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Character Armour
June 8, 2011 1:40 PM   Subscribe

"There are few more relentlessly tragic and depressing stories in the history of showbusiness than that of Lena Zavaroni."
posted by Potomac Avenue (31 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sad story. As it happens, I only first heard of Lena through the Fujiya and Miyagi song that namechecks her.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:46 PM on June 8, 2011


Sad, but that rant against western civilization annoying and off putting.
posted by Postroad at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sad, and I really loved that rant against western civilization.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Artists like Rihanna, Cheryl Cole, Beyonce and Lady Gaga must be some of the psychologically toughest people who have ever lived.

Huh.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


After reading that link, this is all I can think of.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:03 PM on June 8, 2011


Really. I clicked on the video first and got fully sucked in.. then I clicked on the blog post and went "WTF?" Sad story, though... My BFF was a child model (in America, in the 90s) and she's scarred for life by how she was treated.
posted by polly_dactyl at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2011


Lena Zavaroni, like Karen Carpenter, was an anachronism, their careers flowering at a time when showbusiness could still pretend to support such tender blooms. Nowadays such an illusion can no longer be maintained.

Taylor Swift.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2011


Shut. Up.

I had her jumbled up in my mind with Bonnie Langford, knew one or other of them had died in terrible circumstances, googled accordingly, and thought "I should post this to Me..." This happened this afternoon.

And it was a good piece. Strident yet sympathetic. Not sure how valid all that social science is but I liked the certitude.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:10 PM on June 8, 2011


It is a sad story. I was 10 in 1973, and both fascinated and scared by Zavaroni. What was that with the Lolita-stuff, and the almost adult voice? Even for a far more protected child like myself, it was obvious something was very, very wrong. So I don't buy the premise of the article.
She was a child horribly exploited by her own family. I don't see how this compares with adult artists, not even Karen Carpenter, who was a teen, not a small child when she started out.

Britney Spears, however.....

Lena Zavaroni wiki
posted by mumimor at 2:10 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Madonna, the first megastar to intuit that the secret to survival in the age of New Media lay in disciplining the body

... to mostly conform to traditional notions of femininity and sell herself as a sexual object ... I don't get it.

their real opponent is the vicious contemporary superego that subjects them to 24-7 surveillance and mercilessly punishes any display of weakness

This is just so wrong to me. Their real "opponent"?!? Celebrities work with the paparazzi to get promotion. If they don't want to be in the public eye, they can fairly easily avoid it. That would kill their bottom line, though.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:11 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


All dying civilisations have their theatres of cruelty.

C'est vrai. . .
posted by rdone at 2:14 PM on June 8, 2011


Very sad. You have to wonder how popular she may have become had she lived. Streisand? probably not, but I have to admit she had a helluva voice for her age.

Great post nonetheless.
posted by Quasimike at 2:16 PM on June 8, 2011


You have to wonder how popular she may have become had she lived.

I'm confused by these statements (sorry to pick yours to go on as it isn't the only one I've seen). She lived another 26 years after she hit the charts, two and a half times longer than she had before hitting it big. As sad as her career trajectory was in it's downward spiral, it was pretty much clear which direction it was headed. I don't understand how it would have been different had she had another 25 years or more on top of it.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:21 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let the devil take tomorrow, but tonight I need a friend...

Sang at her own wedding.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:38 PM on June 8, 2011


I have a creeping suspicion that the author does not actually understands Reich's character armor theory in the slightest and has never read even a small part of his "Character Analysis".
posted by Matt Oneiros at 2:41 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


All dying civilisations have their theatres of cruelty

Erm, should probably remove "dying" from that. Plenty of newly-alive civilizations have their theaters of cruelty as well. Cruelty has always been really, really, really popular.
posted by aramaic at 2:42 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The independent traits of extremely nutty and remarkably talented are bound to combine in a certain number of births. Remarkable talents may also be paired with ordinary ambition or extreme laziness, and so we never hear of them. We mostly become aware of remarkable talents when they appear in tandem with narcissistic traits. Lena Zavaroni combined extremely nutty, with remarkably talented -- but was probably done in by massive doses of agreeability, and desire to please.
posted by Faze at 2:51 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sure, but all civilizations are also dying, in exactly the same sense that all individual people are. Second Law of Thermodynamics and all that.

Come to think of it, the awareness of those particular inevitabilities probably has something to do with why people enjoy cruelty so much.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:51 PM on June 8, 2011


Sure, but all civilizations are also dying, in exactly the same sense that all individual people are. Second Law of Thermodynamics and all that.

Pretty sure the second law of thermodynamics has nothing to do with people or civilizations, since neither is a thermally isolated system.
posted by Huck500 at 3:03 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really didn't need the analysis in the blog post, but was interested to read Lena's story - I knew her name but nothing about her, and certainly not her tragic end.

That first video clip of her singing as a child is just haunting - ironically (/tragically), she looks like a 35-year-old woman trapped in a child's body.

If you click through on YouTube to this 1989 interview, you'll see Frank Bough laughing aloud on TV as he tells her that at least with her eating disorder, which means she can't bear to eat in public, she must save lots of money on restaurant bills. Ho ho ho! Misunderstood? Just a bit...
posted by penguin pie at 3:30 PM on June 8, 2011


That blogger sure is full of himself. Watching the videos, the diagnosis seems rather simpler: this was a woman who, already at the age of ten, had gone through the kind of drill that would sent most adults to the psychiatric ward. Child abuse, pure and simple.
posted by Skeptic at 3:53 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd never heard of her until this post. Watching part one of the doco now. Thanks so much for the post, Potomac Avenue.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This film is an object lesson in the overuse of gradient filters.
posted by gallois at 6:29 PM on June 8, 2011


This blog entry is an object lesson in the overuse of cheap psychologizing. Back to the orgone accumulator!
posted by cogneuro at 6:40 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I'll avoid the blog entry. Just finished watching the doco in its entirety, though. Pretty heartbreaking. Poor woman, she had a pretty damn tough run of it. What a shame.

Her performance of the "going nowhere" song that appeared in the film and again later as the final credits rolled was an incredibly powerful and poignant one. God, the lyrics were so close to home, in terms of relating to her own life. And the look in her eye, her intensity, as she sang it... wow. It was just too true, and she knew it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:58 PM on June 8, 2011


Actually, the same YouTube poster who uploaded the documentary has that performance I mentioned just above (the song is, as I'd half-guessed, called "Going Nowhere") in its entirety here. I swear there's something that flashes in her eyes from time to time in that performance, something very primal and very real, that goes beyond the usual Broadway-isms and performance conventions of this type of singer. It's riveting, and yet painful to watch.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:08 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha! OK, I went looking for "Going Nowhere" lyrics, cause I'm obsessing now, just a little, over Zavaroni and that song in particular. I stumbled across various bits of Lena-related stuff, and thought, "you know, I'll bet I'm reinventing the wheel here, cause there's probably more about all this in the blog post I said I wasn't gonna click on". And sure enough, I've been reinventing the wheel. Going Nowhere appears prominently in the linked blog post, for example.

I shoulda just clicked.

Well, anyway, here's the lyrics (by Neil Sedaka) to what is, for a pop song, surprisingly dark and unrelentingly pessimistic in tone:

GOING NOWHERE

Considering...
So many folks, dissatisfied with everything,
Who need someone to understand they're lonely, they're lonely,
And they're not alone.

And everywhere
They shrug their shoulders, tell themselves that they don't care,
And all the while they make believe they're happy, oh they're happy,
But not really.

And they're asked to hold the world together,
Make it happen, give it children,
Who in turn are turning on to going nowhere.

And all the strength they'd ever need to help them
Has been wasted, remains hidden,
In the confusion of going nowhere.

And who am I...
To criticize the world that I have grown up in.
Most of you would tell me that I'm crazy, yes I'm crazy,
I can't help it.

I understand
That where you are is where you've been so many years,
And things that tend to change you, tend to hurt you, yes they hurt you,
Very deeply.

And still you try to hold the world together,
Make it happen, give it children
Who in turn are turning on to going nowhere.

And all the strength they'd ever need to help them
Has been wasted, remains hidden,
In the confusion of going nowhere,
Going nowhere,
Going, going, going nowhere,
Going nowhere.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:36 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Taylor Swift is a good counter-example of this phenomenon I think, at least right now. 20 years hence will she still be both delicate, honest, and bravely flourishing? I hope so, but I suspect not.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:17 AM on June 9, 2011


ah, thanks for this. it made me go back and watch an old episode of UK Channel 4's TV Offal when host/provocateur Victor Lewis Smith prank called Hughie Green and actually asks him "Did you fuck Lena Zavaroni?" (it's at the 23 minute mark, although the whole call is hilarious)
posted by kuppajava at 7:18 AM on June 9, 2011


Taylor Swift is a good counter-example of this phenomenon I think, at least right now. 20 years hence will she still be both delicate, honest, and bravely flourishing? I hope so, but I suspect not.

Her role model Shania Twain is doing "OK." (Life in general has a tendency to take the "delicate" out of most people, regardless of what you do or who you are.)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:17 AM on June 9, 2011


Mrgrimm: Shania is much more protected than Taylor, who write songs about her real life experiences... Mean for instance is about some random blogger who talked shit about her on the internet. If anything says "I have no filter between my celebrity and my real life" it's letting some critic prompt you to write a song about him. Her 'brave' face and tough words in this song make her seem even more hurt than Zamboni...

Check it:


You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me,
You, have knocked me off my feet again,
Got me feeling like I’m nothing.
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard
Calling me out when I’m wounded.
You, pickin’ on the weaker man.

Well you can take me down,
With just one single blow.
But you don’t know, what you don’t know,

Someday, I’ll be living in a big old city,
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.
Someday, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me,
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.
Why you gotta be so mean?

You, with your switching sides,
And your walk by lies and your humiliation
You, have pointed out my flaws again,
As if I don’t already see them.
I walk with my head down,
Trying to block you out cause I’ll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again.

I bet you got pushed around,
Somebody made you cold,
But the cycle ends right now,
You can’t lead me down that road,
You don’t know, what you don’t know

And I can see you years from now in a bar,
Talking over a football game,
With that same big loud opinion but,
Nobody’s listening,
Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things,
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing.

But all you are is mean,
All you are is mean.
And a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life,
And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean
.

I've bolded the descriptions in these lyrics that make it sound like pure despair to me. This future, of the guy in the bar? Is it her fantasy of his failure, or the nightmare of her own? I pray for her soul.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:24 PM on June 9, 2011


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