CNN doesn’t say so directly, but in its follow-up coverage of country singer Mindy McCready’s death, it suggests that those who appear on Celebrity Rehab are cursed.
The report notes that McCready is the fifth Celebrity Rehab alum to die in the last two years. She follows former Alice In Chains bassist Mike Starr, Real World cast member Joey Kovar, Grease actor Jeff Conaway and Rodney King, who had been beaten by police in 1991, to the grave. McCready’s death is especially horrific. The mother of two shot herself to death on the front porch, the same spot David Wilson, her boyfriend and father of her children, committed suicide a month ago.
Many people watch Celebrity Rehab to laugh over the wreckage of celebrity lives. We see these people at rock bottom, slaves to their addictions. Their money has run out, their careers have crashed and burned and they can’t stop from embarrassing themselves in public.
When we laugh at the spectacle, it’s usually over the relief that it’s not us on the TV. Some viewers have sympathy, while others make heartless, tasteless jokes about how the mighty have fallen.
Some people have suggested that the show’s host, Dr. Drew Pinsky, is presiding over a Hollywood circus, showing off the freaks to an eager public, so to speak. But that’s not how I see it.
Pinsky has seen a lot of his famous friends die at the hands of addiction and the underlying mental illness, and his stated goal is to show people just how terrible a disease this is. He told CNN:
One of my hopes was, in bringing ‘Celebrity Rehab’ out, was to teach people how dangerous addiction was. … If I was doing a show on cancer, there would not be much surprise when my cancer patient died. In fact, we’d celebrate a few years of good quality life. People don’t understand that addiction has virtually the same prognosis. If you have other mental health issues on top of that, it’s so much worse. …
There’s a cautionary tale here about the stigma of mental illness and the way in which the public attack celebrities who take care of themselves. … [McCready] became so fearful of the stigma and the way people were responding to her being hospitalized that she actually checked herself out prematurely. … She is a lovely woman, we have lost her, and it didn’t have to go down like this.
Having followed Pinsky’s work over the years, I think his efforts are sincere and useful.
We see celebrities crashing and burning on TV, but countless people from all walks of life suffer these horrors every minute of every day. We can’t help them unless we know the behaviors to look for. Pinsky and the people who have been on his show have given us quite an education.
I hope we don’t waste it on mere gawking.