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Stanton Peele

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How Could Russell So Badly Misjudge His Life?

Posted: 01/03/12 11:03 AM ET

There are a series of interviews with Katy Perry, and especially with her soon-to-be-ex-husband Russell Brand, each vowing eternal fealty. In a famous December, 2010 interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Brand declared: "I'm married to Katy. Perpetually, until death do us part was the pledge." And, Brand further noted, he was still alive. This was the month Brand filed to divorce Perry, after 14 months of marriage. His duplicity was surprising, since it came from a man famous for his "let-it-all-hang-out" comedy style, in which he seemingly applies no filter to his innermost feelings and personal secrets.

What could possibly have gone wrong between these seasoned (Brand is 36, Perry 27), successful public entertainment figures? While Brand is a working class British rebel, Perry is an American minister's daughter. Perry's religious background seemingly made Brand's act offensive to her. "I am sensitive to Russell taking the Lord's name in vain," she told Rolling Stone. "I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen."

Perry made that comment in August 2010, two months before she and Brand were married. It seems funny that a woman who trades off her sexuality should be so uptight about religion and sex. Aside from her famous breasts, Perry rode her first Internet single, Ur So Gay, and first international chart-topping hit, I Kissed a Girl, to super stardom. But apparently she had that all worked out during the marriage. According to her interview with Vanity Fair, where Perry described her strict, religious family that, she said, denied her a childhood and never approved of her, she accepted Brand's and her differences:


"I come from a very non-accepting family, but I'm very accepting," Perry says of her religious beliefs as an adult. "Russell is into Hinduism, and I'm not [really] involved in it. He meditates in the morning and the evening; I'm starting to do it more because it really centers me. [But] I just let him be him, and he lets me be me."

For his part, Brand has long painted himself as a kind of helter-skelter recovery guru. Brand has detailed his decade-long 12-step recovery from sex and drug addiction in two best-selling books and numerous interviews:

"Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death. I was 27 years old when through the friendship and help of Chip Somers of the treatment centre, Focus12, I found recovery."

The above quote, in US Weekly, following the death of Amy Winehouse, allowed Brand to display his addiction expertise:

"All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they're not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but un-ignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50 pence for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his 'speedboat,' there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they're looking through you to somewhere else they'd rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anesthetize the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief."

Brand faced the difficult task of squaring this circle: he swore by the success of the 12-step recovery he underwent; he was a long-time friend of Winehouse's (he met her right out of his own rehab); he was aware, like everyone, that Winehouse faced substance addictions; Winehouse died shortly after being in rehab. Why couldn't Brand and rehab help Winehouse? He responded with the famous tribute at his Website, called "moving" and "must read" in US Weekly and other entertainment mags.

When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they've had enough, that they're ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it's too late, she's gone.

Not very optimistic about the efficacy of treatment for the disease -- but, how could he be under the circumstances? In the meantime, Brand made something of a career move around his tributes to the dead singer. The one at his Website features a picture of himself with smoke streaming from his forefingers above his name, printed in a large italicized font, while "for Amy" appears in small letters beneath these images. At the 2010 VMA awards, Brand paid an additional homage to Winehouse.

Brand's ridiculously brief marriage seemingly undercuts the wisdom Brand strove to achieve in his reactions to the Winehouse tragedy. Despite his claims to recovery, we may be unlikely to turn to him for advice based on self-knowledge and penetration of the human situation. Brand hardly seems to know himself or the woman to whom he only just vowed eternal devotion.

 
 
 

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