The cult of popularity can be traced back to the Romantics in the 18th Century. Today’s celebrities are rock stars and drug addicts, but the promise of romance – of money, influence and immortality – remains. Lamentably, the road to stardom is not all champagne and glamour; with every sordid decision poured over by pap, pundit and pervert, fame is a notorious crucible of character: part gift, part curse. For an infamous few, it seems the balance is forever tipped towards curse (or just plain ol’ hubris).
1. Don’t hire a gangster manager
"They should've shot me when I was born. Now I'm trapped in the muthafuckin' storm. How long will they mourn me?"
Gunshots intertwined with poetic lines: Tupac Shakur was fatally shot on the 7th of September 1996. Four bullets – two to the chest – left him in a state of critical condition. Shakur's mother decided to detach life support six days later and the artist ceased to be among the living. There are many theories surrounding the artist's death: he was a victim at the hands of the Crips; he was killed by a hitman hired by Biggie Smalls; the hitman was hired by Biggie’s pal Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs; or, on a more sanguine note, Tupac is still alive and secretly thriving in a paradise free of tabloids and mendacity. The thread woven amongst these highlights is that hiring Manager Suge Knight seems to have been the first step towards tragedy and entrance to a world where stacked bills mean more than human blood.
2. Don’t reject your nutty fans
"Nutty people are always writing me. I always think I must be on some nutty mailing list."
Valerie Solanas fired a gun at Andy Warhol on June 3rd, 1968. Solanas had submitted a screenplay to Warhol roughly two years prior to the shooting. He had read over her words but dismissed the script for its obscene and overt satire. Though the bullets did not kill him, Warhol became increasingly introverted and paranoid whilst simultaneously attempting to bask in the publicity. After intrusive surgeries, he began to show off his scars in photoshoots – an act that added a physical layer to his celebrity.
3. Don’t turn your back on love
"He flies so high up in the sky, out of reach of human eye. And the only time that he touches the ground is when that little bird dies."
Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger were the golden couple for roughly four years. Passion caused that glow and was echoed in various lust-driven and jealousy-induced flings. Drugs were a constant thread in their perilous romance, but Marianne continued down a spiral of heroine, alcohol, and eating disorders. Had they not been involved in a drug bust together in the February of ‘67, perhaps that which followed would not have influenced Marianne's image to colour from sultry to scarlet. She moved out of their home, turning down a life with Jagger, and succumbed to sleeping in alleyways. Miss Faithfull has since gone on to clean up her old habits, but is fading into obscurity on theater stages.
4. Don’t mislabel your drugs
"Well I'm tired, I'm nervous, I'm bored, I'm stoned. Don't you know life ain't so easy when you're on your own."
The mystique of Jim Morrison is tied to his leather pants: a second skin for swooning and crooning in front of rabid audiences. Soaked in alcohol and doused in drugs, his pants were an outward symbol of his rock‘n’roll lifestyle. He died of a heart attack ushered on by an overdose of heroin – mistakenly thought to be cocaine. July 3rd 1971 was a visceral reminder that everything, from leather to luxury, should be consumed in moderation.
5. Don’t marry Courtney Love
"In the sun, I feel as one, in the sun. I'm married. Buried."
Dead on April 5th 1994. Found three days later with a shotgun in his hand, the death of Kurt Cobain is indubitably a music tragedy. Officially ruled as a suicide, other scenarios still hold weight and continue to pit buzzing conversation against officially filed paperwork. Perhaps Cobain could not reach the shotgun trigger from his chosen final resting place upon the floor of the garage. Many scenarios – from staged suicide attempts to hired hitmen – posture Courtney Love as responsible for his murder. Her own unstable, drug-induced state did nothing to aid her credibility. From lines of a suicide note written in varying penmanship to three times the lethal dosage of heroin coursing through his veins to details poised for conspiracy, the fog may never be lifted.
6. Don’t surrender to the myth
"And number two: I would want to live my life over again."
Richey Edwards disappeared in 1995. His passport upon a table and an abandoned car littered with family photos and junk food remained; the clues pointed to an intentional disappearance or suicide. The body of the Manic Street Preacher's rhythm guitar player and primary lyricist was never found, nor were traces of foul play. Edwards simply disappeared. A definitive symbol of the tortured artist, Richey scribbled the profoundly maudlin lines of Rimbaud upon his jeans in his younger years. The band used his lyrical fragments on posthumous albums and fans still report sightings of Richey in far-off lands. For, being an artist is truly a form of immortality.
7. Don’t be a paedophile
"The stones we cast, the future, the past, the laws we break, too slow, too fast…"
Ian Watkins was sentenced to nearly three decades in prison for child abuse, a particularly heinous type of child abuse, the attempted rape of an 11-month-old baby. The hair-envy of every scene guy in the early 2000s, Watkins was the lead singer of Lostprophets: a band that toured alongside Linkin Park, the Deftones and earned a spot on Ozzfest. The band broke up following Watkins’ arrest. In a music scene that fosters and indulges a type of Peter Pan syndrome or a puer aeternus, one wonders what else it may be arresting.
8. Don’t outsource murder
"All because I had taken pride in my hidden lies."
Tim Lambesis was arrested in May of 2013 for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his wife. It sounds like the plot to a Raymond Chandler novel, but, truth being stranger than fiction, it actually describes the demise of a metalcore frontman. As I Lay Dying was a Christian-metal band that broke up after Lambesis denounced religion and found himself imprisoned for his immoral ways. His chosen hitman was actually an undercover cop. It just goes to show that, if you want something done correctly, you should do it yourself. And, if GWAR has taught us anything, metal fans should be able to handle a bit of blood.
9. Don’t be Kanye
"I am a god! Hurry up with my damn massage. Hurry up with my damn ménage."
With an album named Yeezus and a pristine white wardrobe shining with divine symbolism, it is not hard to imagine that Kanye genuinely thinks himself a member of the Holy Trinity. From concerts that do not even last the length of an EP to interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs to jumping into an Armenian lake, Kanye does not seem to think that the rules apply to him. But careful, Yeezy. For, if God is dead, shalt thine career not surely follow?