Celebrity Deaths Convey Life Lessons

Monday, 27 Feb 2012 11:16 AM

By Jon Friedman

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The world has lost two much-admired figures, pop singer Whitney Houston and Hall of Fame baseball catcher Gary Carter. We’re a poorer place for their deaths and, to be sure, it might seem that these two people had very little in common. But we can learn, nonetheless, from their examples.

Even if you’re not a certified news junkie, you must have heard that Whitney died after years of self-destructive behavior. Carter passed after bravely fighting brain cancer. Whitney was a party hound, and Carter was notoriously squeaky clean.

They both lived their adult lives in the public eye and coped with the rigors of stardom and the peril of post-stardom. Sadly, Whitney squandered her health, reportedly much of her personal fortune and the image she had so carefully constructed.

We can now see how dangerous it always is to imagine yourself first as a commodity, a product, and not as someone whose value stems from the heart and not through accomplishments and No. 1 singles.

Carter was always smiling, faultlessly friendly to fans, autograph seekers, and the media. Paradoxically, being a goody two-shoes around the hard-living New York Mets of the late '80s meant Carter had to endure criticism from his teammates, who wanted him to be more like them.

Ask Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, former Mets stars whose careers went south because of their partying, if they wished today that they had been more like Carter. Darryl and Dwight might have made it to the Hall of Fame themselves.

Whitney Houston might have wished she had lived a neater life, too. She had talent, fame, riches, and adoring fans. Yet, sadly, in the end all of these treasures still weren’t enough to make her happy.

It’s something for us all to think about.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column. Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.

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