Things I Wish I Didn’t Know

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.

22 thoughts on “Things I Wish I Didn’t Know

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  1. I’m not surprised, history is full of people making tons of mistakes. Even back in the middle ages and even further into Sumerian history, people did all sort of sordid things. I’ve read plenty of actor biographies on wiki and some of the stuff on there is pretty sad.

    I mean my favorite actors: classic and modern had affairs, were locked up in psych wards, had many unhappy marriages, etc. But you can find the same type of people among “normal” society. I don’t know if fame necessarily makes it worse though. In real life there are people that do drugs, have affairs, and do hurtful things to others.

    I think fame and public careers attract narcissistic people. I still love certain movies but it doesn’t mean that just because I watch them that I agree with how those actors live their lives.

    Our society gives too much credence to entertainers. One of my favorite lines in the Matrix is this guy who makes a deal with the computer guy by betraying the main characters, and says he wants to be someone important like an actor.

    I laughed when he said that because in our society entertainers get paid higher and often have more prestige than politicians, doctors, lawyers, the clergy, and scientists. I find that sad.

    But I mean we live in a world where the mainstream population would rather be entertained than volunteer, or read about the latest technology or be active in their local civic life.

    Breads and Circuses…Idk if you’re familiar with the phrase, but basically in Rome people would be distracted by everything else except civic virtues which they left on the back burner. So sometimes I feel in our society we’re distracted by celebrities and entertainment. I guess they’re 20th and 21st century’s “breads and circuses.”

    1. Like C.S. Lewis said, everyone’s ego is in competition with everyone else’s ego. Only egotistical people would want to be the center of attention — a movie star. So fame does bad things in their life, such as not holding them accountable, or making them think that because they’re famous, they can have anything they want. What’s really sad is how people excuse their behavior or look up to them.

      Look at modern stars — Kristen Stewart for example. She cheated on her boyfriend with a married film director. People are angry about that. I’m not surprised. What does surprise me is that the masses are surprised. Why wouldn’t she cheat on him? What moral code does she have to prevent such a thing? None! So why all the shock?

      1. Hi Charity, it is a bit weird to look at the Twilight movies now knowing that Kristen cheated on her bf. She admitted it too and apologized publicly. When I saw the Breaking Dawn part 2 trailer, I dunno a part of me kept thinking “Kristen cheated on Rob.” It’s hard not to think that.

        So yeah I guess everyone is “normal” until you get to know them, lol….

  2. And now you know why I gave up classic celebrity biographies. If I ever do read one anymore, it’s the sort that focuses solely on the work and not the life. In fact, I’ve come to feel that those are the best kind of biographies in general. I would far rather read about how a scene was written or shot than who the writers and actors were sneaking around with in their spare time!

    It WAS a bit of a comfort to realize, as I eventually did, that a lot of what’s in celebrity biographies is based solely on gossip, rumor, faulty memories, etc. Not to say that a lot of those people didn’t behave terribly, but if you do a bit of poking around, you often find sources exaggerating or just plain making stuff up!

    1. Yeah, I’m starting to think staying away from celeb biographies might be a good plan. I LOVE knowing the ins and outs of movies… but I’d rather not know who was sleeping with who!

  3. I especially like your last sentence. I think reality TV is a good indication of what fame does to regular people–turns them into selfish, hateful people, out for everything they can get.

    I’m sorry the book ruined so many actors and actresses for you. I think it’s best if I don’t read that book–I’d rather look at old Hollywood with rose colored glasses. :/

    1. I think we’re all naturally selfish — being famous just makes it even worse. =P

      Yeah, that’s why I didn’t name the book or the author. I didn’t want anyone else to read it and go “OH MY GOSH.”

  4. Good thoughts my friend….and you are so right! A lot of Hollywood doesn’t have much luster and that goes for the classic era much like nowadays. I try to just enjoy the movies anyway =) I try to remember that “not but for the grace of God go I.” Not that I am perfect, but the Lord has saved me….and I still make my own mistakes which can be just as ugly and hideous.

    However, there are some good ones out there. Trust me, Mom will be able to give you an idea. I know James Cagney and Dana Andrews were two of the “good guys”

    1. I’ll be miffed for about a week, and then go back to enjoying the films — but I’ll never be able to look at some of these actors the same way ever again, particularly the women. When they mature, and get older, and are still so lovely — you want to think of them as wise and dignified, not as trashy. It’s sad to find out you’re wrong.

  5. I love old Hollywood which is why I don’t want to know what the actors were like in reality. I already despise Errol Flynn and for good reason and I know that nearly all the rest of them are equally worth my dislike. Hollywood is human nature at its worst. But at least they tried to hide it from the world. It wasn’t appropriate for fans to know about their shortcomings and liasons so they hid them. Now Hollywood revels in the disgusting glamor and glitz and it just makes me sick. I’d rather have my stars with their hidden nastiness and flaws then watch it being paraded in front of me every time I check my email. Bleh!

    But I am sorry you found out the worst about classic Hollywood. It sort of ruins the fun in watching old movies.

    1. I’m now of the opinion that the less you know about someone, the more you respect them. Of course, it’s hard to respect most actors anyway, what with all the whipping off of their togs, but still… some things, I wish I didn’t know about.

      Not all of them are OLD movies, either… it may be awhile before I can watch some later ones without cringing, knowing what was going on behind-the-scenes (like one actor who had an on-set, casual affair with the actress playing his mother!). Ew.

      1. Yes but how do you know that they didn’t regret their actions? Not all biographies are based on fact, some of them have gossip as well.

        Also some of those actors couldn’t help it, now I don’t want to excuse their actions, but some of them had mental disorders like bipolar such as Vivian Leigh and she had horrible relationships. Other actors left Hollywood because they just couldn’t stand it.

        One of my favorites is Michael Schoeffling who gave up acting and Hollywood to live a normal life. He was in 16 candles, an 80s movie and in Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, a horse movie.

        I’m not trying to excuse their behaviour but I am trying to explain that everyone is human, people do regret things, etc. I think in Hollywood and public careers there is too much temptation…

        If Hollywood was everything (which it isn’t) then people wouldn’t have affairs, they wouldn’t hurt their wives/husbands, they wouldn’t overdose, they would find peace and fulfillment and peace of mind. I think the only thing that Hollywood does is provide jobs and boost egos.

        I think that’s why a lot of entertainers who have achieved all materialistic things try to find fulfillment in spirituality or through philanthropy.. I read that Julia Roberts practices Hinduism, Richard Gere is a Buddhist, Kirk Cameron is now a Christian, etc.

        So its interesting how even they try to find fulfillment beyond the material…

        Jim Carey is attributed to this quote, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

        1. Well, if it’s a biography written by the person… usually you can get a sense on if they regret their actions. This particular actor… no. I think sadly, a little bit of an ego pump through a life in Hollywood can destroy what may otherwise be decent people.

          1. Eek! Whoever it was doesn’t even regret their behavior? You’d better have that book either out of the house or well-hidden when I come out next week. Because I guarantee you I will find it and shock myself with whoever it was who wrote this book.

          2. What book? I have no book. 😉

            It went back to the library, who then sent it back through ILL to a library far, far away. You will never know.


      2. I’ve been watching some Bogie & Bacall movies and that includes the extras. It’s a bit gross knowing the director was fooling around with 2 of the actresses because he couldn’t have Bacall. She had eyes only for Bogie, which she shouldn’t have anyway because he was still married. I LOVE them together but it’s such a befuddlement.

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

    *High Five*

    Very interesting post. Without “knowing” all of this, I already assumed that “old Hollywood” was just as bad as the new. Forget about “put on” drama, that is a tragedy.

    1. I’m sorry to say — it wasn’t. I guessed that, of course. When Laurence Olivier leaves his wife for Vivien Leigh, and then leaves Vivien Leigh for Joan Plowright, you figure there’s some hanky-panky going on. I just didn’t realize that many of the old actors used the f-word all the time, or that most of them were promiscuous. It’s kind of a sad, sick thing to find out. =P

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