Celebrity Death: are we all vultures?

People die every day. And mostly we don’t think about that, only when it directly affects us because it is a loved one. We pause for the victims of natural disasters, and political up-risings but we don’t tend to pour over the bones of those innocents the way we do the famous and dead. The death of famous people has famously stopped nations – you know: I remember where I was when JFK was shot, I remember the day Lennon died. But in our increasingly celebritised world we know the moment another is gone, usually at their own hands, always well before their expiry date.

Several questions arise: do we need to know about the untimely demise of Peaches Geldof and L’Wren Scott? Do we need to know the why and the how? (And we were told the how of L’Wren Scott) Do we need to see the suffering and pain of the ones left behind? Because let us be in no doubt both Bob Geldof and Mick Jagger are in extreme pain. Both men made eloquent, heart felt and loving comments in the wake of their loss. The Stones acted as brothers and their Oz tour was cancelled.

What is it about the way we live that people feel free now to not just offer sympathy and sadness about the recent losses from celeb-land but almost obligated to vent their spleens with vile outpourings of bile?

For all that Peaches Geldof and her family, and L’Wren Scott and Mick Jagger live a life in the public eye, we don’t know them. We have some idea about them as projected onto our screens and in our magazines, but we only have a version of them, a manufactured version of them that suits their and the media’s purposes. We, the audience, the fan, only get a highly mediated version of these people. We never, well hardly ever, meet them. We only know them in a very specific and artificial way.

So why might we feel as sad for Bob and Mick as we would for others we know who lose loved ones in tragic circumstances?

For me it’s simple: Bob Geldof is one of my heroes. I loved the Boomtown Rats when I was at uni and have a best of on my iTunes, often running through the set, so much more than I Don’t Like Mondays. Like a lot of other people I remember Band Aid and Live Aid and where I was when that concert happened. I’ve always appreciated his off-beat ways, his intensity, his devotion to causes and his adoration of Paula Yates and his oddly named girls. He is a man much blighted by tragedy and it seems to me that to be anything other than heart-broken for him at this time is to be inhuman.

bob g 1

When he was a child his mother went to bed one night and never got up again. He was brought up by sisters and aunts and suffered through the Irish Catholic Education system. We know what happened to him and Paula, how they were blissfully eccentrically happy but then she fell insanely in love with Michael Hutchence, left Bob, had Tiger-Lily, and then self destructed not longer after Michael Hutchence had, leaving Tiger-Lily alone in the world, the centre of a very ugly custody case.

Whatever you may think of Peaches Geldof, her being in the papers for all the wrong reasons, her desperate need for attention, her wildness and foolishness, there is no reason to wish her ill, then or now. She was clearly a deeply unhappy lost soul. To lose your mother young (as too many in the Geldof clan now have) is one of the worst things to happen. Paula Yates died on the birthday of her third daughter, Pixie, on September 17, 2000. She was forty and seemingly had much to live for but clearly troubled too. A life in the spot-light, often sniped at and reviled by the media she, overdosed on heroin. Was it accidental? You never know these things, do you?

Bob&Paula

To me, there is little doubt that Peaches was a deeply troubled soul. She had tried all sorts of things to make sense of her life and seemed to be settled and safe. But from her comments, over time and just before she died, it seems Paula was ever present in her life: a mystery that Peaches couldn’t sort through in a way for her to make sense of it. Why would your mother leave you if she didn’t have to? Weren’t you enough for her, wasn’t your love and need of her enough to keep her here? Has Peaches spent most of her life trying to feel okay about herself in the absence of a loving mother, despite a clearly loving father? But how ironically tragic is it that she has doomed her boys to her own feelings of abandonment all their lives. It is hard to believe she was in a hopelessly dark place. This is a girl who seems surrounded by love – father, sisters, husband, sons. But what do any of us ever know about the heart and mind of another?

So, from this unutterable sadness, what can we learn?

We should keep our own loved ones close, watch the signs that things may not be quite as well as they seem to be.

We should respect the grief of others, be they ordinary mortals like the rest of us, or the famous.

We should not presume to know anyone, we should keep our judgments to ourselves.

We should remember always and forever that being famous does not inure you against pain and suffering and being mortal. That being famous is a twin edged sword that both elevates and decimates.

Rest in peace, Peaches. Stay strong Bob. (Images courtesy  News BBC: Bob & Paula; cover of Is That It?)

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