want me to do, starve to death? I drink everything I can get, including benzedrine .’ Farmer was carried to jail in a strait-jacket, her acting career over, but the general catalogue ofself-induced misery continued. In the 505. Judy Garland re-routed a soaring career via pills and drink, resorting at one stage to sewing amphetamines into the hems of her dresses. What had begun with media-induced weight worries ended with Garland‘s death from a barbiturate overdose in 1969. Her daughter. Liza Minelli. almost staged a repeat performance in the late 705, but came through gracefully in the end.
But, of course. there will always be exceptions. Paragon ofvirtue, Shirley Temple, spent all her formative years in Hollywood and children, being more impressionable. are potentially more vulnerable than most. (Drew Barrymore, child star of E. T. was a self-confessed alcoholic and drug user aged 13; now 17. she proudly tells how she ‘pulled through‘.) Temple maintained religious convictions and. even in her 205 with an alcoholic husband. never succumbed to what she terms Hollywood’s ‘perpetually dangerous social environment of proﬂigacy, self-aggrandisement and human abuse.‘
On a local level. the whole Hollywood star circuit conspires to destroy those it invites along to nurture. The need to be seen involves the inevitable string ofparties and openings where so much cocaine and booze is flung in your direction. sooner or later the not-so-strong succumb. Free access to any illicit vice makes that vice hard to resist and. when the pressure‘s on, alcohol and drugs are one obvious. widely available escape route and bringers of temporary solace.
On a large scale. though, it has to be our media-orientated society which upholds the environment from which the problems stem. Does media create society or does society create the media? Either way, stars initially crave and thrive on media attention, only to seek refuge once it oversteps the mark of legitimate concern. Because (surprise. surprise) it‘s not just Hollywood actresses who drink or take drugs to excess — it‘s just that media/society dictates that the fame we gave these people makes them. more than your normal junkie. fair game for exposure. Ironically. some stars have found the publicity that goes with the ‘battle against the bottle‘ so beneficial to a ﬂagging profile that they seem to affect the ‘binge‘ lapses on a regular basis. The Gary Glitter syndrome: Oliver Reed. Liz Taylor. — what‘s it to be this time folks? Health food and a new film to promote. or a month or two in the Betty Ford Clinic?
Hollywood attracts media attention not so much to the films as to the performers themselves. often at an excruciatingly personal level — weight gained. hair lost. who‘s sleeping with whom. And the disposable nature of the commercial picture makes for a frustrating experience for the participants. This week‘s flavour is next week‘s forgotten fad; one minute you're the centre of every Beverley Hills party. the next you‘re, literally, in the ditch. How long before the Ninja Turtles hit the bottle. one wonders?
And yet. the strange allure of it all. The world of drugs and booze has a curious. compelling attractiveness. in its divergence from the mundane norm, oddly akin to that provided by movies themselves. There‘ll be another Olive West, Frances Farmer. Garland. Monroe. Carrie Fisher along shortly. and we‘ll love them to death again.
Postcards from the Edge is on wide release throughout Scotland from Fri 22 February.
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“If, 1' if " a ' ‘ who"; "‘2' Frances Farmer (top) hated everything about Hollywood except the money, a healthy proportion at which she spent on alcohol. Originally arrested tor a tratllc violation, she ended up with a six-month lall sentence tor riotous behaviour, and was eventually committed to the State Asylum by her mother, who blamed Farmer’s breakdown on World Communism.
Barbara La Marr (middle), known as ‘The Girl Who Is Too Beautiful’, kept her cocaine stash in a golden casket on the grand piano. She’d only sleep two hours a day, claiming she had better things to do, most oithem
she died at 26 ol an overdose.
Judy Garland took a long drink-and drugs-littered tall from the Yellow Brick Road to a lonely death in a London hotel bathroom. Her daughter Liza Minnelli had her own problems with alcohol.
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involving narcotics. Alter a brlet lilm career, .
16The List 8- 21 February 1991