I remember watching a very young movie idol perform her magical song and dance routines while acting in several hit movies, at least for that era. She may have been the most popular and recognizable person in the world and her career was poised for future Hollywood domination. The forces of that world, began to take ahold of her career and manipulate it to a point where they could make as much, or even more, money off of this girl’s stardom, without really doing anything to add value to this girl’s career or life.
I’m not sure if it was this girl herself, her parents, or some other friends and advisors who truly had her best interests in mind, but whomever saw what was happening, advised her that fame was fleeting and to continue on this path would likely lead to her eventual destruction.
Here’s the key point – she listened. As I wrote about earlier this week, there may be no better human attribute than listening. The lady walked away from that fame, at age 22, and turned towards a career that would bring true meaning and purpose to her life. Sure, she was able to play off the name she had made for herself, but it was a rewarding, fulfilling, and honorable life – exactly what God had intended for us all!
This young girl was Shirley Temple. America's sweetheart, Shirley Temple Black (April 23, 1928 – February 10, 2014) was an actress, singer, dancer, and diplomat who was Hollywood's number one box-office draw as a child actress from 1935 to 1938. In all, Shirley starred in 14 short films, 43 feature films and over 25 storybook movies in a career that spanned three decades, from 1931 until 1961. As an adult, Shirley served her country as Delegate to the United Nations, Ambassador to Ghana and to Czechoslovakia, and Chief of Protocol of the United States. She would say that among her proudest roles were as a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
I can’t help but think, as we look back on many stars lives, that Shirley was the lucky one. Because many others did not listen, or listened to the wrong influences. So many would see their lives destroyed by the power hungry, do anything at all costs, price of fame.
Probably the most public of these fleeting fame stars was Norma Jeane Mortenson...Yes most of you know her as Marilyn Monroe. Norma Jeane was likely doomed from the very moment she did her first pin-up girl photo shoot. Being born and raised in Los Angeles, the city or False-Angels, she was surrounded and bombarded by people who wanted their fame to be tied to hers. They pumped her with drugs and alcohol to a point where she didn’t even know herself and they convinced her that she needed them and their prescribed addictions, just to handle the price of fame.
It took the Hollywood powers only 18 years to mold a beautiful young girl into a movie star, a Hollywood icon, and eventually a corpse. Her official cause of death was an overdose of barbiturates, but there have been numerous theories and speculation that she was actually murdered. Norma Jeane – Marilyn was only 36 when she died. The Elton John song “Candle in the Wind” is a suitable reflection on her life. I also found the 2011 movie “My Week with Marilyn,” to be a brilliant reflection of what Norma Jeane was being driven to be, around a refreshing glimpse of what she truly wanted for herself.
The final person I wish to speak of, is just one more in a long line of fleeting fame destruction. Farrokh Bulsara was a young man who had immigrated with his parents from Zanzibar to Middlesex, England. He learned to play the piano, at a very young age, and just loved music. It was said that as a young man “the only music he listened to, and played, was Western pop music.” In 1969 he joined his first band which had a very short-lived career. In April 1970, he teamed up with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, to become lead singer of their band Smile. One year later, the band would change their name to Queen and Farrokh Bulsara would become Freddie Mercury.
The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey described Mercury as "the best virtuoso rock 'n' roll singer of all time. He could sing anything in any style. He could change his style from line to line and, God, that's an art. And he was brilliant at it."
Discussing what type of person, he wanted to play the lead role in his musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "He has to be of enormous charisma, but he also has to be a genuine, genuine rock tenor. That's what it is. Really think Freddie Mercury, I mean that's the kind of range we're talking about.
Farrokh/Freddie had a marvelous voice and was an incredible performer. He met Mary Austin when he first started with Queen and always considered her his wife, even though they never married. He then was thrust into the party life style of a rock-n-roller. His stage persona was almost a perfect opposite of the man himself – shy and unassuming. But his followers and promoters pumped up his ego with his greatness and celebrity. They furnished him with drugs, alcohol, and threw lavish parties. Parties that turned into orgies where sex with anyone and everyone was the theme. He was literally pulled away from his wanna-be married and performing life into a life he did not know nor could control. The drugs and alcohol took away his shyness and helped him play to the crowd and commiserate with his fans.
Unfortunately, the parties would finally impact him so much that it would eventually cost him his life. There are several debates whether or not Farrokh/Freddie was gay, or a bi-sexual, or if he truly wanted a monogamous life but the fleeting fame had taken that life away from him. He never actually commented on this but in his will, Mercury left his London home to Austin having told her, "You would have been my wife, and it would have been yours anyway." Two days before his death, Farrokh/Freddie told his publicist to release a statement that read; “Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS.”
On the evening of 24 November 1991, about 24 hours after issuing the statement, Mercury died at the age of 45 at his home in Kensington
One age 22 and going, the others dead at 36, and 45. These three young stars were manipulated and used. Some of it of their own doing but not without a great deal of pressure and influence from others.
I can’t help but think that the vultures surrounding those who are famous or who espoused to be famous, take them down a path of no return. All self-interest just for a moment of fame and stardom. The lives of these three people came down to choices – choices each made that led to their success and to their failures. Shirley Temple Black, made the choices to leave the fleeting fame and have a family and meaningful life, at least for her. Norma Jeane/Marilyn and Farrokh/Freddie made choices that did in fact lead to their destruction. Each of them had anything they wanted, at a time in their lives, but only one of these folks realized that continuing to chase fame, was in fact fleeting.
There are very few who choose fame and life goes the way they want. More times than not, it leads to destruction. I personally would have loved to see a Norma Jeane/Marilyn mature into a graceful and beautiful lady. As a huge music lover, the sound of Farrokh/Freddie’s voice would bring me hours, days, years of happiness and musical magnificence. However, the end on their story, is much too sad!!!
Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddie Mercury