Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Death and rebirth.

Comedian Richard Jeni is now reported to have had depression and paranoia.  Brad Delp, the lead singer from Boston's 1976-86 heyday, is now reported to have committed suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning.

I don't know if the passing of both men can be primarily attributed to being in Show Business.  Having been involved in the Industry at a much lower level, I can say (both from observation and limited experience) that working to entertain others can be extremely hazardous to one's mental health if you're already suffering from insecurity, paranoia and the pain of no longer living the privileged lifestyle of your career peak.

Allegedly, Chris Rock (plugging I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE) made a comment on Letterman recently (something about  Jeni saying "go see my movie" if he would have appeared with a movie to plug).  I'm not CNN or MSNBC, so I won't engage in speculation over the Rock/Jeni working relationship (Jeni wrote jokes for Rock's hosting gig on the Academy Awards two years ago) or lack thereof.

In Delp's case, his career wasn't helped by Boston uberleader Tom Scholz' quest for sonic perfection--which led to an eight-year gap and a label change (Epic to MCA) between Boston's second and third albums.  And Delp was apparently in and out of Boston in later years, as well as having a side gig playing with a Beatles cover band.  But it couldn't have helped Delp's well-being to luxuriate in the glory of being the frontman for the then-biggest hard rock band of its era and have his career mostly sidelined by Scholz' tunnel-visioned notion of "integrity"--fighting the Record Company suits until Ready to deliver an album.

Changing the subject, I'm typing this entry in Downtown Los Angeles.  As with Hollywood, developers see massive potential income in converting old office buildings to rental/retail space.  And there's a large entertainment complex (with movie theaters, restaurants and the new location of the Conga Room) now being built near Staples Center.

This is quite different than in the 1990s when, on my days off from work, I'd take the bus downtown and entertain myself by going to the library, having lunch and occasionally watching grade-B action movies (DEATH WISH V, BEST OF THE BEST 2, EVE OF DESTRUCTION) at the then-open Los Angeles, State and Orpheum Theaters.

In those days, downtown was an area vacated after dark by the office workers who spent their days west of Broadway.  And Broadway was designated by the city as the place where the poor and lower middle-class were to be segregated from the affluent.

It remains to be seen if Downtown L.A. can convert into a thriving, diverse urban area like Seattle and San Francisco with more than just chain stores, upscale supermarkets and convenience stores like Famima and ultratrendy hotels like The Standard.  And if Broadway (remember when it was considered eccentric/weird for Nicolas Cage to live in an apartment there?) will be spruced up but keep its identity?

And, most important, will the developers not flinch from providing clean and affordable housing for lower-income poor (helping to alleviate homelessness)?  This is preferable to treating homeless people as collateral damage to be dumped in, say, Paramount or Vernon and kept out of the eyelines of wealthy people who don't like being reminded of the existence of poverty and unequal opportunity.

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