Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown passes away

ATLANTA (AP) - "Godfather of Soul" James Brown remained the hardest-working man in show business to the end, telling friends from his hospital bed that he'd be in Times Square on New Year's Eve, even though he had pneumonia. His heart gave out a few hours later, on Christmas morning.

All Christmas day, famous fans from Mick Jagger to Snoop Dogg to the Rev. Al Sharpton shared memories of their mentor and idol, while lesser-known fans left candles on Brown's Hollywood Walk of Fame star in Los Angeles and streamed to his statue in his boyhood hometown of Augusta, piling mementos and flowers at its base.

James Brown was a great entertainer who pleased many people with his music and his stage performances, however he was also a drug abuser, a criminal and a man who savagely beat his wives.

It should not be a problem for an adult to hold both ideas in his mind at the same time: great entertainer/bad person. However the majority of his fans will not be able to perform that bit of mental juggling. To the average person it seems that any actor or singer or athlete or writer who pleases them can be guilty of no wrong. No matter what the actual facts might be.

This is a tragic flaw in the human personality which is nowhere more on display than in California where a celebrity cannot get convicted of any crime in any court of law.

Look at OJ, who left a blood trail from the murder scene to his house. Then there's Robert Blake who leaves a restaurant with his estranged wife then comes in a few minutes later red faced and sweating bullets, telling anyone who will listen that he left his gun in the restaurant - so if anyone should, oh I don't know, shoot his wife - it couldn't possibly be him. Then comes back into the restaurant again a minute later shouting that someone had just happened to shoot his wife. But it couldn't have been him because he had left his gun in the restaurant.

In both cases California juries failed to convict. On the other hand Scott Peterson, a nobody, was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to death and there wasn't one piece of physical evidence tying him to the crime (not that I doubt for a second that he did it).

The culture, or cult, of celebrity worship is going to be on display for the next few days as James Brown is eulogized everywhere from talk radio and television to the halls of congress. We don't worship auto mechanics who do a really good job of rebuilding carburetors but we certainly take our cars to them for repair. Perhaps it is time we stopped idolizing entertainers and sports figures who are really good at their jobs. We can still watch their movies, read their books, listen to their music or cheer their teams, but just not think of them as anything more than that really good mechanic.