So there I was, checking in with Facebook, when I saw a friend’s link to a post stating that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died. I sat down. Right there in my hallway. Just sat, for like, two or three minutes. And then Dom walked in and I stood up as if nothing had just stolen my breath, and I told him what I’d just read. And then I felt stupid for being so winded by the passing of someone I didn’t even know.
But we feel like we know them – celebrities – right? I mean, we invite them into our lives, carrying them around on the little discs that become their immortal home. I really liked Mr. Hoffman as a portrayer of characters. Anyone who can make me hate him in one movie and love him in the next gets my vote as an acting great. It’s easy to love the good guys all the time. It’s the ones who make you appreciate them even when they’re portraying perfectly imperfect characters that I really like. And so that’s how I felt about Mr. Hoffman. I thought he was a cut above.
So if he had died from say, an innocent heart attack, I might not have felt so betrayed. But he didn’t. He died from something I don’t understand and can hardly excuse.
But then, it’s not really my place to excuse him from anything, is it?
Admittedly, I generally assume most untimely celebrity deaths result from drugs, whether they say so or not in the media. And that fact – the media involvement – actually pisses me off more than the drug abuse itself. We will mourn the loss of a talented actor, and that’s okay to do as community of people who didn’t know him personally. But we don’t need to be in his business past that. We don’t need to know the intimate details of his passing. And he, for all his talent and self-torture, deserves a little peace in which to rest. A peace which should be granted to all celebrities before they die, if you ask me.
I once read an article somewhere about famous people in general and the difficulty that comes with celebrity. The author stated that it is hard to be famous, having to constantly impress a fickle audience and top your last big act. Oh, sure, you can play your tiny violins for them because they’re all rich and famous, and didn’t they ask for this, and what-the-hell-do-they-have-to-complain-about-anyway, but the truth of the matter is that I would not want that kind of pressure in my life, and if I ever was talented enough to be known world-wide, I imagine that I would crave anonymity like an earthworm craves dirt. To have every facet of my life on the glass slides of other people’s microscopes would probably drive me to do things I find unconscionable in my present life. I mean, when we really look at any celebrity, he or she is just a man or woman with a job and bills to pay. They have families that drive them crazy, and they sometimes drive their families crazy. They have friends and they have enemies. They have to put their pants on one leg at a time, same as you and me. The dollar differential between them and us is really inconsequential. It’s all life. And then it’s over, sometimes way too soon.
And so I try not to indulge in the tales of celebrity lives. I see the tabloids at the grocery store checkout, screaming to our bored-with-WalMart selves that one celebrity has gained weight while another nearly starved herself to death. That one celebrity is cheating while another is cheated on. That one celebrity is lashing out at fans while another is a closet Mommie Dearest. I see these things and I think, “Omigosh, if they wrote headlines about me I don’t think I could stand it!” And I know half of those things are not true and some of them are only half-true, while most of them are twisted versions of a truth we all live. So I scoff at them, openly if my kids are with me, and I explain to my children that sadly this is how some people make their money – by tearing other people down, and that we should always strive to lift people up. And we really shouldn’t participate in the gossip of other people’s lives, because it’s hard enough just living our own life and we don’t know the real troubles in another’s life unless we walk in his or her footsteps. Et cetera.
So I guess I’ll shake the shock of another celebrity dying and focus on what I would want for my family if we were the ones dealing with the death of a loved one in the public eye. I would want privacy. I would want peace. I would want to know that somewhere there was someone who appreciated my loved one and simultaneously respected my wishes.
I know he had other more astounding roles, but I will always see Philip Seymour Hoffman as the arrogant med student in Patch Adams, only as his character was at the end when he had finally “gotten it” and he sat there after Patch’s hearing before the Medical Board, hands in his pockets, smiling broadly and nodding knowingly.
This is the least I can do for someone who bothered to entertain me.