the haircut. She doesn’t like what’s staring back at her when she gazes into the mirror. The cirumstances call for desperate reasoning: Maybe if she changes the person in the glass, the rest of her will change as well and she can go on carrying whatever monkey has jumped on her back. That’s the important thing. Maybe she can fool herself into believing she has changed simply by shaving her head.
In the meantime, all of us gawk away and watch as a young woman falls into the pit. For those who dismiss Ms. Spears ordeal by saying “she can afford it” or “serves her right” or some other stupidity, you are probably one of those whose empathy meter barely wiggles when you see an injured doe by the side of the road writhing in agony or shut your ears to the pathetic mewlings of a lost kitten. Nothing can be done for you. The part of your soul that registers human has been compromised to the point that only when something bad happens to you or to one of your loved ones does the arrow on the meter jump to levels where most of the rest of us are familiar.
I include in this group the gaping, scrambling subset of the MSM that makes a living as our eyes and ears to the world of celebrity. It is our national guilty pleasure, this obsession with the rich, the beautiful, the oh so sad and lonely creatures whose private lives and public personae have merged so seamlessly that it is impossible to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. To say that this phenomena has never been seen before in the history of civilization is a given. More problematic is how this obsession affects our politics, our culture, and our daily lives.
We are drenched in celebrity, drunk with it really. And the louder we complain about it, the more obsessed we become. This is what drives the “weevils” of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff – the writhing mass of photographers and reporters who hung on every word and with popping bulbs and clicking cameras, catalogued every action of the Mercury astronauts for the American public.
And their handsome, photogenic boss – President John F. Kennedy – did nothing to discourage the weevils from giving he and his family the same treatment. If the celebrity culture has a granddaddy, it was JFK who rightly believed he could capture the American people’s obsession with Hollywood stars and graft it on to the White House, using it to his own political advantage. The marriage of Hollywood and politics began with Kennedy and each heightened our awareness of the other until today, especially for the Democratic party, the two are hard to tell apart. Politics imbued celebrity with an importance far beyond its true impact on our national life while celebrity made politics more interesting.
A symbiotic relationship that no one knows where it will end up taking us.
The weevils will not leave Ms. Spears alone to suffer in private. They will continue to hound her, to give us all front row seats at her self destruction. I may be old fashioned but somehow, that doesn’t seem right. And I hate to be a stick in the mud but don’t you think this is one aspect of Ms. Spears’ celebrity that we can afford to miss? Will it kill us if we’re not in on Spears drama as she tumbles toward rock bottom?
Maybe we should just let her be. Heresy I’m sure. But in the words of the old Joe South hit
Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
And before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.
Words that Ms. Spears’ would grant all of us heed. Words of wisdom we can all walk to and live by.
The inimitable Jim Rose:
Only in America can a celebrity’s complete meltdown be televised from start to finish.
And I see where the salon that hosted Ms. Spears scalping party is selling her hair on Ebay.
An event for the multiverse.
Allah: Spears – Judy Garland comparison?
I know what he’s getting at but consider:
1. Spears nice little voice vs. Garland’s shattering vibrato.
2. Spears wiggles and thrusts on stage vs.Garlands enormous presence.
3. Spears best known songs vs. Garlands classics.
4. Spears “acting” vs. Garlands Academy Award nominations for her towering performances in A Star is Born (1954) and Judgement at Nuremberg (1961).
5. Spears flashing vs Garland…are you kidding?
Am I hitting this too hard?
Even Garland’s dissolution was more spectacular but perhaps less public. So perhaps both our points are valid after all.