Photo Credit: VH1
They say no publicity is bad publicity. I disagree when I watch the sad, reality TV maneuverings of people who used to be famous and admired—but are now in desperate straits. To get "cast" on VH-1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, you must first fall out of public favor by getting hooked on drugs, alcohol, or bad relationships. Once you arrive "on set" at the Pasadena Recovery Center, a camera crew intrudes upon your darkest moments of shame, grief and pain (moments when your former celebrity self would have shouted "Off!"). Then producers edit your tumultuous, 21-day stay into eight, one-hour episodes, and air them on TV. Who'd want that role?
"No one looks forward to going to rehab," says cast mate Heidi Fleiss. "It's always embarrassing." Exactly. That's why stars pay Hollywood publicists to sweep rehab stints under the rug. When a super-fit pop tart known for her dance moves checks into a hospital for "exhaustion," that seriously strains credulity. But fair enough; if I were famous and battling something ugly, I'd go underground, too.
Nonetheless, Celebrity Rehab kicks off its third season tonight at 10 PM ET with a whole new, mostly willing cast of addicts. Some used to be nominally famous--like Joey Kovar of MTV's The Real World: Hollywood; Lisa D’Amato, a contestant on America's Next Top Model; and Kari Ann Peniche, an ex-Miss United States Teen. Some used to stroll down red carpets--like the actor Tom Sizemore, who's played leading roles in movies like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. One resident, Mindy McCready, used to be famous for multi-platinum albums and high profile romances. Any of these celebrated people could ostensibly find discreet help for their issues, behind closed doors. Why do it on TV? Sure, addicts can drain their bank accounts fast. But are these people so hard up that they'd submit to this torture for one lousy month's salary?
In Mackenzie Phillips' case, the decision to participate is more understandable. The former One Day At A Time actress has already exposed herself to numerous crash-and-burn TV biographies, so she may feel she has nothing to lose. "There's never enough help for someone like me," she says, heartbreakingly, in the first group session.
Mike Starr, who used to be the drummer in Alice in Chains, probably figures that if he has demons to battle, he might as well get some TV exposure while doing it. "If I got these drugs out of my life, maybe I'd do all kinds of other things," he says in the first episode. "It would be really nice to get another band and get out there."
As for Dennis Rodman, he says he's in rehab against his will--by court order. (He doesn't disclose what he did to earn this punishment.) Would the court have required that his dry-out be televised? Not likely, but I won't be quibbling with this angry giant.
Perhaps their doctor—Dr. Drew Pinsky—is the best one to answer the question of why stars agree to participate. "Nothing demonstrates a celebrity’s basic drive for attention more powerfully than a willingness to check one’s dignity at the door, week after week, in front of millions of viewers," write Pinsky and his co-author, S. Mark Young, in their latest book, The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America. In other words, "the drive for attention" itself is an addictive drug.
True, Fleiss, Sizemore and the rest are hooked on mood-altering substances, but they're also hooked on fame. This show may not be the sort of publicity they would have chosen in healthier times. But it is publicity, and you know the saying…
Why do you think stars agree to go through rehab on TV? Chime in below!