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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Didn't they almost have it all?

Michael Jackson.
Amy Winehouse.
Now Whitney Houston.

Three recording superstars who rose to fame before our eyes.
Three celebrities whose lives unraveled before our eyes.
Three self-abusive personalities who, in the past 2-1/2 years, died far too young.

Tragic, to be sure. But in no way surprising.

I've been an editor at daily newspapers for 27 years, so I've grown accustomed to — and am fairly unfazed by — seeing stories come across the wire titled with the word "Obit" followed by a famous name. And lately, sadly,  I've grown accustomed to so many people who seemingly have everything being willing to throw it all away, as a public spectacle no less, in patterns of destructive behavior that ultimately lead to their premature deaths.

Early passings among self-medicating stars certainly are nothing new. Listing such names as Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, John Belushi, Chris Farley, River Phoenix, Anna Nicole Smith and Heath Ledger barely scratches the surface. But it also yields the obvious question: Why?

Why is celebrity so inexplicably linked with recklessness and checking out at a young age? Is it the pressure of fame? Is it corruption brought on by wealth? Is it a misguided sense of immortality? Is it a "hope I die before I get old" mentality?

Whatever the case, it just doesn't make sense to those of use who live outside of the spotlight. For us — most of us, anyway — life is something to cherish, preserve and, at all costs, make last as long as possible.

In the celebrity world, life, like stardom itself, seems so disposable.

And that, perhaps, is even more difficult to accept than the deaths themselves.

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