I woke up around 4:00 AM for no particular reason. I thought I would sleep in the other room, but gave up and came downstairs about 4:30.
Right now, I’m looking at a collection of historic photographs on You Tube. Celebrities like James Dean, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis. There are also pictures of Paris, New York, the Golden Gate Bridge.
The celebrity pictures remind me of my childhood, where the weekly arrival of Life magazine was eagerly anticipated. There were pictures of Marilyn, The Beatles, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, just for starters. The Kennedys, Nixon, Dr King, Malcolm X, George Wallace, Barry Goldwater filled out the pantheon.
I remember reading in Life of how Burton and Peter O’Toole, during the filming of Becket, went pub crawling in Cambridge, I believe, drinking boiler makers. I thought that was cool. I could not have been more than 13. It turned out to be a dark foreshadowing of my life. I so wanted to be famous when I was a teenager. Still do secretly, to be honest, but now realize it is no big deal.
The weekly picture magazines, Life and Look fostered that culture of fame in a way that TV or the Internet can’t. The images stayed around the house for weeks, not disappearing like a television or computer image.
And, of course, the celebrities, moving in and out of marriages, weren’t exactly reflections of my family’s Calvinist values. I think I was traumatized by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s divorce. That divorce shattered my sense of security as if they were my own parents.
The magazines always hinted that there was something more that could be attained by buying Coca Cola, Marlboro Cigarettes, Cadillacs, Playtex foundation garments, Clairol hair dye. It was a sick fuckin’ world. The rise of Playboy,merely focused the envy and acquisition lasers on sex.
The imprinting, no brain-washing, took me years to reject. It took sobriety, 12 Step work and a reaffirmation of traditional Judaeo-Christian morality for me to turn the corner. That doesn’t mean I’m Mr Straight Arrow Normal, but dying drunk or from an overdose have no appeal for me any more.