So what do Justin Bieber, Conrad Hilton and Robert Durst have in common? Recent events made me wonder about that. A friend of mine asked me if I was going to write a blog about Justin Bieber trying to remake his public image by putting himself at the center of a celebrity roast that was filmed this past weekend at the Sony lot. Early reports seem to indicate that no one was fooled. In fact at least one roaster reportedly told Bieber he didn’t like him at all and hope this attempt to rehabilitate his image failed. It’s a sad commentary as well as a testament to his history that even one of the most entitled groups in the world: celebrities, found Bieber‘s antics deplorable.
Conrad Hilton certainly impressed the world with how disgusting and without grace of any sort a spoiled rich kid can get. On a flight from London he apparently felt entitled to smoke in the bathrooms, threaten people, call other passengers “peasants,” threaten flight attendants with having them fired since he knew their boss, threatening to kill one flight attendant, and saying whatever happened “his dad will pay this out – he’s done it before.”
According to the Morning Mix, “he credited a man at the back of the plane with stopping him from killing a flight attendant. “If that man wasn’t there, that guy [the flight attendant] would have been ____ killed on that flight. A hundred percent I would have killed him,” Hilton said.
And that little vignette leads us to the billionaire scion, Robert Durst. He has been suspected of murdering his first wife, he admitted killing his neighbor and cutting the body into 10 parts, bagging the parts and throwing them into Galveston Bay. He got off because he claimed self defense and the only witness was less than available to testify. He was recently arrested and is about to be brought to Los Angeles to be tried for the murder of a “friend” of his (until she wasn’t), Susan Berman.
Having watched the recent documentary starring Mr. Durst, it was almost possible to believe him save two problems. Throughout the documentary, he often displayed a nervous tick when questioned. To me, as a psychologist, that is usually a tell. Something internally is hard to suppress, tension is mounting with a very narrow window through which it can escape. And it does – escape.
Still, for this viewer the clincher came at the very end. Earlier in the series, Mr. Durst had to be reminded by his lawyer that his microphone was still live as he talked to himself during a break in the interviewing. Well Durst, a very bright man forgot this lesson. In the last episode he was confronted with some damning evidence to which he admitted things that allowed him to be seen as cornered. After the interview, he went to the men’s room and again forgot his microphone was still live. While in the men’s room he castigated himself for what he had said in the interview and seemingly acknowledged that he killed them all. Now I am not an attorney – especially one Mr. Durst can afford – so no doubt his seeming confession will end up an invitation to tea.
So what do these three have in common?
My friend asked if he thought Bieber’s problems came from a poor upbringing. Now I do not know much of his history and little is available through searches. However, it seems his mother believed in him, supported him and loved him. He did the work to “master his craft.” His mother put his work on You Tube and the rest is history. So the fundamentals seemed in place.
Those of you who have read some of my posts know that I believe that the entitlement afforded celebrities is both a blessing and a curse. I think Justin Bieber was given the keys to the mansion, the Lamborghini and the girl’s locker room, and in his mind a “get out of jail free” card, at a very young age. He is a victim of his own young age and success. His life, to date seems to prove a variation on the old adage: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Can he recover? Anyone can change. However, it seems to many this turnaround is more for image management than a change of heart. I don’t see his talent as the sort that survives for decades – but then again The Beatles were turned down by a record company. However, I could see him hitting a bottom – if he is lucky. If not, he could go the way of many child stars – and that sad story rarely ends well. But to the point of this post: he had an ego and sense of entitlement that was as large as his bank account. Be careful what you wish for.
Conrad Hilton iii seems about as low as anyone can go. The charges against him could land him 20 years in jail. My guess is there will be a zero shaved off his trust fund account (for legal fees) and he will buy the best justice there is. A slap on the hand is the most likely result. You and I would be saying “hi” to Bubba, our new cell mate.
It’s ironic that he holds himself so high. My guess is without the fortune behind him he would have a great deal of difficulty thriving in the real world. Seriously, do you think he knows how to make his bed, nevertheless fit in an employment hierarchy anywhere other than the top?
In my career I have done “healthy wealth in children” therapy with families. This was designed with the intention to save wealthy children from exactly what Mr. Hilton appears to have become. In a nutshell, in that healthy wealth work, families hold yearly meetings where they help form a family constitution containing a mission statement. More importantly children identify what they want to do with their life. Whether artist, philanthropist, or successor to the family business, the family supports their desires with mentors and contracts complete with performance criteria. Children are not enabled to succumb to seductive downsides of wealth. Mr. Hilton seems able to be the poster child of what you don’t want your children to become.
Mr. Hilton is perhaps outdone only by Mr. Durst. It seems that if indeed he is guilty of all he is suspected of, well then he used his considerable intelligence in the service of his sense of entitlement. That sense afforded him the sense that murdering people was okay if they got in his way. His money could buy him out of anything. And true this may be.
The good news is these three highlight the importance of paying attention to your children and infusing a sense of responsibility to match their privilege. I think Bieber was slightly different and perhaps if his story ends badly one might wonder whether parents should enable early celebrity when given the choice. However once rich and godly all three leave much to be desired as human beings. In my humble opinion, having them pay the price would be a meaningful deterrent to others.