I won’t lie. I love Celebrity Rehab. I won’t even categorize it as a guilty pleasure. As someone who is capable of putting celebrity gossip in appropriate perspective, Celebrity Rehab is, oddly enough, as addictive as heroin. I sometimes actually pinch myself as I’m watching it. Can this really be happening? Are celebrities actually allowing me to watch them detoxify from horrendous addictions on my flat-screen television while I eat cheese popcorn and drink soda? Apparently they are, and I’d like to thank all those that made it possible. The evolution of celebrity gossip from gossip columns in newspapers in the 40’s and 50’s, through to the ubiquitous gossip magazines of today, has culminated in a little show called Celebrity Rehab…and I’m loving it. And for those of you who might think that I’m above enjoying Celebrity Rehab, that I’m somehow sickly gratified by the exploitation of addicted celebrities…think again.
As with my show, the elephant in the room is often the tiresome question: Is it real? I think Celebrity Rehab is real. I have no way of proving it other than it’s my gut instinct. For me, the most questionable moment occurred last week when country music singer Mindy McCready had a full-blown seizure in front of grizzled rehab veteran and former teen star Mackenzie Phillips. Like me, even Mackenzie thought she was joking around. But after seeing it dozens of times – as the moment was endlessly replayed in the teases — I’m going to suspend my disbelief and give Dr. Drew and company the benefit of the doubt. With few exceptions, the show, in general, feels very real to me. And if I found out that it was scripted, or fake, I’d still watch it. I enjoy it. I like to do things I enjoy.
I guess the anonymous part of AA got lost somewhere in the mix. I’m not exactly sure what motivates a celebrity to go on Celebrity Rehab. I’m sure the reasons vary from person to person. Some, I would think, have altruistic reasons, while others, I imagine, want the publicity. But I can’t imagine how that kind of publicity would help their careers. I understand the concept of there’s no such thing as bad press, and that the Americans love of second chances, but this show seems to stretch those concepts to the limit. I might think twice about depending on Seth Binzer to show up for tour dates, or on Amber Smith getting her shit together to get to a photo shoot on time. But that’s me. I guess, in Hollywood, some “heat” comes with cold turkey.
My grandmother, who read the Enquirer religiously, and denied it, would be busting out her grave if she could to watch Celebrity Rehab. I can’t help but wonder what this show would have been like in a different era. Can you fucking imagine? Jackie Gleason drying-out: “How sweeeeet group is!” Indulge me for a moment: Celebrity Rehab in the 1960’s and 70’s with Lenny Bruce, Foster Brooks, Ed McMahon, Freddie Prinze, Mama Cass, Keith Moon, Liz Taylor and Herve Villechaiz. I’m getting a boner just thinking about it. Let’s face it, the celebrities on Celebrity Rehab aren’t exactly A list. In fact, I’ve never heard of most of them. This begs the question: How much could being a low-rent celebrity impact their addictions? I know Dr. Drew digs into their pasts to uncover traumas, but consider Joey Kovar, whose entre into Celebrity Rehab came from a stint on MTV’s The Real World Hollywood. Joey, is it possible that the end of your Real World participation could have created a void in your life that only heavy partying could fill? — Just a thought from one low-rent reality TV guy to another. I, myself, am relatively grounded. I appreciate my celebrity and realize that at any time it could take a leave of absence, or disappear entirely. So, losing my celebrity aside, the triggers I have to worry about are the Toronto Maple Leafs and my mother. Anyone know any dealers?
There have been three incarnations of Celebrity Rehab, plus a Sex Rehab version. I love them all. Here are some of the celebrity addicts and moments that keep me tuning in week after week.
- Amber. Sweet Amber. She managed to be on both Celebrity Rehab 2 AND Sex Rehab 1. I suppose this is the Celebrity Rehab equivalent to a song and dance man. To be fair, Amber is a benign sex addict…what’s called a love addict. This is not to say that love addiction is not serious. It is, and I don’t remember the Beatles singing about love addiction – could the Beatles have been love addicts? In any event, I think Amber is brave. I also wonder if Phil layed the balls to her after they were discharged.
- Jeff Conway. Whoa. It would be difficult for me to put into words how both guilty and exhilarated I feel watching him. Is he the most fucked-up celebrity of all time? Does O.J. and Farah on Letterman count? I still wonder if he really has a bad back, or if he’s just faking it to get the pills? I have to think that he’s legitimately in pain….especially if he ever looks at his current acting resume. Nonetheless, he has raised the bar for celebrity train wrecks. He makes Tara Reid look like Michelle Obabma. I want to say bravo, but acknowledge that it would be entirely inappropriate.
- Then there is Kari Ann Penische. I have publicly sworn a moratorium against making Kari Ann jokes. That said, I will say seriously, that regardless of her past, which was horrible, Kari represents to me almost everything that is wrong with North American human beings, short of criminal aberrations. In lieu of the joke moratorium I will have to move on.
- I will admit to a mild obsession with Heidi Fleiss. I find her fascinating. She has a tough, street intelligence that I admire. But I feel badly for her. First, for going to jail for being the most successful Madame in the history of the world when she could have used those skills towards a great career in American politics. Second, I feel badly that she lives alone in the desert with a bunch of parrots. (To her credit, at least she picked an animal that can maybe one day talk to her. “Polly wants a hooker.”) But I agree with Dr. Drew. She needs to start trusting people again…and hopefully not Tom Sizemore.
- I’m still reeling from Mike Starr’s reaction to meeting Tom Sizemore. It was very strange. I guess he’s not bonding well with Dennis Rodman. Understood. But his seeming instant man crush with Sizemore was both pathetic and adorable. I hope, for Mike that Tom comes back…but not for Heidi.
- Honourable mention to Gary Busey. I love that he initially acted like he was there only to help the others, but came to realize that he was actually one of the patients. He’s a strange dude. I once met him in front of the Trancas Market in Malibu. He was standing outside in the afternoon drinking a bottle of beer from a paper bag. I was pretty young. It was right after he did “The Buddy Holly Story”. He seemed very cool, and fucked up simultaneously. It was great to see him on Celebrity Rehab.
- It was also great to see Rodney King outside of the “can we all just get along” media loop. I really hope he stays sober. He seems like a good man.
- I thought that Phil Varone, from Sex Rehab, was impressive. I absolutely LOVED that he brought up the fact that unlike the others he had a happy childhood and couldn’t understand why he ended up a sex addict. I hate preconceived notions, and his honesty in that regard, was fascinating to me. He also just seemed like a good guy. But he might want to get out of rock music and join a blues band. It will decrease the temptation unless he likes having sex with drunken men.
Did I mention that I enjoy Celebrity Rehab? So much so, that my producer hat is often percolating with spinoffs to the franchise. Dr. Drew, I would like to pitch you some ideas:
Celebrity Munchausen Biproxy
Celebrity Steroids (think Danny Bonaduce and Major League Baseball).
Celebrity Manic Depression (think Sarah Palin)
Celebrity Irritable Bowel Syndrome
I’m available for pitch meetings.
I hope that this blog isn’t seen as making fun of celebrity addicts. An addict is an addict, regardless of their career, or status in life. I’ve known and have lost a few friends to this disease. Ultimately, all kidding aside, whether Celebrity Rehab is real, or fake, or somewhere in between, I think the show is important. Like with “Intervention”, I believe that only positive things can happen from seeing addiction up close. It would be easy for me slam Celebrity Rehab, but that would be dishonest. I like the show, and I think if people are more apt to watch celebrities, then so be it. In the end, for me, Celebrity Rehab is about honesty, inspiration, humanity, courage and education. If that’s trash TV, then I’m all for it.