Monday, May 25, 2009
Frailty and Fraud.
With the possible exception of Oprah Winfrey, no celebrity has had a longer or more difficult battle with weight than Kirstie Alley. While her very first role in front of the camera was in one of the good Star Trek movies, The Wrath of Khan in 1982, it was five years later when she got the role as Rebecca Howe on Cheers that she achieved fame. During her seven year stint on the show, she started having her first problems staying thin. She has been a spokesperson for diet plans, but she admits from the cover of People magazine that she has gained over eighty pounds recently. These before and after pictures are from 2005 and 2009, respectively.
Jeff Conaway has also struggled with his weight, but more recently he became a reality TV show star due to his problems with painkillers and alcohol. VH-1, a serious contender for most disgusting network on cable, first exploited Conaway on Celebrity Fit Club, where he had a major confrontation with the people running the show and checked into rehab in 2006. Of course, this means he was eligible for Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, another half-hour dose of human misery packaged as entertainment on VH-1. He failed to maintain sobriety in both 2007 and 2008, but after leaving the show, he claims success with the help of John Travolta, Conaway's co-star in Grease.
Conaway had a back operation late last year, which he says helps, but he still takes drugs and drinks. He says that everything in moderation is his answer now. Listening to him speak on the radio recently, his voice isn't as bad as it was before, but he still slurs his words. He says his problems with sobriety go back at least twenty five years. His current "success" sets a very low bar for that concept.
What Alley and Conaway have in common is their mutual supposed savior, Dianetics and Scientology. Conaway took Travolta's advice last year after the reality TV show version of rehab didn't work for him. He says he has not become a Scientologist, but credits Dianetics for the improvement in his dealing with drugs. Kirstie Alley has been a member of the cultish scam for many years. She is active in the anti-psychiatry front of the pseudo-scientific theft machine.
I do not write this to mock human frailty. I've had back pain in my life, and I'm very glad that it has been a long time since it was a problem. I know what it is to struggle with weight gain. My problem in all of this is with the frauds who promise cures. While I have my disagreements with many belief systems, no religion or philosophy disgusts me more than of the scams of L. Ron Hubbard. He is to hucksterism what Babe Ruth is to home run hitting. Everyone who came before him should be a distant memory. P.T. Barnum was an amateur and Charles Ponzi a piker compared to L. Ron Hubbard. He made a fake science and a religion who central tenets read like what they are, bad science fiction. He knew how important celebrity is in the modern world, and so his religion's main spokespeople are actors. All future scams will have to pay homage to Scientology. If their lawyers are any good, the Scientologists will find a way to make the scammers in the future pay royalties.
Biology promises frailty. We are all mortal, but modern humans are clever enough to create methods that effectively banish pain, though in some cases only temporarily. For most creatures, getting enough to eat is a constant struggle, and that struggle extends to much of the human race. But in industrialized societies, a vast majority of the population not only can get enough to eat, but much more than enough. All this cleverness, solving previously intractable problems only to replace them with new and equally difficult problems, is the result of human consciousness, the sharpest double edged sword in all of creation. We are the creatures clever enough to understand much of the mechanism of the universe, but that incomplete knowledge makes us naturally long for more. There is never a shortage of hucksters willing to defraud people with promises of answers to the questions whose solutions still elude us all.
For anyone who thinks they might find the answers to life's questions in Scientology or Dianetics, know this. If the answers were there, Kirstie Alley would be thin and Jeff Conaway would be healthy. Neither of those things is true.