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Birjees Hussain: Put it into perspective
March 09, 2018
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Everyone laments about the bad things that happen to them, me included. It could be anything and sometimes that thing is big and sometimes it’s relatively minor. We tend to think other people have it easier. We look at all the movie stars and their booming careers and feel even worse about ourselves.

But I was shocked to learn that not all of them have had wonderful lives. In fact, some of them have had terrible things happen to them. Okay, many of them did stupid things that landed them in trouble but still, people make mistakes.

For example, the comedian Tim Allen served 2.5 years in prison for carrying cocaine through airport security. In his early days, that’s before founding Microsoft, Bill Gates was repeatedly arrested for traffic violations. Singer and actor Will Smith and his bodyguard got into such a bad altercation that they nearly blinded a man in one eye.  At 15, actor Mark Wahlberg, from Planet of the Apes, got into severe trouble for harassing African-American children and at 16 for nearly beating to death with a wooden stick a middle-aged Vietnamese man. Actor Christian Slater has a whole spate of violations under his belt including domestic abuse, driving under the influence of alcohol, assaulting a police officer and for drug use. Wesley Snipes has done time for tax evasion and actor Danny Trejo, who appeared in Con Air and who is more recognisable by face than name, was in and out of prison when he was in his teens. However, he turned his life around in 1968 when faced with the gas chamber.

Some actors have not been in trouble themselves but have hailed from dangerous families. For example, actor Woody Harrelson’s father was a highly paid hitman and died in prison whilst serving two life sentences for killing a Federal judge. Actor Toby McGuire’s father was a bank robber and robbed a bank directly across the street from their home. Chinese martial arts actor Jackie Chan’s mother was a drug lord and eventually married the policeman who caught her.

One thing I was particularly surprised by was the trivia I learned about the cast of The Godfather and The Sopranos. Many of the actors from the series and the movies had connections with big crime families and several unashamedly used those connections to get their parts. For example, Gianni Russo who played Michael’s backstabbing brother-in-law and Alex Rocco who played Moe Green, both in the Godfather, leveraged their connections to get their parts. In fact, even James Caan, who played Sonny, had Mafia friends. The list also includes several cast members of The Soprano series. Suffice it to say that the late James Gandolfini is not on the list.

But some stars have had tragedies in their lives. Singer and who was not even the runner-up on American Idol, Jennifer Hudson, lost her mother, brother and nephew when her brother-in-law murdered them. Although this might be fairly well known, there are a couple of others that are not common knowledge. For example, actor Dylan McDermott, famous for playing Bobby Donnell in The Practice, lost his mother when she was killed by her boyfriend (not his father). Actor Kelsey Grammer, famous for playing Frasier Crane, lost his father when he was out on the front lawn of his house when a taxi driver shot him for no reason.

Reading some of the tragedies, you might have a newfound respect for these actors. Losing someone from an illness is one thing and it can’t be helped because, in most cases, no one is to blame for the illness taking them. But losing someone because another individual took their life is something else and probably very difficult to get past.

I would like to close by saying something about the veteran actor Martin Sheen, father to Emilio Esteves and Charlie Sheen. He has more than 30 arrests under his belt but all for good causes. He stands up for what he believes in and, when required, will press his point to the point of being cited by the authorities.

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