Whatever happened to the hard-partying celebrity?
It’s long past time we address a mass extinction event affecting the very core of our culture: the disappearance of hard-partying celebrity.
Gone are the days where these mythical creatures roamed the earth trashing hotel rooms, stumbling out of nightclubs and imbibing in four-day party benders dusted with powders and drowning in booze.
Their stories are essential texts in the gospel according to Us Weekly and TMZ. Rod Stewart was infamously banned for life by the Holiday Inn chain in 1976; The Who drummer Keith Moon once blew up a hotel toilet with explosives before taking a Lincoln Continental for a dip in the pool; and Johnny Depp got stuck with a $10,000 bill and felony charge for damages at NYC’s Mark Hotel after claiming a wayward armadillo popped out of the closet (said “armadillo” was never found).
Courtney Love, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Kate Moss have all been kicked out of their share of hotels, and Florence Welch managed to set a hotel room on fire after a night of partying with Kanye West. These celebrity-trashed spaces are now tourist attractions in their own right thanks to the legendary debauchery that occurred within their walls.
Reporters who covered the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) party beat a decade ago tell tales of sloshed A-listers teetering down Yorkville Avenue, Robert Downey, Jr. punching walls and crawling on all fours at the Sutton Place Hotel and LCBO inspectors crashing galas, sure they would find rampant marijuana use. Illegal after-hours bars were the place to be, and it wouldn’t be unusual for Woody Harrelson to share a joint with fellow partygoers.
Fast forward to TIFF in 2017. Illegal after-hours spots were replaced by sponsored hotspots funded by the likes of Nespresso, RBC, Audi and Grey Goose. The most hard-partying celebs are now the likes of 58-year-old Emma Thompson, who left her private table at the aforementioned RBC House to sing “Happy Birthday” to a producer and serve cake.
You’d barely recognize former party boy Colin Farrell, looking dapper in a perfectly tailored tux and spectacles, dining quietly in a corner with Nicole Kidman at Grey Goose’s Soho House takeover. Celebs don’t crash hotels; they let loose by donating their time and money to charitable causes, like Ben Stiller, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Jackson Browne did at the annual Artist for Peace and Justice gala where they served guests dinner and bid on auction items.
Today, a fun celebrity is one who stays at a party longer than 30 minutes and dares to venture outside their cordoned-off VIP corner. Entourages and groupies have been replaced by hard-nosed publicists and corporate suits. The hard-partying celeb – one of Hollywood’s most cherished archetypes – has been replaced with shadows of personalities determined to keep their noses squeaky clean.
Part of this can certainly be attributed to Hollywood rightfully separating themselves from the glamorization of addiction and drug use. Many of the most legendary party stories come courtesy of celebrities who later spent time in rehab or acknowledged a history of addiction. Too many infamous party animals have lost their lives to their bad habits.
It’s no longer cool to look wasted; rather sobriety has become the trend of the moment. Blake Lively, Kendrick Lamar, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Calvin Harris, Ben Affleck and Daniel Radcliffe are just some of the boldface names you won’t spot with a drink in their hands. The glamorization of sobriety is closely connected with other wellness trends, including yoga, juicing, clean eating and spiritual pursuits.
It’s also a reaction to substances like alcohol, marijuana and even harder drugs becoming part of culture rather than counter-culture. In a sense, it seems more rebellious not to imbibe at all than to drink until 4 a.m.
But, as with anything Hollywood touts en masse, we’d be remiss not to follow the money. Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis (in places where it’s legal) advertising is all highly regulated these days. Stars often make more money from endorsement and spokesperson deals than they do their actual films. There’s simply little to no money to be made by aligning with the brands that hawk these substances. Rather, being a lifestyle guru in the vein of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Blake Lively is where the big bucks are. Diet and detox programs, juice brands, athleisure lines, supplement routines and fit teas pay out millions of dollars a year to influencers.
The trend also coincides with a rise in neo-puritanism in North America, which favours sobriety, censorship, unforgiving political correctness and nanny-state alcohol and drug policies (look to Ontario’s recent pot legalization proposals as a prime example). The problem with this growing culture of righteousness, moral policing and fear of contamination is that it’s a hotbed for partisanship, anxiety, conflict and even radicalism. Celebrities, as a result, are increasingly burdened with unrealistic moral expectations that come with their own set of mental health issues and burnout.
The growing preference for “pure” celebrities (and the outrage when stars like Taylor Swift fall short of perfection) combined with the constant Big Brother presence of social media results in stars appearing more accessible while actually becoming more reclusive. Tweets and Instagram videos replace actual interaction with fans, journalists and the real world. As a result, previously sociable celebrities now hide behind velvet ropes, security guards and publicists at parties lest they be contaminated by anything resembling fun.
In reality, Hollywood hasn’t changed all that much. The vices of choice might be different, but the underlying issues remain. Unfortunately, today’s addictions, posing as virtuous wellness routines and clean lifestyles, may be just as dangerous as those of yesteryear. Scientists, nutritionists and medical experts say a lot of the wellness products being advertised today are akin to snake oil, placebos if not actively harmful to one’s health. Orthorexia, a form of disordered eating when one becomes obsessed with being “clean,” is a rising form of addiction that is potentially much more damaging to mental and physical health than indulging in a few cocktails.
Many celebrities have simply traded in promoting one vein of addictive lifestyle for another rather than truly becoming more moderate or responsible in their choices and those they encourage fans to share in. At least the more traditional vices never pretended to be anything more than the catalyst for a wild night out.