Libby Cudmore’s recent publications include Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Nefarious Muse and Big Pulp (with Matthew Quinn Martin) with future stories in upcoming issues of The MacGuffin and the Yalobusha Review. She promises that her next Celebrities in Disgrace entry will not be so morbid.
~~A SAD CODA TO BRITTANY MURPHY’S DEATH: HER HUSBAND IS FOUND DEAD TOO…RIP, one & all.
~~Thanks to Libby for reflecting on Brittany M. & to blog-reader Livvy for sending a link to: Untimely Celebrity Deaths RIP, MJ, Farrah Fawcett, Natasha Richardson, John Hughes, Bernie Mac…& Brittany Murphy
Death in Hollywood Anonymity- The Tragedy of Brittany Murphy By Libby Cudmore
My friend Braff likes to pretend that nothing is shocking, that the world is such a brutal place that he, tough guy that he is, has become jaded to its cruelty. And yet he’s the one calling me at 10pm on Sunday night to tell me, in quiet, mournful tones, that Brittany Murphy had died that morning.
I am not what you’d call a Brittney Murphy fan. She wasn’t particularly prolific, an actress rather than a movie star, formally of romantic comedies like Little Black Book, now sidelined to ensemble pieces like Sin City (my personal favorite; she will be much missed from the sequel, if ever it gets made) and “indie” (i.e. no one sees them) fare like Ramen Girl. This is perhaps the most tragic part of her death. She died in Hollywood anonymity, not at the height of her career or the bottom of her downfall.
Her death is a passing bummer, like the girl from your gym class in high school—oh yeah, I remember her, that’s so sad. What’s for dinner? At least in a small town, the High School Gym Girl might get a scoreboard named in her honor. There will be no Brittany Murphy Boulevard.
Drugs are rumored to have played a part in her early demise (few people have a heart attack at 32 unless drugs are involved), but there were no stints at Promises, no public intervention, no tabloids screaming Clueless Star in Party Hell!She might make the cover of People next week unless Jon Gosslin puts on an Ed Hardy Santa hat or one of the Kardashians gets a divorce, in which case Brittany will be sidebarred for more important news. And chances are she’ll pull a Brad Renfro at the Oscars and get left out of the tribute. After all, how can the ‘dippy chick’ from Uptown Girls compare to Patrick Swayze, John Hughes and, of course, Michael Jackson?
Hollywood took to Twitter to make sure everyone knew how distraught they were over her passing. I’m sure Lindsey Lohan (who I don’t have to point out is still alive) will do an extra line of coke in her honor. I’m not going to repeat ex-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher’s post, but Murphy’s widower Simon Monjack said it was “very comforting.” Ah, Twitter—when you care to send the very least.
And maybe I’m no better, writing her eulogy to justify my frequent contributor status and that very savage photo of me from the Celebrities in Disgrace launch party. But in my defense, I always liked her, less as an actress and more as a person. When I lived in Manhattan in my early twenties, I worked the weekend 5-midnight shift as a dispatcher at a temp agency, which gave me a lot of time to read the copies of Jane sitting around the office. I still have an article I saved from right after Sin City came out in which she talked, in her sweet, dizzy way, about living with her mom, about how she didn’t really drink or party, that she didn’t know how to drive. Her big on-set diva demand? An hourly peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off. I like to feel like I could be friends with my screen icons, and I could relate to her more than to a Hollywood party-circuit skank. I don’t have a lot of girl friends, so I liked to imagine that her mom would pick me up from the airport and Brittany and I would eat PB&J and watch Edward Scissorhands and cry and French-braid each other’s hair.
Her portrayal of bimbo cocktail waitress Shellie in Sin City was the role that endeared her most to me. And no, it’s not just because I want to imagine that Benicio del Toro and Clive Owen are fighting over me, but because she was just a good girl who wanted to do the right thing, a girl who was addicted to male attention, attempting to be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and always ending up with the wrong kind of man.
Maybe part of what strikes me so much about her death is that the whole mess makes me think of my ex-best-friend Jason. Jason dated girls like Shellie exclusively, he was my Dwight (Clive Owen) and I was his Gail (Rosario Dawson). We were volatile, and eventually we combusted. Last I knew, he was still with Shellie #4. I wondered if he read the headline and thought of me the way I thought of him, and that maybe for a minute, we were connected in our grief.
Much like Shellie and her titular role in The Dead Girl, I feel like Brittany was probably a good little girl who got mixed up with the wrong kind of man. A man who, specifically, was wanted by a whole slew of people, including the FBI, who tried to extradite him to England for defrauding investors. This may not be the case, but considering he didn’t want an autopsy done and once told her that he’d been kidnapped and held for ransom (he was in jail), he sounds like the type who was standing next to Tiger Woods for Husband of the Year.
I’m not suggesting that we worship Brittany Murphy just because she had the bad fortune to die. We all die, and it’s a drag. What I’m asking is that you remember her for just an extra second. Not to gain sympathy so you can get laid. Not to promote your newest movie or season whatever of your stupid reality show. But I don’t want to see her forgotten either, not yet. If you liked one of her movies, pop in the DVD and smile when she comes on screen. Raise your glass and say aloud, “Rest in Peace, Brittany Murphy.” For as long as she is here, on your TV, she will be remembered.
(photo credits for Brittany Murphy: lahiguerainet/cinemania & the insider.com/media)