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Max Roytenberg

 
MAX ROYTENBERG: DO THEY STILL REMEMBER YOUR NAME

Max Roytenberg, posted March 27, 2015, Phoenix, Arizona

 

 

I am not a psychologist, much less a psychoanalyst. But, like most of you, I cannot help speculating about the way people around me behave. Of particular interest to me are the individuals who inhabit the public spaces, inevitably attracting the focus of our attention. With the social media all the rage, events surrounding these individuals capture massive public attention. Out of the blue, things appear to happen with stunning suddenness, and individuals become public darlings. Then, poof, it may all go away. What happens to people after the flood of public adulation melts into nothingness? Don’t we desperately grasp to arouse that continued attention?

 

 

 

I remember once I had a role in a play, a Little Theatre production in our small suburban town. Shortly afterwards, as I was mowing my front lawn, a car slowly passed me on the road in front of my home. As the car passed, I heard someone say in a loud whisper, “isn’t that so and so who had that starring role in the play?” Immediately, I was lost, transformed-I was a famous thespian. For the next two weeks, I did not meet anyone in my community without subtly trying to steer the conversation toward the play in which I had performed, hoping for more adulatory comments. I was totally star-struck, as if I had been inoculated with a disease. I cold not help myself. I totally lost control. Fortunately, I GOT OVER IT. (Did I really? Does one ever?)

 

 

 

So, I understand a little why so many performers fail to survive the challenge of the fame and notoriety that they achieve. Still, I speculate about that. Get ready for it! I have a theory.

 

 

 

 

Why do these young people flame out like a match at the moments of what appear to be those of their highest achievement? Why do they persist in self-destructive behaviours when they have so much to live for? Why, so often, is this phenomenon associated with the creative arts? I believe that these young people, captured by fame at an early age, lack the balance and perspective that a more mature person may have developed. It may also be that the personality traits that may have been at the roots of their success, a slavish addiction to the limelight and notoriety, may carry with it the fear that they are not capable of carrying on the performance that will sustain their success. Could this lead to burning the candle at both ends? How many times have we seen those who have peaked early, among the casualties of mid-life crisis? Often, don’t we remember them only then?

 

 

 

To what degree does overwhelming success flow from some happy conjunction of a whole variety of factors that are unlikely to bear repetition? The right part, the right director, the flowering of talent, just the right co-star support-there are so many variables that may not be repeatable. So much can be the result of the luck of the draw meeting great talent. We know of many talented people who do not get the recognition they appear to deserve. There are exceptions of course. People like Bob Dylan and Beethoven persisted over the whole of their lives, but we remember the flame-outs more often because we so much regretted their passing from the scene.

 

 

Looking back, I can see associated patterns in my own history, and I wonder at how I coped with events. Many of you have probably done the same and have the same questions. Why do we rise to the challenge in some instances, and in others, prove to be hopelessly inadequate? Does the way, and the order in which these challenges occur play a role in our ultimate performance?

 

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