The Internet is a sea of heartbreak, but last week’s essay in Rolling Stone by Scott Weiland’s ex-wife and his teenage children, Noah and Lucy, floated to the top.
Weiland, the 48-year-old former lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots, died in his sleep Dec. 3 while on tour in Bloomington, Minn., and while fans mourned the passing of a talent — someone they construed to be a great man — Mary Forsberg Weiland was measured.
“Don’t glorify this tragedy,” she warned. Her children, she noted, “lost their father years ago. What they truly lost on December 3rd was hope.”
She describes how for a long time, even after their divorce, “I spent countless hours trying to calm his paranoid fits, pushing him into the shower and filling him with coffee, just so that I could drop him into the audience at Noah’s talent show, or Lucy’s musical. Those short encounters were my attempts at giving the kids a feeling of normalcy with their dad.”
Unfortunately, these encounters were short-lived and often ended badly. “There were times that Child Protective Services did not allow him to be alone with them.”
After he remarried, the kids, now aged 13 and 15, almost never saw him. They weren’t invited to his wedding and never visited his home.
Weiland isn’t recounting these stories to tarnish the memories of her ex-husband. She, too, believed he was a talented man. Instead, she set out to suggest to fans who thought he had cleaned up his life that things weren’t as they seemed.
While Scott was alive, Mary resisted badmouthing him for the sake of her children, but now she wants the people who watched him from afar and assumed that they knew him to understand the real truth.
Weiland had been a drug-addicted bad-boy for decades, long after most of his grunge contemporaries had either grown up or kicked the bucket.
Weiland lived on, though, well into our current era when social media, celebrity Web sites and reality TV provide us with a close-up view of people we used to see from a distance.
This change in the media landscape has allowed us to become invested in the lives of celebrities in a way never before possible.
Just listen to the language of entertainment blogger Mark Carpowich, writing in the Huffington Post.
Weiland continued to show signs of being high and out of it at concerts and press conferences, Carpowich writes, “And yet, through the very end, I still showed up, still bought his tickets, still listened to his records, still attended his shows, still somehow believed that at some point he’d turn it all around.”
Mary Weiland writes to adoring fans: “You might ask, ‘How were we to know? We read that he loved spending time with his children and that he’d been drug-free for years!’?”
Oh, yes. Probably on TMZ or some other Web site. Or perhaps from the publicist paid to post to his Facebook page.
A writer for The Buffalo News penned a whole postmortem letter to Scott Weiland, in which he recalled being at a concert: “I caught your attention for a minute, and when I looked in your eyes, I thought to myself ‘The light has gone out.’ Like everyone who loved your music, and more importantly, everyone who loved you, the person, not the rock star, I hoped that light would come back.”
People have been loving rock stars since Elvis. There have always been pictures of swooning teenage girls following around men with guitars. But grown journalists who think they “love” drug-addled, middle-aged lead singers? This is something more recent.
More and more of us seem fooled into thinking that we know celebrities. We think that their music or their acting can tell us something about who they really are.
But watching sitcoms and movies will never help us understand Bill Cosby or Miley Cyrus. And reading Facebook pages and Twitter feeds can never really tell us about Scott Weiland.
“I won’t say he can rest now, or that he’s in a better place,” Mary wrote. “He belongs with his children barbecuing in the backyard and waiting for a Notre Dame game to come on.”
She continued: “We are angry and sad about this loss, but we are most devastated that he chose to give up.”
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying and appreciating Weiland’s music or taking in episodes of “The Cosby Show.” But when we idolize celebrities and pretend we know them, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. And we’re giving tacit approval to the behavior of men who don’t deserve it.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.