Everyone's Got a Special Talent

June 13th, 2008

“Ben Jones figures he drank 43,000 beers, 2,000 jugs of whiskey, wine, gin and vodka, and smoked pounds of pot in the 20 years he was out of control.”

Do you know who Ben Jones is? Me neither. Well, at least I didn’t until I read a little further into a recent article about the former Georgia Congressman formerly known as Cooter Davenport, the wisecracking, tobacco-chewing mechanic of the late 70’s TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Apparently Cooter’s gone and written himself an autobiography about the downward spiral that was his life…until the kind folks of Hazzard County came and saved him, that is. 

It’s been more than 15 years since Jones lost his third bid for Congress and almost 25 since “Dukes” went black, but for some reason, Cooter’s book is selling.  I thought to myself, “How could anyone possibly buy this book — and why the hell is this guy in the news?”

It’s pretty easy – drugs and alcohol. The early success of good ol’ Cooter’s book isn’t just a testament to our nation’s fascination with chemical scandal; it’s the manifestation of a distinct celebrity niche founded on substance abuse. It’s a pop-culture sect I call “Rehabutantes,” and it’s comprised of a whole new breed of bottom-feeders that have made – or revived – their careers solely because of their addictions. Sure, we’re all obsessed with A-list meltdowns of the Britney Spears-Lindsay Lohan-Mel Gibson sort, but these hot messes were generally known for something talent-related long before their drinking and drugging took center stage. But really, would anyone recognize guys like Daniel Baldwin, Jeff Conaway or anyone on the Surreal Life if they didn’t love to get so wasted?

How do you spot a Rehabutante, you may ask? If you satisfy any or all of the 12-step criteria including — but not limited to ­— the following, you may be a Rehabutante:

1. Have you been photographed by Us Weekly entering or exiting a community/hospital rehabilitation facility more than three times in the past two years? (NOTE: 5-star rehabs such as Promises and Cirque Lodge do not qualify).

2. Do your W-2s list VH-1 Celebreality as an employer?

3. Have you ever uttered the sentence, “I don’t see what’s so bad about [anything Gary Busey’s done in the past three years]”?

4. Was your last photo shoot set in a police station behind a plaque displaying your name and arrest number?

5. Is your last name “Baldwin” and are you the least recognized of your siblings, including the one whose claim to fame is being married to one of the daughters of one of the Mamas and the Papas?

6. Do you wait for special occasions to break out your clean terrycloth sweat suit?

7. Is the average age of the people behind you in Celebrity Death Pool more than 20 years older than you and without a terminal illness?

8. Was the last red carpet you were on actually the beige carpet you threw wine up on?

9. Do you have to issue your own statement to about why you’re returning to rehab because you can’t afford to hire a publicist to do it?

10. Google yourself — does your IMDb profile come up before or after the MSN article about your most recent DUI?

11. Have you ever gotten advice on “how to deal” from Danny Bonaduce?

12. Are you Danny Bonaduce?

Now is this the face of a man with a substance abuse problem?

Of course, stars and starlets do lots of newsworthy things everyday that barely raise a reporter’s eyebrow. So many celebrities dedicate time and money to causes like feeding starving children, rebuilding homes in disaster areas, funding centers for cancer research, etc. — none of which is quite as newsworthy as a good stint in rehab. Seems that unless Matthew McConaughey’s smoking up naked while he’s saving baby seals, odds are, his good deeds aren’t making that much of a media splash.

After all, if goodwill were nearly as interesting as a good buzz, Dr. Drew’s show would be called “Celebrity Do-Gooders” instead of “Celebrity Rehab,” right?

Who the hell wants to watch that anyway?

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