Quick. Think of some qualities that you'd find less than endearing in a friend (and downright deplorable in a significant other). If they were perpetually drunk, suddenly, that might be a bit disconcerting. Or doing copious amounts of cocaine and never, ever sleeping. Or crashing their car into the cars and houses of others. Or slapping psychics when you took them out on the town. Or maybe getting into relationships with bottom-feeders who they tended to beat the living shit out of in public. Probably, you'd get worried. Maybe try to figure out ways to help them stop behaving like a total asshole. Or, in more serious circumstances, wonder if they shouldn't check themselves into rehab. Right? That would be the decent thing to do.
More importantly, unless the friend or significant other in this scenario is parentally-funded (or famous), there's no way that any kind of employer is going to stand for that behavior. Because watching a trainwreck if it's pouring your coffee or laying out your magazine isn't remotely fun; it's stressful, and probably it's not even showing up to the office, and it's going to get fired really quickly. Unlike friends, employers aren't obligated to stick around while troubled people work out their shit.
This all changes when applied to a celebrity, though. Then, it's a whole different story. Because for some reason, the public likes to watch people totally lose their shit. In fact, people can make money off someone whose entire career devolves into nothing but losing their shit. And yes, perhaps a famous person can slip up once, like Jack Nicholson taking a golf club to someone's car window in rush-hour gridlock traffic. But if you're Britney Spears and you're doing that with an umbrella after you've shaved your head, fled your handlers, and willingly submitted a documentary about your love with Kevin Federline to MTV that you filmed together with camcorders, then you're officially a hot mess, and you're no longer getting press for the things that made you famous in the first place. At that point, your worth, in terms of being a commodity, is based on your erratic behavior.
From tabloids to an endless succession of shows devoted to fake hand-wringing about where it all went wrong, there's a built-in industry ready to capitalize on the misfortunes of those who are chemically dependent. Or too young to know what their showbiz moms and dads have signed them up for. Or genuinely too sensitive to get chased by strangers in cars when they're leaving a club, because they aren't really capable of processing what it actually means to be famous. This industry is why you can watch a special about the final 24 hours of supermodel Gia's life. Or read about Lindsay Lohan punching a psychic an hour after it happens. Or see a picture of Whitney Houston in her coffin.
And yes, it's true: someone has to be buying this crap for thousands of people to make a living off of producing it. But supply and demand should not apply when the supply in question is a relative or friend. And too often, the people who are supposed to caring about and for their investments (or friends or family members) are unwilling, uninterested, or totally incapable of pulling those individuals out of the bubble of enablers. Or, in the case of people like Dina Lohan, who enjoys club-hopping with her daughter, they are the enablers. Also, they're creepy.
It's rough enough for a civilian to know who one's real friends and loves are. Chances are, there are at least a couple of people in your (rather average) life who have screwed you over, and you're not even offering them a free pass to unlimited drugs, free alcohol, and your sloppy seconds. Or the opportunity to make a couple grand selling photos of you doing dumb things to the press. They've just turned out to be miserable, or unreliable, or selfish. Now, imagine raising the stakes to a level where you are literally their ticket to a better life. If it's easier to boss around or embezzle from a junkie, there's not much incentive to encourage self-improvement. And apparently, this still holds true if the junkie in question is your spouse or oldest friend.
I had a friend who dropped off Britney Spears' tour a couple of years ago. We were having dinner once she got home and she was talking about what things were like on the road. How people had to surrender their personal pill bottles, lest Britney hear the noise of Adderall rattling around in a plastic container, have a Pavlovian reaction, and bust the door down to get at the goods. Red Bull was banned, too. Apparently, her handlers were keeping her incapacitated so they could trot her around the world, shove her out onstage, and make bank. According to my friend, Britney was dazed for most of the tour, oblivious to what was actually happening, and not particularly in a state where she should have been performing. Dancers and people in the costume department swore someone was feeding her a steady stream of downers.
At some point before starting this arduous globe-trotting schedule, someone figured out that Britney Spears was worth more as a hot mess than as an actual performer. So instead of focusing on easing back into stage performances, getting back in shape, and taking a well-tuned show to multiple continents, it made more sense to just keep her dazed and complacent before tossing her onstage to make a fool of herself. If it sounds crazy, remember they did it to Whitney Houston in the past few years, too. And that Whitney Houston, like Amy Winehouse, was someone with a once-a-generation voice. But that you probably don't think of that first when you think of either one of them.
Whitney Weiss lives in Buenos Aires, where she DJs, throws a party called Father Figures, and is one-half of a band that bridges the gap between Snap! and Quad City DJs. If you want to hear what she's up to, you should visit soundcloud.com/djwhitneyweiss.