Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Celebrities Are People, Too!

Today, I would like to write about something that has been on my heart and mind for some time. It’s not really a “spiritual” subject, but it does come under the heading of not judging. That subject is “Celebrities.”

I’ll begin by sharing with you my own experiences with the entertainment business and why it is such a passion of mine. Back in 1979, I left home for Hollywood to follow my bliss of becoming an actress. I didn’t have a place to live, didn’t have a job, didn’t know anyone; it was just me, my car, and about $1,000 in my account. My poor parents. I was in my early 20’s going off into the wide blue yonder of uncertainty. They didn’t want me to go, but I was going regardless.

Before I left, I couldn’t believe the number of people who said that if I moved to Hollywood and became an actress, I was going straight to hell. My minister even told me this! Hollywood was sin city and all celebrities were evil and sinful people, they said! Fortunately, I didn’t believe them and went on my merry way.

At the time, Motel 6’s were $9.95 a night (can you believe it?), so I stayed a couple of nights at a hotel until I could find a cheaper place to live. I found the YMCA and moved in. Of course, I had to listen to some man singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the top of his lungs every night at midnight. I knew I couldn’t last long here, so I began looking for a place to live. I had been trying out some churches (this was in my holier-than-thou Christian days) and someone knew of a 92 year old woman who had a two room apartment in the back of her house off of Sunset Boulevard for $125 a month. I met with her and moved right in.

While in L.A., I worked as a temporary office worker and had many jobs, meeting some really nice people. My favorite job was at the Musician’s Union. (It remains my all-time favorite job to this day.) I met so many wonderful people there, including a woman who became my “Hollywood Mom” by the name of Norma Painter. We still keep in touch to this day and I love her dearly.

While working, I began attending acting workshops to learn my craft. And I began meeting many, many wonderful people within the entertainment business. One of the jobs that I had was working in the office at Sherwood Oaks Film School, and I took classes in the evenings. We would have acting conferences taught by some of the biggest names in show business, and I had the pleasure of meeting most all of them. Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Tom Laughlin (Billy Jack), Charleton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, and most of the cast from MASH, Happy Days, Lavern & Shirley, Taxi, many of the behind the scenes people from Star Wars, and many more. With only one or two exceptions, ALL were very kind and decent people. (Those exceptions may have just been having a bad day.) I kept in touch with Jack Lemmon and Martin Sheen over the years, too. Still do with Martin Sheen. (And that’s not to say that we were friends; just acquaintances.) The one person I didn’t meet was Clint Eastwood. I was too shy. (Me? You say? Shy? Ha!) He ended up leaving with some blonde and I can’t help thinking, “it could have been me!” (JUST KIDding!)

Then, when I moved to Nashville in the early 90’s, I had the privilege of meeting many people in the entertainment business, including the country music scene, and took acting classes from Alan Dysert (Sean Cudahy from “All My Children”) and Ramon Estevez (Martin Sheen’s son). Everyone I met was absolutely wonderful.

I've since gone on two cruises with Richard Simmons and we keep in touch. He is one of the kindest, most caring people, just like so many others whom I've met.

I tell this not in any arrogance, but to make a point. Celebrities are people, too. Most are just doing a job; a job they love and are passionate about. Unless they are promoting a film or a cause, they don’t want the tabloid attention. And not everyone is on drugs, nor are they alcoholics, or sleeping around. The biggest thing I learned was that you find what you're looking for, and I got to meet and get to know so many really wonderful people, both in and out of the entertainment business.

What was interesting was that before I moved to L.A., I was living in a small town of 3,000 people. I found that the same things that were going on in some of Hollywood, were going on in that small town, only on a smaller scale. The only difference may have been the amount of money people made, and the fact that when someone in the entertainment industry got caught doing something, they ended up in the papers. The people in the small town didn’t.

One gripe you hear most often is how much celebrities make. Just in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) alone (just one of the entertainment unions), there are well over 120,000 members! Only a small percentage make the big bucks. What most people don’t realize is that no matter how much the celebrity makes, it’s the studios and suits who make most of the money. Look at this way…. If you worked for a company that was making one million dollars a month, and they only paid you $100 a month, would that be fair? That’s one of the reasons why some celebrities who are on successful shows make so much money per episode. You can bet that the suits are making a whole lot more. So, why shouldn’t the actor get a nice slice of the pie? This goes for sports figures, too.

Plus, a lot of that money goes to their agent, manager, accountant, publicist, staff, and the government in the way of taxes. Yes, that may still leave some of them with a lot left over, but I feel they deserve it. Many, many celebrities give a lot of time and money to charities, too, but we just don’t hear about it, nor should we. (Would you want people to know how much and to whom you gave your money?)

When people complain about the money that celebrities make, they need to remember that there are a LOT of people outside the entertainment business who make just as much if not more. There are people who will allow their names to be used on a Board of Directors list who will make millions just for the use of their name, and they don't have to do a thing. Many CEO's make millions, if not billions, of money just for being the CEO.

I also feel that it’s a shame how far out of hand the paparazzi have gotten. NO, the celebrities don’t deserve to lose their privacy. They should have the same protections of the law as any other citizen of this country. Children and private property should be off limits, and the paparazzi should be required to keep a certain amount of space between them and the celebrity when taking pictures. They should definitely not be allowed to chase them in cars. . I ache for them when they have to go through heavy life issues in the press, when their children are frightened because of stalkarazzi’s, and when these same paparazzi will say or do anything to get a reaction out of a celebrity or their children. NO ONE deserves that. (One story goes that a photographer tried to trip a well-known celebrity who was carrying her child just to get a reaction from her.)

One more point…. I think many people have gripes about celebrities making so much money and have fame because the person complaining doesn't. Personally, I’m happy for their success. I am for anyone who achieves success on any scale no matter what they do in life.

The next time you find yourself sitting in judgment of a celebrity, try to remember that they are just doing their jobs. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have any TV to watch, movies to see, or music or radio to listen to. Also remember that it is a very select few out of the whole who are constantly in the public eye (Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, etc.). Their behavior is what perpetuates the negative image that the public has of all celebrities, and that's sad.

So, let’s give celebrities a break and remember that they are people, too.

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