HOLLYWOOD, CA, 31 MAY 2000 -- hardly had the cyber-ink dried on our obituary for Christopher Pettiet than we were informed that Shawn Phelan, star of Toy Soldiers, Caroline? and several other notable films died nearly two years ago after having been in a coma for four years following an automobile accident. We had thought he was in college.
Torn between anger and grief (we are way past denial), we have to ask, "Why didn't someone bother to tell us? We were not alone in our ignorance: we learned of it through a post this morning on the alt.fan.teen.idols Usenet board, where people have blithely listed upcoming showings of Shawn's films on television for years, totally oblivious to his condition, and even of his death.
It's all very nice for studios and publicists to take out memorial ads for dead performers in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, but shouldn't the fans of stars be given the chance to mourn their passing, too? Do studios and public relations firms have fill-in-the-blank forms that they just send to "the trades" when someone dies and then leave it at that? Dear God, this is the Age of the Internet! Shawn Phelan has thousands of fans who were totally oblivious to his condition. Was it beyond the capacity of the studios who made money off of him for years -- who are still making money off of his work -- to post a message on Usenet advising fans of his hospitalization and then of his death? Could they not have spent a dollar to hire a clerk-typist to run off a memorial note on Usenet on the anniversary of his death?
We have no small number of visitors who, we are sure, would have gladly given blood, bone marrow, or, perhaps most importantly, cash to help out Shawn and his family in their time of need . . . if only we had known.
Fans take and take and take from the stars they adore, but -- hey! -- we can also rally to help our faves when they need it, too. When Ben Affleck was bumming around homeless in Hollywood a few years ago, do any of our regular visitors think we would have refused to lend him a helping hand (or a futon, or a few bucks) -- if we had known he needed it? For crying out loud, we have been fans of the guy since he was a little kid and have always had the greatest confidence in him; his request would have been our command. We were fans of Shawn Phelan's for many years, too, and -- had we but known -- there are those here who (back when the money was needed) would not have blinked twice at writing a check to help cover his medical expenses.
How can we write an obituary for someone who has been dead for two years and who apparently spent much of his too-brief life in a coma? We can run photos of him, and list his credits, which we shall do over the next few days, but what can we really say about him besides that he was a fine young actor with a lot of promise who, even in death, did not get the honor he deserved?
We say, "Shame on Hollywood!" for treating its young stars like meat. The networks, the studios, and the various institutionalized forms of Industry parasitism have sucked the youth and -- too often! -- the very life out of many young stars, and then tossed aside their husks when they were no longer able to generate a profit for those who got rich off of their hard work.
For shame, Hollywood! For shame!
O Muse With the Jaundiced Eye, take me home!