You know how you really don’t want to know some things? And then you find out about them and you’re shocked and disgusted by them?

That’s how I felt last night, reading through an actor’s collection of “famous people I have known” book. I was under the happy delusion that classic Hollywood was nowhere near as awful as it is today.

I was wrong.

By my estimation, many actors have always been sexually promiscuous, foul-mouthed, absolute egotistical, totally self-centered, and downright rude.

(If I had any doubts on this score, I have a friend who works in Hollywood. She said her estimation of most actresses went down the toilet the day she saw one get out of her limo and give the finger to the driver as he left.)

I guess I just figured Classic Hollywood was somehow nicer, since it seemed a more… subdued age. But it wasn’t. Apparently, actors were still employing f-words (among other things) to their costars, still cheating on their wives, husbands, partners, and whatnot, still acting like pompous jerks, and still totally stuck on themselves.

The particular actor, who shall  remain nameless, talked about getting hit on by various well-known 60’s male actors, he talked about dalliances with starlets, he talked about stumbling over drunken has-beens in hotel corridors, and that the summer theater season was pretty much a sexual free-for-all.

As I read through each short chapter, dedicated to his encounters with “famous people,” from his run-in as a teenager with Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor’s attempts to seduce him later in life, to the afternoon he spent enjoying “bawdy jokes” with JFK, as I read about Yul Brynner’s opinion of his audience, the fact that no one really liked Rex Harrison (who dismissed everyone with equal disdain), and Bette Davis’ outright snub of other actors, I felt sad.

Most of these actors are gone. Many of them lived sordid, torrid lives of alcohol abuse, drug addiction, multiple divorces, and sexual habits that led to their diminished state in later years – if they lived that long. Each of them was living in a world of narcissism, of self-worship, of intentional alienation and one-upmanship, which made none of them happy. Oh, there were a few “nicer” ones certainly, he had nothing but pleasant things to say about Deborah Kerr, but still… lives of utter meaninglessness.

C.S. Lewis once said that everyone’s ego is in a constant state of competition with everyone else’s ego. The lives of these people teach us that fame is not really a good thing if it makes you even more self-centered. These days, everyone wants to be famous… the next “big thing.” But is it what is best for us? Or will it destroy us forever? Would Marilyn Monroe been happier, more fulfilled, and lived longer if she’d been allowed to be herself, keep her own name, and have no one know who she was other than the people who loved her?

Reading through the book, I felt disgusted… and then I felt ashamed of myself. These are godless people, immoral people. They know no better than what they are. Why should I expect more of them? Shouldn’t I have mercy on them?

My life is as good as it is because I let God into it. But when you are famous, when everyone worships the ground you walk on, when you can demand anything you want and get it, it’s very hard to find God.

Maybe we shouldn’t wish for fame. Maybe we should be thankful not to have it.