Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Friday Buzzkills: Let's put a smile on that face

There you sit, surrounded by shiny new presents, snug in your lingering cookie fat, openly optimistic about the dawning of a new year—and hey, why shouldn’t you be? After all, it’s the Year Of Change and all that goody gumdrop bullshit, and after years of casting increasingly fidgety looks in its direction we’re finally able to give 2008 that long-awaited Glasgow kiss goodnight. Sure, there’s war a-plenty, every other politician is being indicted or impeached on corruption charges, and the economic forecast for the coming months has been labeled “grim,” “bleak,” and/or “like, what is money but green-colored paper that floats in and out of your life?” by everyone from, er, the incoming President (but what does he know?) to your company’s CFO (remember that e-mail explaining why your 401(k) was recently converted to Camel Cash?). But that’s no reason not to harbor a kernel of hope that the ship can right itself with a new, charismatic hand on the tiller, right? So as part of our New Year’s Resolutions that will be scrapped sometime next week because they’re way too hard, we’re going to try a little tenderness with you, our so frequently gobsmacked reader, by putting a positive spin on this week’s lachrymose litany. Just because we’re headed for a Depression doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time, right? So let’s the re-pop the taped-down cork on this fizz-less bottle of Friday Buzzkills and get the party started all over again. - The death of a child is never easy, but it’s much, much worse when you’re famous—and it’s doubly woe-is-humanity when you’re part of an organization (or “religion,” if you’re going to get litigious about it) that’s long been associated with eschewing modern medicine in favor of treating illnesses with “auditing,” “purification,” and stories about spaceships. Such was the terrible, ethically challenging ick-storm brought about by Jett Travolta’s untimely passing late last week, a story that has blossomed into a tangle of issues so thorny we're not sure we even want to touch them. (But we will.) There’s certainly nothing to be gained by using a private tragedy as an opportunity to create a very public soapbox on the “evils of Scientology,” but that hasn’t stopped seemingly every blog on the Internet from weighing in on it—not that their skepticism is totally unfounded, of course. After all, every new revelation seems to add new layers of sadness wrapped in secrecy: Capping off an edgy week where even its own commenters turned against it for being the jerks who don’t know when to quit, Gawker laid out this disheartening rundown of all the reasons why the whole story seems to be yet more evidence of Travolta’s carefully crafted persona, from the way he steadfastly refused to acknowledge that his son might be autistic or even sick at all for that matter (despite the fact that he apparently required the constant supervision of two fellow Scientologist “nannies”), to the blatantly Photoshopped publicity photos he released in the wake of Jett’s death. Taken as a whole, they paint a picture of a family inured to denial, but the sensitive nature of the subject has made it exceedingly difficult for media types to even point out the various plotholes without looking like another kind of –hole in the process.

Illustration for article titled Friday Buzzkills: Let's put a smile on that face

Luckily, there are far easier targets to focus on: Fellow Scientologists

Lisa Marie Presley and Tom Cruise have both stepped forward to defend their church against claims that its members are forbidden from seeking medical treatment, with Cruise insisting, “That’s just not true” during yesterday’s appearance on The View. Of course, there’s that whole, pesky list of illnesses—including asthma, coronary trouble, and high blood pressure—that have been labeled as “psychosomatic” in pretty much everything ever written by L. Ron Hubbard, who also once claimed in his books A History Of Man and Dianetics Today to have cured subjects of polio and cancer through his auditing sessions. And then there are the dozens of websites devoted to listing former Scientologists who died because they either voluntarily refused or were discouraged from seeking medical treatment. But as always when it comes to Scientology, merely bringing these things up is tantamount to waging a “misinformation campaign” (or worse, propagating “religious discrimination”)—never mind hinting that the similar wording behind their separate denials suggests that both Cruise and Presley are reading from the same damage control talking points. So because we’re being positive this week, we’ll just say what a wonderful opportunity this is for the Church Of Scientology to clear up some of these longstanding misconceptions about their religion! In that sense, Jett Travolta did not die in vain, and for that we can all be thankful! - Fortunately there are no ethical quandaries to be had when discussing the faltering health of Patrick Swayze: It’s just unmitigated, black-and-white sadness. A visibly frailer Swayze was interviewed by Barbara Walters this week, during which he admitted that he was very scared about his battle with advanced-stage pancreatic cancer, despite the fact that he has already outlived the six-months-to-live prognosis that most patients receive when they are diagnosed. Nevertheless, Swayze insisted that while he’s “going through hell,” he’s “only seen the beginning of it”—a prediction that became even more ominous today when Swayze bowed out of a Television Critics Association panel for his upcoming show The Beast and checked himself into a hospital with pneumonia. Again, because we’re trying to think happy thoughts, we won’t tell you how this reminds of that one week where Friday Buzzkills mentioned Bernie Mac being hospitalized with the exact same thing, only to have him die less than 24 hours later, and how fucking nervous and a little bit sweaty just bringing that up makes us. Instead, we’ll just share this fun tidbit we picked up from Wikipedia: Did you know that because of Ghost, “I’m Swayze” is popular among hip-hop artists as a way of saying, “I’m leaving”? Wait, that’s not very reassuring either. Shit. Positivity is hard. - Unfortunately for former Charles In Charge star Willie Aames, the time has long since passed since he would merit a Barbara Walters soft-focus confessional; these days, he’s pretty much lucky to have his dignity robbed by the likes of Celebrity Fit Club. But for anyone who witnessed his infamous temper tantrum on that show and thought that the only redeeming thing about Aames’ existence is that at least he hadn’t yet been forced to cameo on Scott Baio Is Desperate For Attention, we recommend skipping the latest issue of Star, wherein Aames details a downward spiral that rivals your average Raymond Carver story. It all began last fall when Aames declared bankruptcy and his car was repossessed, which was followed shortly thereafter by his wife of 22 years, Maylo Upton, asking for a divorce. (Apparently grace wasn’t enough. Wokka wokka.) Then, on Thanksgiving Day, Aames left their Kansas home and rented a room in Los Angeles, where he officially hit rock bottom:

"I stole a bottle of Jack Daniel's from the guy I was renting the room from. I'd been sober for 20 years when I took that first drink. I was also taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills. It got so bad, I put a knife to my throat and cut myself in six places. The police came, put me in handcuffs and whisked me away. I was completely devastated… I kept asking, 'What did I do wrong?’”

This would all be sad enough if it weren’t for the fact that Aames is arguably just as famous these days for his stint playing Bibleman, the Christian superhero who fights sinners by donning a suit of armor “based on the book of Ephesians.” (Look, we just report this stuff.) Luckily, we’re being positive today, so rather than clucking about how strange it is that it always seems like it’s the most evangelical among us who fall the hardest, we’ll just say how fortunate that Willie Aames did not succeed in his suicide attempt, so he can be around to share his story of redemption with Star, where its message can do the most good! We look forward to hearing about Aames getting back in touch with his faith, followed by even more motivational follow-ups and/or promotional appearances to come on his road to recovery! - While Willie Aames was awfully lucky the police came when they did, it’s likely he wouldn’t have even needed their help had he only been wearing a quality Rolex timepiece. At least, that’s the theory put forth by Melrose Jewelers, who recently heralded the lifesaving properties of the luxury watches by way of explaining how wearing a Rolex “appeared to play an essential role in actor Owen Wilson’s recovery” following his suicide attempt in 2007. Doubt it, do you? Transposing your sentence structures, are we? Just look at this compelling and not-at-all exploitative evidence!

After returning home from the hospital, Owen was captured by a photographer walking on the beach, wearing his Rolex Submariner. Later, he was seen riding his mountain bike in Santa Monica with the Rolex Submariner on his wrist. Obviously, the quality of a Rolex watch helped Owen realize and appreciate the quality of his own life… A celebrity is expected to show up at a multitude of events, and Owen used the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Benefit in New York City to make his entrance back on the social scene after his crisis… Wearing a Rolex Submariner and attending Rolex Benefits helped Owen Wilson realize his life was valuable and worth living. Once again, the precision and quality of a Rolex proves to be a lifesaver in more ways than one.

So to all of you who have been trudging through your days despondent over the threat of job loss, economic ruin, and the possibility that you might be reduced to sucking dick just to cut in the bread line, a question: Have you even considered buying a Rolex? Or have you just, you know, given up? - Annette Funicello may have gotten the most fan mail in her days as a Mouseketeer, but a close second was the blonde, bubbly Cheryl Holdridge, whose famous smile and relentless positivity (positivity!) earned her a spot on the popular “Red Team” despite her relatively weak singing voice. Holdridge later had a respectable career doing guest spots on ’60s sitcoms like My Three Sons, Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Leave It To Beaver—where she played Wally’s girlfriend—before leaving acting in 1964 to get married. Holdridge died this week at the age of 64 after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

- With his broad, perpetually creased forehead and kind, slightly sad eyes, plus a pre-showbiz background as a professor of humanities, actor Steven Gilborn had a knack for inhabiting avuncular characters and soft-hearted authority figures—which he did most visibly on Ellen, where he played Ellen’s father. Among his other many, many credits, however, you may also recognize him from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, where he played Xander’s oft-mentioned boozy “Uncle Rory,” and his memorable three-episode stint on The Wonder Years, where he played the stern-yet-loving math teacher “Mr. Collins,” who helps Kevin prepare for a midterm only to die before the exam. Gilborn himself died this week at the age of 72.

- Actor Don Galloway spent many years playing “Sgt. Ed Brown,” protégé to Raymond Burr on the long-running crime drama Ironside, developing an association with the legendary actor that lasted through several Perry Mason TV films. But beyond Burr, Galloway had a healthy career that lasted more than four decades, including guest spots on shows like Dallas and Knight Rider, plus a memorable turn as the straitlaced husband of JoBeth Williams in The Big Chill. Galloway left acting in the ’90s and briefly became an actual deputy sheriff in San Bernardino before moving to New Hampshire, where he became an outspoken Libertarian and wrote a column for the Manchester Union Leader. Galloway died this week at the age of 71.

- Though his group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick And Tich have become more or a less an odd footnote to all but the most fervent collector of ’60s British pop—or to show-offs like Quentin Tarantino, who recently referenced them in Grindhouse—the group led by the perpetually grinning, gap-toothed Dave Dee was one of the most successful groups of its era, spending more time in the singles charts than even The Beatles. The band’s string of eight straight Top 10 hits peaked in 1968 with “The Legend Of Xanadu,” an ambitious epic driven by Spanish guitars, trumpets, and the cracks of a bullwhip. (Interesting sidenote: Dee was an ex-policeman who was the first to arrive at the scene of an accident that claimed the life of Eddie Cochran; Dee held onto Cochran’s guitar until it could be returned to his family, teaching himself to play it while it was in impound.) Dee died this week at the age of 67.

Have a super weekend!