With the final month of 2005 came news of the King of Pop’s latest health crisis. According to the National Enquirer, Michael Jackson suffered from a drug and alcohol overdose while staying at a friend’s royal palace in Bahrain. The report, quickly denied by a Jackson spokesperson, was rumored to be one of several overdoses Jackson experienced since leaving the states after his child molestation acquittal in July.
During the trail, Jackson endured ongoing maladies too visible to deny — especially when he showed up at the courthouse in his jammies after allegedly being treated for back pain. While Jackson may be the most chronic sufferer of the International Celebrity Health Crisis, he is not alone. The past year saw a number of our most beloved stars wilt under the harsh spotlight of fame.
Just recently, movie star Colin Farrell and pop star Ashlee Simpson were admitted to medical facilities for various reasons, including that most dreaded of celebrity sicknesses, “exhaustion.” And with Mariah Carey back in the spotlight, it may be just a matter of time before we witness one of her post-“Glitter” Grand Mal Meltdowns. It’s time to propose national funding for the creation of the CCDC — the Center for Celebrity Disease Control & Prevention.
The International Celebrity Health Crisis is nothing new. In 2004, exhaustion claimed a few days out of the life of “Law & Order’s” Vincent D’Onofrio, causing unforeseen side effects such as Chris Noth returning to the crime franchise and confusing “Sex and the City” fans who previously knew him as only “Mr. Big.”
More than an ‘Idol’ threat
There was also the hospitalization-due-to-exhaustion of “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard, a spooky harbinger to “Idol” contestant Bo Bice’s hospitalization in 2005 (read on). “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul credits her own nutty behavior to a host of celebrity ills. And Jackson pals Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli are both long-time sufferers of celebrity exhaustion, the latter being a legacy.
Currently, there are many worthy causes pulling at our purse strings: tsunami and Katrina relief efforts, AIDS funding, National Enquirer subscriptions, etc. But certainly every American is willing to spare extra tax dollars to protect and preserve the famous. “Exhaustion” isn’t going to cure itself — especially since “exhaustion” has no specific cause or definition.
In the case of Colin Farrell, 29, exhaustion treatment pretty much translates as “drug rehab.” But don’t judge him harshly. When the hunky Irish actor checked himself into an “undisclosed treatment center” in December, it was for a dependency on prescription medication for a “back injury.” (As opposed to the naughty nonprescription-drug addiction suffered by model Kate Moss, another recent treatment-facility graduate.)
Rapper Eminem also suffered a bout of prescription-drug induced exhaustion earlier this year. Prior to checking himself into a treatment center to kick a sleeping pill dependency, the rapper cancelled his European tour, blaming exhaustion and “other” medical issues.
Meanwhile, Ashlee Simpson went on with the show — at her on peril. At a Japan performance in December, Simpson left the stage one and a half songs into her set. Exhaustion was once again the culprit. Simpson spent the weekend in a Japanese hospital before returning to the states to convalesce at home with her family. As fans remember, this isn’t the first time illness was the alleged reason for a truncated performance by Simpson. That infamous “Saturday Night Live” lip sync gaff was the alleged result of Simpson’s gastrointestinal reflux disorder. (At least GERD is more of an every man’s disease.)
Youth is no protection against celebrity ills, especially this year. GlaxoSmithKlein has yet to find an exhaustion inoculation, and rumored rivals Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff both paid the price. Along with two paparazzi-induced car crashes, Lohan was also hospitalized for exhaustion — which may have something to do with her sudden weight loss (You know hospital food).
Maybe that’s why Duff decided to play it safe — taking time off for exhaustion before it became a medical necessity. After filming three movies, recording an album, and performing on tour, Duff announced in November that she plans on doing nothing for a while.
Perhaps “American Idol” second-place finisher Bo Bice could learn a thing or two from Duff, an industry veteran. Bice was set to replace exhausted Ashlee Simpson at the “Radio Music Awards” on December 19, when he was “rushed to the hospital” and subsequently replaced at the RMAs by the Goo Goo Dolls. According to his spokesperson, Bice suffered complications from recent intestinal surgery.
Maybe the cure lies with celebrity heiress Paris Hilton. Famous for no apparent reason, Hilton is tireless in her acting, modeling, authoring, and fashion designing ventures. She isn’t afraid to get her picture taken at your club for a nominal fee or breakup publicly with equally rich boys of the same name. She even carries wild animals like that kinkajou on her shoulder with nary a rabies shot. Any one of these activities would sideline the average celebrity within hours. But not Hilton.
Once funding is collected for the CCDC, medical researchers would be well advised to harness Hilton’s natural essence against exhaustion and find a cure — even if it means Hilton must remain absent from the public eye … indefinitely. If nothing else, us regular folks might feel a little bit better.
Helen Popkin lives in New York and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.