Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus; Charlie Sheen And Lindsay Lohan Latest On List Of Hollywood's Dark Side of Dreams
Be careful what you wish for. Especially if you're a parent.
If you're a parent holed up in the Oakwood Toluca Hills apartment complex -- where the dreams of all the precocious kids who want a career in Hollywood marinate, waiting for their big casting call -- these are not good days. Billy Ray Cyrus is telling people that Hannah Montana ruined his family and put daughter Miley on a path of debauchery. Lindsay Lohan seems incapable of keeping out of trouble, out of the tabloids and out of her own way. And Charlie Sheen is annoyed that people won't let him go back to work instead of staying in rehab.
His logic -- all of this stuff about coke, hookers and crack isn't anybody's business if I show up to work and do my job. Meanwhile, Chuck Lorre, the creator of Two and A Half Men and thus Sheen's boss, joked, "If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I'm gonna be really pissed."
Which was probably cold comfort to Martin Sheen.
But Charlie Sheen is a grown man who has, at least so far, lived a predictably dicey life in Hollywood after being born into the business. You'd almost expect him to know better, because he was raised by insiders who knew what the life can do to you. Maybe he was told and didn't listen - couldn't call it unexpected.
It's the elder Cyrus' tale to GQ that fascinates more because it has so many layers. First and foremost, one would hope that any parent with a functioning brain pan would have heard the Hollywood horror stories about child actors so many times it would have stuck by now. If you want to be famous, if you want to be a star, be very, very careful what you wish for -- particularly if you wish it on your kids. How many stories are out there? Can Google even tabulate them all?
Or is the daily Lindsay Lohan Watch not enough evidence?
Beyond that, the elder Cyrus was party to the, um, party. He was on the show. He was getting paid. Long before 18, Miley was on the path she seems intent on setting afire right now. The evidence was right in front of Billy Ray. He tells GQ that her handlers (and that implies a nebulous group of management, agents, friends, publicists, Disney people, what have you) were quick to have him around her for the blame while also apparently poisoning her to the whims of his influence. All of that is, for anyone prone to cynicism, really hard to believe. At least the part about these dark forces corrupting Miley and absolving him from blame by their very existence.
But if you strip away the 20/20 hindsight on both his parental shortcomings and him not complaining publicly when he was getting paid by Disney, you have to at least have an ounce of compassion for the man as a father. Granted, this is a lot easier if you're a parent than if you're not. But Miley's his daughter. He doesn't want her to become, well, Lindsay Lohan. Just as Lohan's parents didn't want her to become any one of the legions of stars and starlets before her who went astray on Sunset Boulevard or similar environs. At least grant the man his parental worries. Like all dads, he doesn't want her to end up on a stripper pole (again). Or in some gutter.
This is all cliche by now, of course. Because we've seen it for so long. Actors behaving badly. Lack of parenting and the allure of fame and fortune drives child actors (or child actors turned legal adults) into the maelstrom of sex, drugs (not rock and roll so much as, who knows, dating rappers?) that drive tabloids. Now, this isn't entirely different than a lot of kids who do not live their lives under a spotlight in the entertainment industry. You could be in Kansas and have this happen. There will always be booze and sex. And stripper poles and crack, if you seek it. Doesn't have to be in L.A.
But they don't have the likes of the Oakwood - big apartment buildings filled with kids and their parents, just waiting for auditions and their moment to catch a break. They don't have as many industry reps filling their heads with Bieberesque dreams. You come out to Hollywood -- or more likely, the notion of Hollywood as a place, an imagined utopia, not a urine soaked rundown city -- with said dreams. This is where it all happens.
By then, it's probably too late. Kansas - or wherever -- will never be the same. Once you get a taste of "Hollywood" -- for most fame-seekers of any age -- there's no going back. You are literally not in Kansas anymore. It's like all those tragically disillusioned tales from the American Idol contestants who don't actually have any talent -- somebody has to kill the dream. And not everybody gets Simon Cowell for a parent. And, sadly, you can't pick your own stage parents.
So, what if you get what you wished for? Everybody in the Oakwood has their head shots, their little sizzle reels, their local commercials or small-town theater credentials in hand and the dream is never so close as it is there. What if it all goes sideways in some kind of dark, Cyrus-Lohan-Sheen-Fill in the blanks kind of way? Some people have to learn the hard way. That's just history on a loop right there. But you wish the parents of these kids might pay more attention to the headlines a little earlier in the process. Because when you lose them, they're lost.
Email Tim Goodman at Tim.Goodman@THR.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bastardmachine.