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I once met Lauren Bacall at Spagos in West Hollywood. She would have never dared to die before ripening to legendary. This year, at age 89, she finally did.
2014 has been a banner year for celebrity deaths. Next to texting and driving, being on reality singing competition may now be in the top 10 causes of death. Simone Battle was found at 8:30 a.m. hanging in her closet. Cause of death: suicide. Success must have a downside. After she became a finalist on Simon Cowell’s “X Factor,” Battle was later signed on to a girl group and was also showcased in a video with Pitbull. After she left the show, her talent was noticed by Robin Antin, who formed the Pussycat Dolls. Looking to form a second generation of the group, Robin put together the all-girl group G.R.L. The group was made up of Simone, Lauren Bennett, Emmalyn Estrada, Natasha Slayton, and Paula van Oppen.
No one fully knows the reason why Battle killed herself. It is simply just tragic and confusing. It’s not my position to judge, but she was on her way up while so many other actresses, actors and singers who come to Los Angeles never make it. Simon Cowell wrote on Twitter, “I am so sad to hear about the news Simone Battle has passed away. She was such a fun nice person. It’s such a loss. Rest in peace Simone” on September 6, 2014.
Battle sang an audition at Simon Cowell’s house for “X Factor” using the song “Help” by the Beatles. There was a vulnerability in that performance and a spin on the ’60s song that could move one to tears. “Help me get my feet back on the ground, would you please, please, help me.” Did anyone try? That’s the question.
Another reality death this year was Michael Johns, age 35, who died of a blood clot. He performed on American Idol, Season 7. Skye McCole Bartusiak, only 21, died of an apparent epileptic seizure on July 19, 2014. She was a television and film star who played Rose Wilder, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, in “Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder.” She was also in the hit independent film “Pineapple.”
Beyond the youthful deaths, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Joan Rivers have all recently died. Like Simone Battle, Robin Williams died of suicide. It is unclear what brought him so much sorrow when he provided the world with so much joy. Phillip Seymour Hoffman relapsed with a heroin addiction. Hoffman’s death may have been an accident caused by “acute mixed drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine.” However, he had a needle in his arm. Both Williams and Hoffman left three children behind.
Brittany Murphy died of a long-term eating disorder in 2009, and shortly thereafter her husband, Simon Monjack, died. Later reports stated that both Murphy and Monjack died of pneumonia and anemia. Murphy also had a toxic strain of over-the-counter prescription drugs. Her mother suspected she died of toxic mold in her apartment. A new movie was just released on Lifetime about her full life story. Michael Jackson also died of self-administered drugs, with years of using illegal drugs normally reserved for surgery.
Fame has a new meaning now. Fame is not the ticket to paradise; it is learning to wrestle new demons. Apparently, it is not a triumph for all. The Hollywood Golden Era is long over. Between reality stars dying on the rise and established celebrities dying in mysterious ways, crippled and alone, it makes one wonder at the complexity of the human condition. Fame is not the sole ingredient of happiness.