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2016 Death Of The Celebrity 

| By: Dr Robert Stevens

There’s no doubt about it, 2016 has been a bad year to be a celebrity.  ‘So many deaths!’  Has it been the ‘worst year ever’ as some have hailed?  No, I’m pretty sure that 1347, the year of the Bubonic Plague, beats it hands down.  As ever a sense of perspective, clearly lacking in many, is needed!

I hate celebrity culture.  There are too many children today idolising people who are famous for being famous, its abhorrent.  A recent survey of young people was rightly alarmed on asking what children wanted to be when they grew up?  The most common answer was “famous”, not to have a skill or vocation, not to take pride in ones actions, but to simply be famous.  I wanted to be a vet, I got close, being a doctor will have to do.

What I do recognise and value is talent.  I can also appreciate what a significant impact their work has had on society and the culture we live in today.  Listening to George Michael songs isn’t exactly my thing, I’m more of a GN’R type of guy, but you can’t deny that the man had talent.

Someone I did admire who died this year was Muhammed Ali.  His life story and the Rumble In The Jungle will stick with me forever.  Do I feel sad that Muhammed Ali is dead?  I mean he was an inspiration, a true once in a lifetime character.  The answer is no not really, I didn’t know him personally, we all die, that’s pretty much an inevitability.  When I die, it would be nice to leave some sort of legacy behind, but I’m not sure it really matters.  I take that back, it does matter, it just may not matter to you. It may not be an ‘important’ legacy, like the kind a celebrity leaves behind, but hopefully one that will touch the hearts of those I have come into close contact with.  I’d like to be thought of as a good fella.

Henry Hill: You know, we always called each other good fellas. Like you said to, uh, somebody, “You’re gonna like this guy. He’s all right. He’s a good fella. He’s one of us.” You understand? We were good fellas.

I think it’s interesting to look at the celebrities who have died and rather than try and find some spurious apocalyptic rationale behind so many deaths occurring in 2016, try and find something meaningful that might help.

I see celebrities as tortured souls, there often underlies a dark melancholy behind the smiling mask in front of the camera.  How could all that money, fame and fortune not make you the happiest person alive?  Much like the Stone Roses song ‘I Just Want To Be adored’ which poked fun at the idea of fame.  There’s a very hefty price to pay that comes along with that fame.  A poignant loss of your true identity, a loss that is hard to recover down the road of ‘success’.  Robin Williams famously said “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”  A sad but insightful comment.  This is a perfect example of a man, loved superficially by so many but misunderstood by almost all.  What was seen on the surface was a shining example of pure happiness and joy, what lay underneath was a far darker side that would eventually consume him bit by bit until there was nothing left but the chance to escape.

I think it boils down to balance.  I think most things come down to balance, much like the human body relies on homeostasis and incredibly complex physiological mechanisms to ensure balance is achieved.  Intricate negative feedback systems exist to prevent too much of a good thing.  Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  Our minds and bodies crave balance, our ego is trying to mediate our superego’s machinations all of the time, there’s no harm in feeding the beast, just don’t let him take control.

Much like addiction, it all boils down to hormones within the brain.  How you chose to feed them is up to you, but the quick easy route isn’t necessarily the best route.  Drugs that flood the brain with dopamine like cocaine & SUGAR are just a substitute for what you really need…  Anabolic steroids work, they are performance enhancing drugs, just ask anyone who has used them, just ask the Russian Olympic team!  Their use comes at a cost, synthetic compounds that mimic testosterone have potential detrimental effects on your organs and body’s tissues.

Your body wasn’t designed to have synthetic compounds interfere with natural physiological processes.  Most anabolic steroids were designed to help immunocompromised & wasted patients suffering from cancer gain some muscle mass to assist them in achieving ‘normal’ daily goals.  These people are suffering, they are not wanting to break their next PB or look good on the beach.  When you start messing with these chemicals you put tremendous strain on your body.

Balance is the key to health, it may not be sexy, it may not be cool but it’s the truth.  I think as we get older, whilst you should have no regrets, I’m sure there are a few things your older self would tell your younger self not to do.  Would you really pick up a cigarette if you knew it would give you cancer?  Would a puff on a cigarette taste as sweet if you knew your last struggling breaths would be through a respirator?  Is a 20 a day habit worth a heart attack?

I’m not a big fan of the giant pharmaceutical monsters that influence the modern clinician’s prescribing habits. There’s no way you would get me to take a statin in favour of addressing lifestyle measures first, yet they get dished out like smarties because the research supports their use.  Unfortunately, we are in a society of entitled takers, people that want a quick fix, people who aren’t willing to take the long road to health.  Good health is a journey not a destination.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy is not a band aid, it’s not a ‘take this and it’ll be all better by the morning’ medicine.  It’s the foundations, that piece of the jigsaw you need to find in order to go any further.  It will allow you to achieve your potential, it will allow you to live today with all cylinders firing, where you go from there is completely up to you…

Some notable male celebrity deaths this year include…

David Bowie – Singer, songwriter, actor and record producer​ 

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” 

Died aged 69 following an 18-month secret battle with cancer.

Alan Rickman – Actor

Who most notably played Hans Gruber in 1988’s Die Hard, died aged 69 from cancer.  I refuse to tarnish his legacy with an association with the Harry Potter films.

Sir Terry Wogan – Broadcaster

“Gratuitously hurtful folk declare that I am very popular in hospitals because the listeners abed there are too weak to reach out and switch me off.” 

He died aged 77 from liver cancer.

Paul Daniels – Entertainer

“You’ll like this … not a lot, but you’ll like it”.  He gained points after he featured in Louis Theroux’s 2001 BBC documentary series When Louis Met…’

He died at the age of 77 from a brain tumour.

Frank Sinatra Jr – Musician

“I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family – and I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually”.  

He died unexpectedly at the age of 72 from a cardiac arrest.

Ronnie Corbett – Entertainer

Ronnie Corbett: “And now, it’s goodnight from me…” 

Ronnie Barker: “…and it’s goodnight from him.” 

Died at the age of 85 died from motor neurone disease.

Prince – Musician, singer, songwriter, producer

Who famously changed his name from Prince to a symbol, later described as the Love Symbol. Why?  Perhaps because his fame and fortune meant he felt he had transcended from human to a symbol.

He tragically died aged 57 from an overdose of Fentanyl, a powerful opioid.

Muhammad Ali – Boxer 

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want”.

He died at the age of 74 from septic shock due to unspecified natural causes, but struggled with Parkinson’s Disease for many years preceding this.

Gene Wilder – Actor

“Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.”  

A man who had such an active imagination tragically died aged 83 of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.

George Michael – Wham! Singer

Who poignantly died aged 53 on Christmas day, allegedly from ‘cardiac failure’.  Rumours surrounding an overdose from heroin make this tale and his legacy all the more tragic.  I was already sick of hearing ‘Last Christmas’ every Christmas period!

Dr Robert D Stevens MBChB MRCGP Dip.FIPT