Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gary Coleman: Victim of Parental Greed

There have been many child stars whose lives have been ruined after they are no longer desired by Hollywood. Some of them are known for turning to drugs or getting arrested. Some have committed suicide due to their being unable to cope with their inability to get roles in films or on television. Some have been unable to quietly retire because they have spent all of the money they earned when they were popular.

One of the most famous situations involving a child star was when Gary Coleman’s fortune was spent by his parents. He successfully sued them and his business advisor, but could not get back the majority of the money that was lost. Years later he was working as a mall cop.

The parents of Gary Coleman are usually discussed as how parents can make bad decisions (purposely or an accident) when dealing with the finances of child actors.

Unlike many other child actors, Gary Coleman’s small size has made him remain very recognizable years after Diff’rent Strokes was off the air. Standing only four feet and eight inches tall, his height also helps people recognize him as little Arnold from the show. While his short stature make have helped him get the role of Arnold, it may have hurt his ability to gain future roles after Diff’rent Strokes ended.

There are not many actors who are very short who have had long careers in Hollywood. I’m not talking about Sylvester Stallone or Tom Cruise, who are not tall. I’m talking about guys who are under five feet and five inches. The only actor who comes to my mind as having a long and very successful career in Hollywood is Danny DeVito. Many times, Danny DeVito took roles in which height was not an issue. In many films, he was a supporting character. Why did Danny DeVito have a long, successful career but Gary Coleman did not? I’m not sure, but I think that Gary Coleman was viewed as a child star while Danny DeVito’s entire career occurred during adulthood.

I want to close with this thought. Gary Coleman still seemed like someone who could have been used by Hollywood more frequently over the last 24 years. He still look like Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes and still has that personality. He was also willing to make fun of himself. Look at the photo that I have included (but added the Halo and caption at the bottom). He’s standing on a box to compete in height. Instead of hating the way he was, he was willing to use his short stature to get a laugh. Unlike the article about Dio, the sadness of this article is due to the fact that Gary Coleman never had the career that he wanted. Dio had a long career and was celebrated until the end. Gary Coleman had a short career and 24 years of difficulty finding work. His career was an uphill battle from 1986 until his death. Instead of celebrating his career, I feel bad due to the difficulty that he faced for the majority of his life. When a celebrity dies, I ask myself, “Would I have wanted the life that person had.” Sure we don’t want to give up the life that we live, but if you were not you, would you be willing to live the life of certain people? Just like in the case of Michael Jackson, I would have no desire to live the life that Gary Coleman had. Unlike many former child stars, Gary Coleman was extremely funny. I think ideally he would have been excellent in a role similar to those played by Sherman Hemsley in The Jeffersons or Amen. Had someone wanted to remake The Jeffersons, I don’t think that a single actor in Hollywood would have been better for the George Jefferson role than Gary Coleman.

Not only did the Entertainment Industry lose someone who was a hilarious as a child actor, they lost someone who could have been used in film and television so much more over the years. He was not misused by Hollywood. He was underused.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Christina Aguilera: Has-Been In A Bottle

Eleven years ago, four female solo artists emerged in music. They were Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, and Mandy Moore. Over a decade later, it is easy to see where their careers have gone. Britney Spears became the most successful of the four of them in music. Christina Aguilera was known for being the most talented singer who was in second place when it came to selling records. Jessica Simpson became more known as a media figure with her image used to sell products and the tabloids continuing to detail her unsuccessful search for love. Mandy Moore, who did not make much of an impact in the music business, had a very successful career in film.

Technically, none of them has turned into a has-been, but Christina Aguilera appears to be headed in that direction. Recently, Christina had to cancel her concert tour, citing “prior commitments.”

Say what? Music artists make money two ways. 1) Selling albums 2) Selling concert tickets. The argument that she had prior commitments is just ridiculous. If her concerts sold out like the concerts of Britney Spears, then she would not cancel them.

I really cannot think of a “prior commitment” that cause an artist to cancel an entire concert tour. This is how artists make money. They don’t cancel sold-out concerts for prior commitments. They cancel prior commitments for sold-out concerts.

But then again, maybe tickets to her concerts were not selling. Who wants to perform concerts with extremely low attendance?

I think that the appeal of Christina Aguilera is wearing off. The main reason for this is the fact that her career has been so inconsistent. When looking at other artists, we can usually describe their image and how they focus their work. Britney Spears used sexuality to sell albums. She was never celebrated for having talent, a good voice, real morals, etc. Instead, Britney Spears was practically a stripper with a record deal, with the focus of her music and concerts being centered around her looks. That may sound like I’m criticizing her, but I’m actually saying that she has been consistent. The Britney Spears of 2004 is the same as Britney Spears of 2010.

Meanwhile, the focus of Christina Aguilera has gone in so many directions that it is harder for her to build on an image that will sell. First, she was the alternate to Britney Spears. Then, she was known for having amazing vocals. Then, she had a song called “Dirrty” in which she went after the Britney Spears slutty image. Then after that backlash, she moved back to a cleaner image. Then she had a husband and a baby.

Are we supposed to view her as a mature wife and mother who turns 30 years-old later this year, or is she the hot young sexy singer, or is she the amazing vocalist? Having an inconsistent image does not help her build a fan base, and it appears that base has been shrinking. Had she chose to focus on being known for her vocals over looks, she could have gone the Celine Dion route, in which no one would care that she got married and had a kid. If the focus is on her looks, well the female artists with a focus on looks sell fewer albums when they settle down. Are guys going to be obsessed with a woman who appears to be happily married with a child? No. I’m not arguing against her seeking love and building a family, but naturally it is harder to sell an image based on sex appeal for a singer who is off of the market when it comes to relationships.

Sometimes changing an image can work for an artist. Madonna has been known to change her image over the years, but the reason why Madonna has been able to stay successful is because the act of changing her image is actually her image. That is why changing an image has worked for Madonna so well and has failed for Christina Aguilera.

As Christina Aguilera approaches 30 years-old, she has to come to terms with the fact that she’s no longer the young, hot thing. The year 1999 may have given the Entertainment Industry four young singers who are still working today, but there are new faces ready to replace them. Taylor Swift, Lady GaGa, Ke$ha, and Miley Cirus have all developed a following.

If Christina Aguilera wants to avoid being a permanent has-been, she needs to choose where she wants her image to go or her career won’t have a future.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ronnie James Dio: Saint In The Dark

This article is dedicated to Kartik Chandrasekhar, who is passionate about Heavy Metal.

“RIP Ronnie James Dio! I cannot believe it! You left behind great work and you fought valiantly! Some day, we will slay Cancer ONCE AND FOR ALL!” –Kartik Chandrasekhar

In 1985, many musicians came together to raise money to fight famine in Africa. They sang a song called, “We Are The World.” Not many Heavy Metal musicians were involved. Ronnie James Dio led a group of 40 Heavy Metal artists to make their own song to raise money to fight famine in Africa. They were known as Hear ‘N Aid and their song was, “We’re Stars!” Some may view this as Heavy Metal trying to stick it to the mainstream artists. I view it as Heavy Metal saying, “You’re not going to prevent us from helping the people of Africa too!” They raised $1 Million for Africa.

The song began with Ronnie James Dio singing, “Who cries for the children? I do.”

Ronnie James Dio will be remembered for many things. He will be remembered for replacing Ozzy Osbourne in the group Black Sabbath. He will be remembered for the songs “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow In The Dark” which he released with his own band, Dio. He will be remembered for making the Devil Horns hand gesture. But the man was a saint. The money he raised saved many lives.

I want him to be remembered for the good he did in 1985. The Heavy Metal musicians could have accepted not being a part of the “We Are The World” song, but they proved that they have the heart to do good things for others as well. Heavy Metal may play off the image of evil, but the genre of music is filled with people as caring as any other genre of music.

Heavy Metal as a genre has singers with excellent vocal skills and guitarists who write solos worthy of their predecessors in Rock and Jazz. Ronnie James Dio actually turned down a scholarship to Julliard because he wanted to focus on his style of music.

Heavy Metal reached its peak of popularity in the 1980s, but many of its fans want to see it continue for decades to come with new musicians who are inspired by people like Ronnie James Dio. Now that it is 2010, we have entered the third decade since the 1980s. It is expected that some of the legends of Heavy Metal will pass away. I hope that the genre can live on without its founders. I don’t want to think of Ronnie James Dio as irreplaceable. I don’t want to think that we’ll never have another Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Metallica, or Megadeth.

Normally when people write about musicians who have passed away, they say that the person is irreplaceable. I don’t think that Ronnie James Dio would want that. I think that he would want Heavy Metal to live on and grow with new musicians who are inspired by him. To have Heavy Metal fade with the passing of him would be tragic. I hope to hear another singer who I can compare him to. I hope that his amazing vocal abilities inspire another singer to make Heavy Metal music.

Right now, I am thinking about those in Africa who were saved by Ronnie James Dio. In Africa, there are probably people who have never heard of Ronnie James Dio, and never heard Heavy Metal, but they were saved by him in 1985 because he helped to raise money to feed them. Does it matter to me that people living today were saved by him and they probably don’t know his name? No. I am satisfied with the fact that he is up there in Heaven and he finally gets to look down on Africa and see the people who he saved. For those people who were saved by him, he has been their rainbow in the dark.

Ronnie James Dio (1942 – 2010)
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