In the early ’80s I pitched a monthly column idea to two or three publications called “Hollywood Weltschmerz: The Celebrity in Pain.” The idea was to interview Hollywood luminaries about hurtin’ stuff they’d recently gone through. I didn’t just love the idea because it was wholly original and would have gotten lots of attention, but because there would be endless amounts of material. I mean, actors, for God’s sake…are you kidding?
But the powers-that-be thought it was too strange, and suspected that actors plugging movies probably wouldn’t want to go there with a journalist, or that their publicist would object if they didn’t. (Weltschmerz is pronounced veltschmerz and defined by Websters as “sorrow that one feels and accepts as one’s necessary portion in life; sentimental pessimism.”)
Here it is nearly 30 years later and somebody — The Wrap‘s Eric Estrin — is finally having a go at a similar kind of thing, called “Hard Knocks.” Unless it’s not a column and just a stand-alone piece. (The layout art doesn’t convey the intent with 100% clarity.)
Estrin’s “artist in pain,” in any event, is comic Kevin Nealon , and he says something toward the end of the article that hit home.
“For me, I think, love has always been my biggest obstacle in this business,” Nealon writes. “I lost a considerable amount of weight after that. I was depressed, but I still went on and did standup no matter how gaunt I looked and sick I looked. People thought I had AIDS because I was so depressed.
“But I would get up on stage, and I found that being onstage was kind of an escapism type of a thing. It’s like going to Disneyland. You kind of forget about your troubles and you’re just onstage, doing your act. And then once you step offstage again you’re back into real life. But the more I performed, the more I would get over my distraction of being heartbroken. That was how I handled it.”
That’s precisely how I feel about writing this column. It’s hard work but living in it is also a kind of vacation. For eight or nine or ten hours daily I live in HE world as opposed to the one outside the window. There’s no ambiguity about which one I prefer.