When famous people die

After Kurt Cobain killed himself, one of my mom’s college students said she was so distraught that she couldn’t turn in her assignment.

As a college student myself at the time, I thought that was a pretty shoddy excuse. I mean, light a candle outside your local record store, listen to Heart-Shaped Box on repeat, but do your damn homework. It’s not like you knew the guy. He was a tortured artist after all. His untimely death was sad, yes, but hardly a shock.

Heath Ledger’s death a few years ago, on the other hand, was shocking. Like Cobain, he left behind a young daughter. He wasn’t a known drug addict, but if the stories are to be believed, I can see how he could have accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs.

I learned of Michael Jackson’s death while checking my email in the Tokyo airport. I may have said, “Oh my god” out loud. Unexpected, but not beyond belief.

Brittany Murphy. Corey Haim. Lots of stars die suddenly.

"Glee" Cory Monteith

Last Saturday night, I got into bed feeling bummed out about the state of a world where a young man can be killed legally for wearing a hoodie (Even if Trayvon Martin did pummel George Zimmerman and smash his head on the sidewalk, didn’t he have a right to stand his ground?). Another news alert popped up on my iPod: Glee actor Cory Monteith found dead in a Vancouver hotel room.

I actually gasped. I know I said “Oh my god” out loud. Just a few days earlier, out of nowhere, I told Rob about Monteith.

“He checked into rehab for substance abuse. What kind of drugs could he possibly be taking? Why would he need to go to rehab? Couldn’t he just kick it on his own, Charlie Sheen style?”

Obviously, I didn’t know what I was talking about. My ignorant assumption was based on his squeaky clean appearance. The fact that he was dating costar Lea Michele, and she was standing by him, proud of him for taking this step. I had googled him to see what he was being treated for. Vicodin? Maybe cocaine? I couldn’t exactly picture him shooting heroin at a Glee cast party. Or smoking meth while Lea warms up her vocal chords. I couldn’t imagine him being a serious enough alcoholic to warrant a stint in rehab.

Is that why I’m particularly broken up about his death? Is that why, when I saw the news alert yesterday that the cause of death was a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol, my insides clenched from the tragedy of it all?

I’m a Glee fan, yes, but Finn Hudson was never my favorite character. If they’d written him off the show for other reasons, I wouldn’t have cared. I am a Lea Michele fan, though. That girl can sing anything.

I found myself hoping the couple had been having serious problems, as though that might make the loss easier for her. My heart breaks to think that at the time of his death, she thought everything was going great, that her boyfriend was clean, and she’d talk to him later that day. I guess it would be worse if they’d had a terrible fight, and that’s why he decided to get some heroin.

Either way, how does a person begin to get over it?

At one of the lowest points in my life, after Isis died, Glee made me smile. Lea Michele specifically. Her performance of Firework, which I later downloaded, filled me with just enough optimism to know that I would feel whole again.

FIREWORK – RACHEL | GLEE from christianjn on Vimeo.

Here she is singing with Monteith. Probably not a song that will cheer anyone up.

4 thoughts on “When famous people die

  1. Beautifully written, Kari. It’s so sad and disappointing to lose our stars, and it’s been going on forever. I remember when Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died…Jim Morrison. I’d seen them so many times in person because t.v. wasn’t so omnipresent then and the internet didn’t exist. I was so confused that I actually went into a depression for a while. We often assume that people who look like they have it all actually do. Obviously, it’s lonely and dangerous at “the top.”

  2. I love your writings I look forward to them.

  3. We never know exactly what will resonate within ourselves and within others. Some losses and deaths just really seem to hit home harder than others. I remember feeling horribly sad when Heath Ledger and Michael Hutchence died. It was just hard to imagine a world that they wouldn’t share their unique talents in again. When someone dies tragically, like Montieth, it’s hard not to fathom why someone would throw so much away. And while he was handsome, it was in a boy next door kind of way. He could have been anyone! He just happened to be a famous anyone, if that makes sense.

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