The ever-tormented successful artist syndrome

“The whole rock and roll life was really heavy and it was soooo much work and it was soooo every day intense. Being in Fleetwood Mac was like being in the Army. You have to be there and you have to be there on time. Even if there’s nothing you have to do, you have to be there.”

It isn’t anything like being in the Army. It’s disrespectful and delusional to imply as much. In the Army, people try to kill you by shooting live rounds at your head.

I was channel surfing and alighted on this interview with birdbrain Stevie Nicks. Listening to people prattle on about the agony of answered prayers makes my teeth grind. It’s my bête noir. I’m sure wealth and fame are no picnic. But you should only discuss its attendant horrors in private amongst your fellow tortured multimillionaire navel-gazers. You had to be on time. Poor you. I have to be on time for my 5:20 bus every morning or it leaves without me.

Stevie Nicks isn’t the only cry baby. Just the latest. Sticking with the military motif, Björk was promoting Dancer in the Dark, a movie she starred in with Catherine Deneuve for which she received much praise and an Oscar nomination. During a press junket, she said filming was:

“…like signing on to war, going to the Vietnam War. I believed I might die. Acting is like jumping from a cliff without a parachute.”


A few years back, singer Nora Jones said this of the meteoric success of her first album:

“On the first record I was everywhere, and it was, like, the worst time in my life.”

Gosh. That sounds awful. I’ll bet you’re happier now that you’re back to irrelevance.

Stand down, thumb-suckers, and let Brad Pitt show you how it’s done:

“It’s so tough being an actor. Sometimes they bring you coffee and sometimes it’s cold. And sometimes you don’t have a chair to sit on.”

Finally, these words from British director Sam Mendes. Rule #25 of his 25 Rules for Directors:

25. Never, ever, ever forget how lucky you are to do something that you love.


Perhaps it was the way the light spilled over it or the intoxicating effect of being surrounded by so much great art or the excitement inherent in these auctions, but this canvas glowed and pulsed. Its edges changed. The longer I studied it, the deeper it drew me in. What a shame I’ll never see it again.

Mark Rothko
Est. $25,000,000—35,000,000
Sold for $32,375,000

I’m pretty sure you could recreate this in your garage. And it wouldn’t cost you $500K.

Philippe Parreno
My Room is Another Fish Bowl
Mylar and helium
Est. $250,000—350,000
Sold for: $516,500

Fill a couple dozen mylar fish balloons with helium. Place a fan in the corner of a small room. As the air circulates, the fish “swim.” Walking through it gives you the sensation of walking in an aquarium. A few bong hits can’t hurt.


“You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. …If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

Exodos 22:21

“The Supreme Court has allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to go into effect. For now, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the U.S.”

The New York Times
December 4, 2017

Nice work, Evangelical hypocrites. You knew this would happen but you voted this monster into office anyway.

52 thoughts on “The ever-tormented successful artist syndrome

  1. 5:20….that is harsh. I’m feeling sorry for myself because I have to leave a little early to drop my son off at practice then be to work at 7. I’ve always loved the work of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. For someone her age she sounds quite clueless.

    • I like (not love) Fleetwood Mac as well but this sort of complaining really irks me. It’s probably because I’m jealous of her success. Even so, my point has merit.

      My alarm goes off at 4:45. It’s still dark out. Just me and the paperboy are on the road. Take that, Stevie.

  2. I agree. It’s nothing like being in the army whatsoever. Oh, so you have to be disciplined, well whoopy doo, Stevie, I think a lot of us have to be in many areas of our life but to make comparison with those saving your arse and undergoing trials that would break the most of us is astonishingly pathetic and contemptuous.

    To use a French idiom is far too kind; the musical notes of such a romantic language are not scathing enough to convey one’s disgust. Try privileged, arrogant arsehole – it has a better ring.

    Bjork is a fruitloop.

    Nora is deluded.

    Brad Pitt should have that written on his headstone lest we forget how stupid actors can be.

    Well said The Brit.

    I’ve always loved Rothko. And you’re an excellent writer.

    Listen, I’m having trouble getting into your country. I got dragged to the immigration police department last time. I was seconds off an anal exploratory adventure. Bugger <—— I didn’t say that, obvs.

    • Can you believe she had to be there every DAY? I don’t know how the poor thing survived. What a whiner. Or would that be a whinger? It’s all relative. I’m sure her suffering was very real to her but it’s hard to take, know what I mean?

      You mistook Brad’s quote. It was a sarcasm, meant to convey how LUCKY he is to have such a satisfying line of work. He was making fun of people who complain about being in movies.

      Our country has pulled in its welcome mat, sorry to say. Fortunately, he’ll be out of office sooner or later. Even if we have to wait the full election cycle, he’ll be gone eventually.

      I removed that bit about being a better writer. Fishing for compliments again. Talk about a whiner!

  3. It just goes to show you how deep the need to bitch and moan is, Mark. But I surely am on your side about choosing your words of complaint wisely, because there are those who they reach who’ have it far worse, always.

    • Believe me, I know how lucky I am. All I have to do is walk across the street thru the Port Authority bus depot to see people worse off. But I think you’ve hit on something. There seems to be an almost biological—some would say pathological—need to complain, no matter our situation. Me, too. It’s a mystery.

  4. This made me laugh. If you listen, you’ll probably hear war references more than you realized, not that that is a good thing. I once heard business is a battlefield. It had never crossed my mind. Game maybe but not battlefield. I can think of a lot of dumb things I have said. Thanks for collecting the thoughts. Fun stuff.

    • Hey! You’re new! Welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Much obliged.

      You see the military metaphor used a lot in politics and it really, if you’ll pardon the expression, chaps my ass. Politicians are just pencil pushers. They’re not fit to tie the shoes off our men and women in the military.

  5. “Listening to people prattle on about the agony of answered prayers makes my teeth grind.”—I love that line, especially “the agony of answered prayers.” That’s perfect word play. In fact it would make a great title. Hold onto it. Maybe you’ll be able to use it some day!

    And I’m with you. If it’s really so awful to achieve your dreams, then please, suffer in silence for the rest of our sakes.

  6. Right on. It’s like you’re plucked from obscurity, one out of millions, you’ve won life’s lottery, and you’re annoyed that you occasionally have to show up. This is why I’ve pretty much decided I can’t read rock memoirs anymore!

    • Many years ago, David Foster Wallace give me a hard time about signing book. Are you kidding me?! If I published a book and someone wanted me to sign it, I’d sign it, pump their hand, buy them a drink and thank them profusely.

  7. Ha! Stevie Nicks also blames her psychiatrist for the fact that she doesn’t have any children what with him keeping her on heavy medication during her child-bearing years so he could listen to her rock and roll stories!

  8. I was glad to see in a comment that you knew the Brad Pitt comment was sarcasm — I am not a huge fan but I knew he was goofing — had he been serious I would have joined you in the “Drown the whiners” club. I always loved the British term for whining: “whingeing.” Of course, I don’t love it enough to be sure of my spelling …

    I’d pass on both of those pieces.

  9. My wife and I have been saying “First World Problems” or “White People Problems” lately whenever we bitch about things at home. It’s sophomoric and already over-used (according to Google anyway), but we laugh each time we say it. At least we’ve got an ounce of perspective, though. That Stevie Nicks comment really is ridiculous.

    • I don’t think it’s sophomoric at all! I think it’s healthy. It shows an evolved perspective. The Nicks comment is ridiculous but the Bjork comment is downright insulting. It actually pissed me off a bit when I first heard it. The nerve.

  10. I’ve been in the army and posted to war zones. I’ve always liked Stevie Nicks but her comment is just plain clueless. She (and the others you mention) have absolutely no idea. The hubris of many of the very successful is breathtaking.

    • When you were in war zones, you had to show up every day, right? Even if you had nothing to do? See, you’re the same as she is. Not. I love ‘hubris.’ Such a perfect little word. Wish I had worked it into this post.

  11. There’s the school of thought that says to be truly successful you must be completely self-focused at the expense of all those around you. It must be monstrous, then, for these monsters to suddenly need to be accountable.

  12. These days the gigs I do are small events, my choice. I had to sing at a lunch for thirty people yesterday. I was set up an hour before I needed to be (to double check everything!) I was still singing as the last couple of people left the room. I was well appreciated and well paid for my efforts. I love what I do and never take it for granted.
    Hope you and your lovely family are well.

    • It’s nice to see you, good sir. Thanks for dropping by and checking in. Glad that you’re still in good voice. It’ll be the last thing to go.

      My family is fine and I hope yours are as well. A merry Christmas to them all.

  13. YOU are one of the reasons I’ll never stop blogging or reading blogs! Thank you, Mark! I’ve found that those who’ve gone through really rough times tend not to talk about those struggles/conflicts. My favorite story about a celebrity who, to my mind, understood the privilege she enjoyed was Dolly Parton. When she was asked about how she wasn’t “dying” in the heat during the shooting of a winter scene in the middle of summer (Steel Magnolias) answered that she always prayed to be rich and famous and now she was, so she wasn’t going to complain!

    “I’m pretty sure you could recreate this in your garage. And it wouldn’t cost you $500K.”

    Is this a challenge? IF I ever do, I’ll send it to YOU, free of charge! xoxo

    • So is it fair to say your addicted to blogging and I am a supplier to your needs? A pharmacist, as it were? I like that role very much.

      Dolly Parton always struck me as one of the good ones. I’d like to have dinner with her. I’ll bet she’s got some killer stories to tell and might pick up the check, besides.

  14. Love the Rothko, and pretty much everything I’ve seen of his, he really understood the emotional resonance of tone (or do I mean colour?). If I had a garage I would recreate the fish bowl, may have to borrow a friends.

    I’m very glad I’m not famous because I’d hate to have some of the stupid things I’ve said recorded so everyone can know what I twat I can sometimes be. Yet, I do hope I’ll never be quite a twatish as to compare any part of my life to being shot at while wading through a sea of mud/the jungle/the dessert…

    • I was indifferent about Rothko for a while but now I just love him. My tastes have changed and evolved over the years. Isn’t that how it should be?

      I prefer NOT to be famous. I enjoy my anonymity very much. And I’m glad the internet wasn’t around when I was young and dumb. Can you imagine?

      • Me too, I didn’t see the point, but I saw some of his work about ten years ago and could barely tear myself away. Same with Pollock, and now I’ve discovered that his splosh paintings are fractally correct (if that’s the way to put it) and proven to be stress relieving – as all fractals are.

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