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Richard Jeni, Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears… Hollywood’s Latest Tragic Sagas
By Allison Kugel, Senior Editor - March 13, 2007

Richard Jeni
Richard Jeni
 
Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith
 
Britney Spears
Britney Spears
In the latest tragic turn in Hollywood, comedian Richard Jeni died Saturday, March 10, 2007 of an alleged self inflicted gunshot wound to the face. Jeni's girlfriend dialed 911 that day, reportedly stating to police, "My boyfriend shot himself in the face." LAPD arrived at Richard Jeni's West Hollywood home early Saturday morning. Jeni was then rushed to Los Angeles Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. At the age of 49, Richard Jeni was a legendary comedians' comedian. Although he flew somewhat under the radar throughout much of his career, he was a regular on NBC's The Tonight Show as well as HBO's annual Comic Relief specials. Richard Jeni's resume also included a role opposite Jim Carrey in 1994's The Mask as well as writing credits for the 2005 Academy Awards Ceremony and his hilarious 2005 HBO Special, A Big Steaming Pile of Me. Richard Jeni was a brilliant student of observation which he translated into prolific storytelling. He will be greatly missed. Richard Jeni's family made the following statement to E! News, "Richard brought us all a lifetime of laughter. We hope fans remember that and nothing else." Although we understand and sympathize with their plea to only remember the good times, we can't help but question this most recent and tragic turn of events in an industry that seems to be so heavily plagued with dysfunction and personal tragedy.

This latest episode in an ongoing show business saga of tragic twists and turns comes on the heels of the shocking and much sensationalized death of former Playboy Playmate and Guess? Jeans Model turned reality star, Anna Nicole Smith. Smith was found unconscious and later pronounced dead during her stay at The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on February 8, 2007. The cause of Smith's death is still unknown. What is apparent, however, was Smith's decline, in recent years, from alleged ongoing abuse of prescription drugs, including Methadone, a drug typically used by heroin addicts to cope with their withdrawal from the drug. In some rare cases, Methadone can be used to treat chronic pain. Methadone use is also linked to the untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith's son, Daniel Smith, back in September of 2006. Extremely distraught after the death of her only son, Smith seemed to hobble along emotionally since the September 13th birth of her daughter, Dannielynn (paternity for the child is still not known). According to Smith's former nanny, Quethlie Alexis, the late model made two attempts at suicide after the death of her son Daniel. Alexis also claims that she was given orders by Smith to underfeed daughter Dannielynn so that she would grow up to be "slim and sexy." Anna Nicole Smith had battled the bulge throughout her modeling career, finally taking off the weight with the help of diet pill, Trimspa, and eventually becoming a signed spokesperson for the diet pill. On February 15, 2007 Alexis told World Entertainment News Network that Anna Nicole Smith told her she had intended to take her own life after Smith woke up from an unconscious state that was brought on by Smith drinking an entire bottle of a sleep aid medication. Although Anna Nicole Smith was suffering from an ongoing bout of Pneumonia and was running a fever of 105 degrees during her trip to Hollywood, Florida, there is still much speculation about the overuse of several prescription medications as well as the emotional battering she suffered from the sudden death of her son and an ongoing battle over the paternity of her newborn daughter.

Adding to all of this is another blond beauty who buzzed off all of her hair on the heels of a tumultuous marriage, two back to back pregnancies, an impending divorce and a bitter custody battle… which all took place over the course of just two short years. Britney Spears shocked the world when she impulsively took a razor to her long hair extensions on the evening of Friday, February 16, 2007 and shaved her head completely bald. Britney Spears walked into Esther's Haircutting Studio in Tarzana, CA (just north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley) in a dazed state, upon just getting off a plane after fleeing her first attempt at rehab on the Caribbean Island of Antigua. From there, things seemed to spiral for Spears when she was refused access to her boys, Sean Preston and Jayden James. This behavior was the final straw for Britney Spears' worried family. Things came to a head after weeks of watching Spears party into the wee hours of the morning while flashing paparazzi photographers, being an absentee parent, and allegedly drinking her body weight in alcohol. Drug use has been widely speculated as well. Spears finally relented and admitted herself into Promises, agreeing to stay the full 30 day term. Britney Spears, once known as the young gorgeous recording artist who continued to out-sell all other artists in her genre (leaving Christina and Jessica to eat her dust), has toppled from grace and landed in Promises of Malibu, a rehabilitation center that has seen the likes of other troubled stars who experienced the ill affects of "too much, too soon": Robert Downey Jr., Ben Affleck and Charlie Sheen are just a few other alumni of this posh Malibu, CA rehab center.

It seems that nowadays, the term "rehab" has become a running joke, a punch line and a pathetic Hollywood cliché. But does it actually help? In Britney's case, we hope so. We are Britney Spears fans at PR.com. She remains in our official office CD collection. But the truth is, yes and no. Rehab can be effective in the right context and with the right support system around you. The first thing an alcoholic is told when they go into recovery is to stay away from any type of environment that may trigger the desire to drink. Following that line of logic, one would assume that returning to the Hollywood environment upon exiting rehab is synonymous with a recovering alcoholic leaving an AA meeting and walking right into the nearest bar. Spears may also be a victim of her own youthful success: the all too common result of too much money and too many options, much too soon in life. It seems that in a town built on dysfunction, only the strongest can remain functional, and even then, it seems to be something of a full time job to hold on to one's sanity. Add to the mix the tabloid press who has established a pattern of deifying people and sensationalizing them to the point of icon status, and then swiftly ripping them apart at the first sign of a chink in the armor (otherwise known as being human). The rest of us have the luxury of being in crisis mode in private, while Ms. Spears has been forced to battle her demons in the company of over 6 billion people. I feel for the girl. Britney Spears' hair will grow back and she may well be just a couple hundred sit ups and a bottle of happy pills away from reclaiming her former pop-star glory. Or maybe the problem runs a bit deeper and it may serve her well to up and move back home to Kentwood, Louisiana with her boys, and to give that childhood pal turned husband turned ex-husband, Jason Alexander, a second look.


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