Kiss Your Idols
Lou Reed’s death sent shock waves thru my Facebook, a place generally reserved for NSA- and NRA-related freakouts. Reed was still in the sweet spot of famous, an old god whose heaven had not been laid low by scandal, allegation or anything recent really, at all. Indie kids in Portland, baby mommas in Modesto, and theatre nerds in New York all lined my news feed with lamentations and, above all, links hand-selected to best illustrate each person’s unique loss. It was no different, really, than the passings of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, except now a man in his seventies with a grim bill of health had died. This was somehow still sad.
I didn’t not want to grieve. It’s that I wanted to grieve in the opposite direction, a defiant fear of gravity that entailed Reed dying in his wonderful youth and me being around/alive to witness it. Sober since the eighties, the decade he began to fall out of fashion, Reed cld have reasonably ridden the rock star’s lightning straight from the bottle to the grave anytime before that. As an arbiter of original cool, he deserved a hero’s death. It’s disappointing that he succumbed to a chickenshit detail like liver disease, which is so bogus it, or at least the disambiguation of liver cancer, is what they used to pretend AIDS victims had. Lou Reed didn’t drown in his own vomit at Studio 54 and that kind of sucks. I’d have taken a sailing accident off Aruba in 1988, and I have no idea if Lou Reed ever/even sailed. But all he did was die a sick old man.
My oddball sense of loss re: Reed is either attributable to a post-rockstar culture’s PTSD from that archetype’s dominance or just an ongoing nineties fever that’s fostered fondness for musicians who die like Halloween costumes of dead musicians, needles hanging from arms. Where does the anniversary of the River Phoenix death rank? It happened outside Viper Room, a club bought into by Johnny Depp, another parolee from The 27 Club who has hemorrhaged relevance since the day he turned 28. I’m not arguing that certain kinds of famous people owe us a radical death, which would be gladiatorial; I’m not trying to convince you that celebrity lifespans shd be scaled to look like the usefulness of athletes, which would be roughly true. But once you accept the whole formula of fame as flawed, and that not-necessarily-whole people are the ones who seek the most avidly to replicate it: why not just commit and say an early but long-romanced death is the leveling of all fields? They get to get rich and die, we get to stay poor and watch. Besides which the international gaze has a natural withering effect, w/ or w/o a body enacting sundry recreational harms on itself already. I am not sad Lou Reed died; I am sad he got old and then died.
The outpouring, as they say, of goodwill following the news and said goodwill’s unanimity among people of all genres and styles, on my Twitter and Facebook and I bet both of yours, didn’t get into any of this. We are expected to abstain from all good-looking-corpse aspersions, which would be in ‘bad taste’; yet we’re always cautioned under the shadow of the body to ‘remember the person as he/she was’. Presumably good-looking and free of lesions, scars, skewed skin tone, and organ failure. I must insist that part of this contradictory deal include a wish for a peak-time death, if we’re talking abt our educators in wild-side walking at least. You’re supposed to kill your idols, not kiss them.
Fuck you. If you’d personally experienced “peak time death” you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I am certain.