How many years would you trade for fame and money?

When I was 17, it was a very good year.

When I was 17, it was a very good year.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m contemplating my own mortality. As a writer and non-famous musician, I should have about twenty years left.

According to The Atlantic,a new study finds that famous actors, musicians, and sports stars may live shorter lives. Is fame worth that price?

Australian researchers studied the obituaries in The New York Times and found that performers and athletes tended to die on average at age 77, while those in creative careers which are not performance-based, like artists, writers, and composers, died at 79. Academics and medical professionals lived until about age 82 and those in business or politics survived until 83. So politicians are the longest lived among the prominent members of society? (Cue “Only the Good Die Young.”)

Watermelon Queen, 1973

Watermelon Queen, 1973

Professor Richard J. Epstein of the University of New South Wales and Catherine Epstein of the University of Queensland led the study and provided the analysis based on 1,000 obituaries published between 2009 and 2011. The research also had a heavily weighted gender distribution towards men. There were 813 obituaries for men and only 186 for women. (Well, THAT is insulting.)

Researchers emphasized that the study does not provide any conclusive answers, although it does raise interesting questions.

I suppose I should be happy that I’m not famous. I love to perform, and I love to train others to do the same, but I will agree that performing is stressful. I think how a person handles the stress will contribute to his longevity (or lack thereof).

Before I perform, I tend to stop eating (to prevent stomach upset), do deep breathing, pray (and pray and pray), and practice until whatever I’m doing is nearly automatic. I’ve seen young actors, athletes, and rock stars self-destruct with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and spending sprees of enormous magnitude.

Those who are famous enter an entirely different sphere than that of us mere mortals. I have seen up close and personal how sudden notoriety can affect people. Type in a college or pro athlete’s name in your twitter search bar and see what comes up. I was appalled. Athletes as young as 18 and 19 are propositioned regularly in very explicit terms. The same is true for actors and rock stars. How are they to resist that temptation? Anything they’ve ever wanted is right there, luring them.

Think of how rich, handsome men were pursued in Austen’s works. Now multiply that by thousands. No wonder celebrities die younger than the rest of us.

As for my original question, I suppose that since I’m getting only two extra years for not being rich and famous, the cost might be worth it. At my age, I don’t want to party like a rock star, but a little more money would be nice. I could travel, redecorate the house, fund an orphanage, update my wardrobe, hire a maid, get a facelift and liposuction, and buy new furniture. What I’d really like is to look and feel like I did at 18. That’s not going to happen, and since I would be more likely to get hit by lightning than to become rich, I guess I’ll just be happy as I am.


9 thoughts on “How many years would you trade for fame and money?

  1. Wendi Sotis

    Happy Birthday, Robin!

    Interesting article. It would have been a more interesting study if they had correlated how old the person was when they became famous and how long they lived after that. One would think that, as you said, the older the person was when they first tasted fame and fortune, the more responsible they would be – and less likely to abuse themselves.


  2. Robin Helm Post author

    I agree, Wendi, though I had not thought of that. However, the way this country worships youth, not many performers (athletes, musicians, actors) become famous after they age. I suppose there’s an excuse with athletes. College and pro sports are not for the elderly. lol

    Politicians usually are older when they achieve their equivalent of celebrity. Perhaps that why they don’t die as young.


  3. Robin Helm Post author

    From what I’ve seen, there are very few advantages to fame. I’m with you, Susan. I wouldn’t mind giving fortune a whirl.


    1. Robin Helm Post author

      I agree. I don’t really want to be the way I was at 18, but I’d like to look that way again, and I’d certainly like to feel that way.



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