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Ron Hart Columns: The designated drivers of our norms

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The designated drivers of our norms

August 19, 2007 - Panama City News Herald

By Ron Hart

It saddens me that many of our biggest stars are regularly incarcerated. They seem to drop like flies once they achieve a certain amount of notoriety and fame, so much so that we have to have shows like "American Idol" and "America's Next Drunken Star" to desperately replenish the supply of luminaries that we lose to our criminal justice system each week.

The trouble for our stars seems to begin with their dance with the paparazzi, which they seem to invite early in their careers. At some point they begin to find it irritating to be constantly chased around while clubbing and sunbathing topless, and are caught on tape in the process of hitting or cursing the photographer. This narcissistic flirtation with the cameras ends up leading to the demise of these flash-in-the-pan dopes who our hyper-celebrityfocused media create and help demolish. Indeed, the Hollywood celebrity and publicity industry rakes in big bucks by making gods of these mere mortals in the name of stardom and then chastises them for being just that - mortal and very fallible.

Most of these folks' troubles (as do are our nation's) seem to be in California. We all know about the living Jerry Springer show that is Britney Spears' life, but Lindsey Lohan, Michael Jackson, Hugh Grant, Nick Nolte, Robert Blake, David Hasselhoff, Robert Downey Jr., Alec Baldwin, Al Gore's son and of course, the celebutant Paris Hilton, all have trouble with the law. They seem to be L.A.'s equivalent of Otis in Mayberry RFD. Lohan had an ankle bracelet on while being arrested this last time from her previous drinking/drug brush with the law. Apparently the L.A. court's ankle bracelets have a built-in chip with Mapquest directions to the nearest liquor store.

In addition, there is another breed of celebrity. They are the politicians who are seldom distinguished from actors except that they tend to wear suits with American flag lapel pins. In keeping with my theory about L.A., even the mayor there is in trouble. What is it about that place?

Of all the folks mentioned, the one I have the hardest time with is Hilton. She has done nothing her entire life. She was given about $200 million in a trust fund as a result of the hard work and ingenuity of her grandfather Baron Hilton, and has simply spent her life being rich. No jobs to speak of, no stress, no car note, no mortgage, and somehow she finds herself in jail. How does one screw up being rich? It is not like you are attempting to overthrow a government or to perform a heretofore never successful brain surgery. All Paris has to do is sit there and be rich.

At the core of all these drugdriven dopes in L.A. is a rehab center called Promises. It must have a revolving door that, if hooked up to a turbine, could provide for the energy needs of California for a month. Promises must be one of the few rehab centers with an open bar, considering that the results of its fine work can be seen by the constant repeat arrests of stars who spend a night there. Perhaps they should change their name from Promises to Vague Propositions, Questionable Results, Empty Gestures or Enabling Excuses.

I think stars may do this whole get-arrested thing to distract the public from what they really have done wrong, which is their movies. Have you seen a good movie or performance from any of these people ... ever?

I am not sure, either, that any of these stars ever really get fixed. In their defense, it is hard to get off booze and drugs when you really do not want to. But at least their antics provide an opportunity for the rest of us to live vicariously without having to go to rehab then prison.

We should not spend time feeling sorry for such stars; like the rest of us, each person in this country lives in a situation of his or her own making.

2011 Benjamin Franklin Award Winner!

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Columns by Ronald Hart. Ron grew up in Tennessee and began writing a column for his hometown paper in 2002. He attended The University of Memphis and the Institute for Political and Economic Systems at Georgetown University. Ron graduated Magna Cum Laude and was elected student government president. Upon getting his MBA, he went to work for Goldman Sachs. He was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents by then Governor Lamar Alexander and is now a private investor. He appears on CNN and has been quoted in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. His columns reflect a rare combination of Southern libertarian views and humor. They have been described as "Lewis Grizzard meets P.J. O'Rourke with a dash of Will Roger's horse sense". His columns are carried by 30 newspapers with a total weekly circulation of approximately 1 million readers.