I won’t be the umpteenth media head showing (or playing the audio of) androgynous Youtube superstar par annoying Chris Crocker who shouted to the rooftops for everybody to leave Britney Spears alone…or else! Of course, he was mocked in more ways than one (yet got the best of us by getting an inexplicable TV deal)–and the people who could potentially leave Britney alone with a little effort obviously won’t. The paparazzi make sure that no celebrity will have to listen to crickets in any given space they occupy. Yet the silence would probably do them some good–especially Britney as of this writing. Somehow, though, (and psychiatrists have pointed out the condition), many celebrities contradict themselves and become addicted to the attention as a security blanket in feeling wanted. They can’t live with or without all the media attention. What happened to celebrities just blurting “I vant to be alone!?” Yeah, you may recall which celebrity said that in an utterly different era.
Greta Garbo was one of the most unusual celebrities living in Hollywood (and later NYC) ever. She not only quit working in Hollywood at her peak–but also wasn’t afraid to tell the media what she really thought about things. On the other hand, she also was the mysterious type who was easy to build a legend around. And that equals misrepresentations of quotes they may utter in the presence of a microphone or member of the press. Before her retirement from acting, her role in “Grand Hotel” had her saying one of her most memorable ironic Swedish-inflected statements: “I vant to be alone!” In that instance, she set up an imagined aura for the type of person she was to become in real life. It stuck to her in reality when she reportedly started living all by her lonesome and avoiding all media. But was she really alone and did she really desire it?
If you’ve ever seen some of the TV documentaries made about Garbo–you’ll probably recall that she once said in an interview: “I never said ‘I want to be alone.’ I said ‘I want to be LET alone.‘ There is all the difference.”
Right there, Garbo may have broken all conventions in the understanding of what really goes on in the minds of notables who seem to be hermits and never want human contact of any kind. No actual human being can healthfully be without some kind of human contact in their life…unless they have extreme mental illness. Behind closed doors, Garbo obviously did have company from a lot of close friends, lovers (of both genders) and other confidants. All she was doing in all probability was openly telling the press to let her live a normal life now that she was Citizen Greta and no longer a part of Hollywood elite. Of course, they always tried to photograph her anyway when she went out for strolls outside her apartment on 52nd Street in NYC. She should have known that the more you say you want to be left alone–the more the paparazzi will try to track you down–especially if you’re so darn mysterious. In that regard, Britney Spears never openly asking the press to leave her alone looks halfway brilliant in comparison.
Let’s not make Britney look brilliant, though. She may be closer in mental condition as of now to another notable who truly managed to be alone…
Howard Hughes bought his way into being alone…
If you’re as wealthy as Howard Hughes was–you can easily set up massive fortifications to assure that you won’t be bothered or photographed by a single member of the press. Having an extreme case of OCD and billions in the bank certainly assured no pictures in National Enquirer of Hughes freaking out in his unkempt condition in bed as paparazzi blinded him with their flash bulbs. Try as they probably did–the paparazzi would have been turned into a human pretzel by a Howard Hughes security goon on his payroll. Hughes was one who seemed to crave companionship, too, despite having his intense fear of germs and human contact. Some might argue, though, that maybe part of his natural self-consumed nature in his work would have made him somewhat of a recluse anyway, even if he never had OCD. Some say that Greta Garbo was also self-possessed and explained away her reclusive nature.
It’s really a miracle (if you’re familiar with Hughes history) that he didn’t have a public freak out when the press jumped all over him the minute he was called to testify to the U.S. Senate for possibly embezzling government funds. This was dramatized in Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator” where his girlfriend at the time (Ava Gardner) shaved him and cleaned him up after months of self-imposed isolation so he could look decent during his testimony. Somehow he managed to exude some semblance of calm after being self-exiled to his movie screening room at his home for all that time. This seems to give indications that when you need to be around people and the press for something that’s vastly important to your life or well-being–the human will can supersede any social anxiety disorder a person may have. Defense mechanisms always manage to kick in when they have to based on these and other well-documented cases. Celebrities use this without even knowing they have it…until there’s a burnout from that shield going up once too often.
While OCD can easily be treated now, it’s probably a reality that some potential celebrities out there are close to being like Howard Hughes. The paparazzi seems to be forming all new mental conditions that need to be studied by psychiatrists before the biggest stars in Hollywood become so afraid to go out of their house–they start hammering boards up on their windows and doors a la “Night of the Living Dead.”
“Hey, Mr. Paparazzo…leave your subjects alone! At least part of the time…”
No, of course they won’t listen to that logical request. But the worst aspect here is when celebrities become so deathly afraid to trust anybody in their inner circle and subsequently shut all people out of their life because of it. That seems to be happening already with Britney Spears and numerous others in recent years. It’s become amazing that anybody wants to still live in the confines of Hollywood without just moving to another state and commuting to work as a select few notable people have done for the sake of keeping sanity alive. That doesn’t speak well for anybody even attempting to live in Hollywood lately when you might not even live through the day because of a paparazzi photographer trying to run you off the road with his SUV into a Hollywood canyon.
For those who truly do want to be left alone–I’ve always wondered why they just don’t give the paparazzi something mundane about their life (as a part of their job)–and then go off and enjoy their privacy later. Once paparazzi feel they retrieved something worthwhile on a notable person, they’d likely go away for a while. Perhaps that’s a pipe-dream reverse psychology, but nobody would know if it works until they try. So far, all the anxiety caused by what the paparazzi do in Tinseltown causes celebrities to rebel and just creates more desire to get photographs of everything they do…even if it’s just out buying beer in a convenience store…while they’re due in a court room.
A lot of people probably have no idea, either, how many celebrities suffer from social anxiety disorder–even though we live in an era where it’s supposedly fixable with medication. Some of the biggest legends from show business past suffered from variations on social anxiety or stage fright. In that case, the defense mechanisms we all have are probably a godsend of nature to those who just might board up their house and not have any human contact without their fans and paparazzi forcing them to bring that mechanism to the forefront.
Well, we all know Youtube screamer Chris Crocker has no social anxiety disorder from all appearances. Despite it being heavily mocked, he was giving a smart public service announcement in his own histrionic way. Yes, everybody should leave Britney alone–except for those close to her (and maybe Dr. Phil if he approached it differently) to convince her to get some help. With so many oddball contradictions existing in Hollywood of the paparazzi feeling guilty about what they do and celebrities craving attention while also abhorring it–the concept of letting someone alone becomes a more complex psychological puzzle than it ever was in Greta Garbo’s time.
“I vant to live in Iowa!” might have ended up the catchphrase behind the concept of being let alone had Garbo lived in Hollywood today.