On March 25 of this year, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins lost his life. An early toxicology report found “evidence of 10 types of substances in Hawkins' body, including opioids, benzodiazepines, marijuana and antidepressants.”
Hawkins struggled with substance abuse in the past. Opening up about his 2001 overdose, he shared, “I believed the [expletive] myth of live hard and fast, die young. I’m not here to preach about not doing drugs, because I loved doing drugs, but I just got out of control for a while and it almost got me. I was heading down a road that was going to lead to even worse paths … I’m glad it got knocked on the head at that point. I wouldn’t take anything away that I’ve done or been through either, because it’s all part of the trip and the journey. I’m trying to be as candid as I can be. I go mountain biking now.”
Tragically, Hawkins fell victim to the same trap that many stars face. But with the pressures of performing and traveling at breakneck speed in a culture of excess, we’ve come to accept this fate as the norm.
It’s been said that your personal growth screeches to a sudden stop the minute you become famous. Over time, celebrities become overprotected and pampered, leading to difficulties in learning how to attend to everyday tasks such as driving a car, doing laundry, cooking meals, or scheduling a doctor’s appointment. I once heard of an NBA star who suffered from a bad cold for weeks because he had no idea how to contact a doctor.
Socializing with typical peers also can be awkward. Celebrities exposed to the fast-paced world of show business often leave their old friends in the dust. It’s hard to sit down with Joey from the neighborhood or sympathize with Mikey during a tough time in school, Joanie getting laid off from the clinic, and how they might be able to afford a week at the shore this summer when you’re driving home from the studio in the wee hours of the morning in a knee-high Italian car (which you didn’t want, but you had no idea what else to do with the money) to eat something your fitness trainer put on your diet which your nutritionist measured before being cooked by your private chef.
You’re not an ordinary person anymore, and associating with normal people is like trying to talk to a bear or an alien. (And vice versa: Joey has no idea what it’s like to kill an hour in the green room with two other boldfaced names or hire a good estate manager to take care of the house in London.) Contrary to popular belief, adversity is not the greatest test of character; overnight success is.
When you’re a rock star, a drink, a puff, a snort, or an injection can’t possibly do any harm—not when you’re on top of the world. Right?
Drug use among both the famous and ordinary alike in the 1960s is well-documented. What many people don’t realize now is that by the 1970s, it wasn’t just the hippies using anymore. It was everyone. Pot and coke had claimed beachheads at the country club, albeit in the bathroom and on the golf course after dark. The chic were hoovering up Bolivian marching powder on the way out to nightclubs and discos. Hollywood accountants kept two sets of books: above and below the line. If Woody Allen was doing it in Annie Hall, you can bet countless others had their nose to the mirror, too.
Keith Richards famously posed in front of a sign which read “A Drug-Free America Comes First” during the Rolling Stones’ 1972 STP tour to the side-splitting laughter of everyone under 30. But we’ve discovered over time that abuses can and do have an accumulative effect on the body.
Rolling Stones founder and rhythm guitarist Brian Jones’s excesses had a debilitative effect on his physical and mental health. He was demanding, unfriendly, antisocial, and usually drunk or high at the end of his stint with the Stones in the late 1960s. On July 3, 1969, a month after being fired from the group, he drowned in his home pool in Sussex, England. An autopsy report showed his heart was fat and flabby, and his liver was twice the average weight. The equivalent of three pints of beer was found in his system.
“Brian was one huge gaping crybaby all the time: ‘help me, talk to me, love me.’ Then people would try to do that, and he’d change,” said Jo Bergman, the Stones’ assistant from 1967 to 1973. “It was very rough. He was six years old all the time ... How do you give psychiatric help to a Rolling Stone?”
I’m sure it’s hard for the public to accept that celebrities have it tough in their spacious mansions, sports cars, and the jets-and-limousine world they inhabit after they’ve hit it big, but that’s what you see on the outside.
When tempted to judge and even dehumanize a celebrity, consider what these folks must deal with internally. Once someone becomes famous, they instantly lose ownership of their life and personal freedom. No matter the era, this takes a toll on the mind, body and spirit.
I pray that those in the center of the public eye will find wisdom, rest and fulfillment in the grace of Jesus Christ. If you have the privilege of knowing a celebrity personally, remember their humanity and show them unconditional love. You may be the only one to do so.
This editorial is developed in part from Greg Laurie’s forthcoming book Lennon, Dylan, Alice & Jesus (Salem Books), available for pre-order now and will be released on May 17, 2022.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Paul Bradbury
Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. His newest book Lennon, Dylan, Alice & Jesus released on May 17, 2022.