When Bad Things Happen to Famous People

Most people are happy when famous people are successful. It's great to read about them in the paper.

The sad truth is the fact that the opposite is also true: most people are also happy when famous people bugger up and do something stupid.

The newspapers are happy with both scenarios, too. They loved reporting on Oscar Pistorius’ career while he was winning. And they relished reporting gossip stories about him after misfortune struck, and his girlfriend was tragically killed in a fatal shooting at Oscar’s house.

Whereas, before, everyone lauded Oscar Pistorius, all of a sudden, out of the blue, new titbits of so-called information arrived: now everyone is whispering that, in fact, Oscar was quite a jealous guy. He was supposedly a control freak with relationship problems. (Oh, and have you heard about his obsession with guns?)

I don’t know Oscar, and I don’t know if these stories are true. The sad thing is that, even if they were true, the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp may still have been a terrible accident, a dreadful case of mistaken identity. Yet, accident or no accident, Oscar – as, indeed, Reeva’s family and friends - will have to live under the shadow of that ghastly event for the rest of their lives.

How do famous people handle bad things? Is it possible for celebrities to win back the adoration of the public after a setback of such momentous proportions, whether they are guilty or not?

In the face of adversity, some crack up and fade away, while others fight back to rise from the ashes of their ruin, reborn and redefined.

Tiger Woods is in the process of regaining control of his life, too, after a series of stupid mistakes and a public humiliation that would have destroyed a lesser man.

Kurt Darren will hopefully be as good as new after he narrowly escaped being killed or permanently maimed in a road accident.

Lance Armstrong will probably never regain his standing in the public eye, even though he did the right thing by admitting his guilt.

As for Joost van der Westhuizen, well, three cheers for him! He has done a terrific job – and under absolutely unimaginable stressful circumstances - to regain lost ground in terms of respect.

My favourite columnist, Darrel Bristow-Bovey, is on the comeback trail, too, thank goodness, after a tiny mistake that almost cost him is career; and I love his writing now more than ever, because his narrative seemed to have changed ever so slightly; these days, there is an added depth to his work, a new maturity I had not felt before.

Another writer who underwent a change of style is Justin Nurse. A few years ago, this funny man of satire was shaken by an utterly random and undeserved family tragedy that shocked him so badly that he stopped writing for a while. He is now publishing again under the pseudonym Bartlett; Bartlett sounds like a different person altogether, and this new persona has gained something of a social conscience by regularly contributing work to magazines like The Big Issue.

Speaking of authors: Afrikaans novelist Annelie Botes, who gained notoriety after a thoughtless remark during an interview back in 2010, has also come back from the literary wilderness after apologising for her mistake and publishing a new book, to rave reviews, with a new publishing firm.

Some years ago, the actress Margit Meyer-Rodenbeck (better known as comic actress Dowwe Dolla) was struck by misfortune when her mother became terminally ill with cancer. This affected her deeply – in an effort to deal with her grief, she decided to do something constructive, and eventually managed to organise the widely attended series of  "Want Ons Kan" cancer awareness concerts in the Bellville civic centre. These concerts are now an annual event and a huge success.

I love attending the "Want Ons Kan" concerts, mainly because there is such a good sense of camaraderie backstage. Since all the performers perform for free, and since everyone is united by Margit’s vision, there seems to be a total absence of any form of rivalry or competition. Mingling with people more famous than myself in the Green Room of the "Want Ons Kan" shows serves as a reminder to myself – and, I think, to all of us - how vulnerable we all are to the twists and turns of Fate… whether we are celebrities or not.

"Want Ons Kan" will be hosted on Sunday, the 28th of July, in the Bellville Civic Centre, with performers like Jak de Priester, Amanda Strydom, myself and many others.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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