I eulogized a friend once, the most talented friend I ever had. He could sing, he could dance, he could imitate great voices; he was one of the funniest people ever (Oscar Levant meets Conan O'Brien) and he was a gifted illustrator whose work was in demand. He burned out and died at 35. "The brightest stars burn fastest," I said at the funeral, as if that explained anything.
And here's the news today of the actor Heath Ledger, dead at 28, probably from drugs. Just last week, my son and I were YouTubin' Chris Farley, and then getting bummed about how he killed himself with opiates and died so young. And there was Belushi, of course, Kurt Cobain, and the promising River Phoenix (heroin and cocaine, 1993 at the age of 23). There are others I'm not thinking of. It seems we have lost a lot of them, from the time of Norma Jean Mortenson . . . Jim Morrison . . . Janis and Jimi . . . Keith Moon . . . young stars burning out . . . self-medicating and self-extinguishing.