I've spent a lot of time thinking about "rock-bottom celebrities." You know the ones I'm talking about. The actors, singers, rock stars, and entertainers who seem to have a proclivity for dangling themselves on the precipice of utter self-annihilation. For every respectable celebrity who takes their craft seriously (whatever it might be), there's a Lindsey Lohan or a Charlie Sheen lurking in the corner, just waiting to get arrested for some other banal petty crime while under the influence of paint-thinner or the latest designer, hallucination-inducing veterinary tranquilizer.
[SIDE NOTE: Yeah, I know it looks like Charlie Sheen has turned a corner, but for me to believe a true transformation, it's got to last a few years. And seriously. Can't you just feel the crazy seething beneath that man's currently happy-go-lucky demeanor?]
Before we move on, I have to make an admission: I like Broadway musicals. No, not all of them. But, I will absolutely admit to loving Les Miserables, Rent, and Wicked. Especially Wicked. My wife, on the other hand, is a bona fide Broadway Musical CRAZY! She'll listen to anything that even resembles a show tune.
So this is what happened: She and I were cleaning the house—long before we had kids, and you could actually have a clean house for more than 13 seconds—and we turned on our XM Radio to the Broadway channel. Not necessarily my choice for extended listening, but I always keep the "happy wife, happy life" motto in mind. And over the speakers came the sound of Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel singing the song "Popular" as Galinda/Glinda and Elphaba/The Wicked Witch, respectively. It was a lively tune, and my wife looked at me and said, "I don't know what show this is from."
Such an admission was not common around our house.
Well, within a week we had the original soundtrack, and it was on heavy rotation in our SUV. During a particularly heartfelt moment, the Wizard (played by Joel Grey) says to the horribly misunderstood Elphaba the following quotable—or well, singable—quote: "The most celebrated / Are the rehabilitated."
I remember the first time I heard that line, and I thought to myself, "Man, that's genius." It's true, too. Who doesn't LOVE a good comeback story—one of those good old triumph-of-the-human-spirit-over-the-adversity-of-addiction stories. I'll tell you, I love them; I'm a sucker for them.
My favorite current celebrity who has come back from the brink would have to be Robert Downey, Jr. Here is a guy who was arrested multiple times for drug possession stemming from addiction to cocaine and heroin. He had lost jobs, been through multiple rehab programs, and still continued in his downward spiral. But then, in the mid-2000s, he made several big-screen appearances, and by the time 2008 rolled around, he was on his way to becoming something like box office aristocracy, with roles as the title character in such franchises as Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.
You gotta love that guy, right? I mean, to start the decade at rock-bottom and to finish it on top is nothing short of a miracle. And he seems to be holding on. I, for one, hope that he continues. His acting chops, comic timing, and undeniable intelligence make him a joy to watch on screen.
That's part of the reason I felt the irresistible pull to write the story of Zephyr Hopkins in my new short novel (or novella, depending on which term you like) The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins. The title character's life is a mess, and everything he does seems only to exacerbate his issues until one day, something so unexpected, so tragic, so soul-crushing happens that he is forced to a crossroads towards either total destruction or a hard road of rebuilding.
I won't tell you what choice he makes. What fun would that be? But for $0.99, you can find out. And maybe you might even email me at jesse [at] accidental-author [dot] com and let me know where you think Zephyr is headed in the future.
Buy The Perdition of Zephyr Hopkins now for $0.99 at: