Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Brian Jones were all members. So was Kurt Cobain; in fact, according to his sister, he spoke about wanting to join the 27 Club and he succeeded. Robert Downey Jr. almost became a member. Amy Winehouse is terrified she will become a member. The price of joining this exclusive club is high but you can't put it on your Visa or Black Amex; it will cost you your life. The 27 Club (also known as the Forever Club) is reserved for those people (specifically famous rock musicians) who died around the age of 27 often under mysterious circumstances. There have been songs, a movie, books, and websites devoted to it.
Many other musicians have died close to that age; Otis Redding (26), Hank Williams (29), and Jeff Buckley (29). Jeff Buckley was second generation; his father, Tim Buckley, died at 28. And it's not just musicians; there have been poets (Rupert Brooke), artists (Jean-Michel Basquait), and movie stars (Heath Ledger) who have made it. Why is the mid to late 20s filled with so many land mines and is Lindsay Lohan destined to become the latest casualty?
To understand what happens at age 27 we must first understand 29. That's the age we experience what's known in astrology as the Saturn Return. In astrology Saturn is one of those planets that have a terrible reputation and even worse PR. No wonder; it's connected with reality, responsibility, seriousness, setbacks, caution, and fear. Saturn isn't bad; no planet is but he's a no frills kind of guy. Saturn is the "Dr. Phil" of planets; it's about getting real.
"Don't be mad at me 'cause you're pushing thirty and your old tricks no longer work."
Saturn takes approximately 29 and a half years to return to where it was at birth. It's our Saturn birthday or Saturn Return. People talk about the big 30; it's really the big 29. When Saturn kicks in, we get a wake-up call and like a suspect on CSI or Law & Order we're ready to confess and cut a deal. The Saturn Return can be compared to going into the army or rehab; our addictions and our freedom are taken away and we're forced to shape up. It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.
We all have a Saturn Return; millionaire, billionaire, movie star or mogul; no one's figured out how to have it surgically removed; not even Michael Jackson although he may have tried. If we're doing it right we sober up, get serious about something and work hard to make it happen. We can't train forever; sooner or later we have to step up to the starting line and enter the race. Saturn is that starting line.
At her Saturn Return Oprah Winfrey moved to Chicago to host WLS-TV morning talk show AM Chicago. Hillary Rodham married Bill Clinton and joined the Rose Law firm. By the time she was 29 Celine Dion was at the top of her career. She wanted desperately to have a child but couldn't get pregnant. Then, at her Saturn Return, she made a difficult decision; she put her career on hold in order to start a family. It was in 2002 (when she was 29) that Julie Powell began her Julie/Julia Project; the now famous blog chronicling her year of cooking which led to her book and the movie.
Why are rock stars and celebrities so vulnerable? For most of us our Saturn Return is challenging but empowering; by committing to something and following through we learn discipline, decision making, and how to function in the world. But what if you've already achieved massive fame and fortune in your teens or early twenties before you've acquired those Saturn skills? What if you have access to endless drugs, sex, and fast cars plus a team of lawyers to bail you out when trouble hits? It takes an exceptional young person with high self esteem, good values, and a strong family not to yield to temptation. Many members of the 27 Club came from broken families with a history of alcohol or drug abuse. Once famous, instead of positive role models, they got handlers and hangers on.
There's something else; at 27 there's another cycle called the Lunar Return. Saturn asks us to manifest something concrete in the world. The Moon governs the realm of feelings and instinct. During our Lunar Return we begin to get a sense of what we want to create at our Saturn Return and we need to slow down and listen to those feelings. Of course, if we're self medicating with drugs and alcohol our intuition will not be reliable. In fact, following our heart could be extremely dangerous. Insecurities, fears, and doubts become exaggerated; so can the need to escape. That combined with the reality of Saturn careening towards us can feel as if someone unleashed the Kraken!
"They tried to make me go to rehab but I said no, no, no." -Amy Winehouse
Lindsay Lohan may not be a rock star but her early success, broken family, and a tendency to self destruct has created the Perfect Storm for membership in the 27 Club. She doesn't have to join; in fact, right now is the ideal time for her life together. It will take hard work and tough love, not quick fixes. And she needs to surround herself with survivors not enablers. She would be wise to seek out the people like Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Barrymore who have successfully beaten addiction and created healthy lives and solid careers. You can't recover in the spotlight; you need privacy, not paparazzi. Go back into rehab, Lindsay. Return again and again if you have to; but keep trying until you get it right. Don't give up. That effort is what forges the kind of character it takes to build a new life and the discipline to maintain it. America (and the tabloids) loves a great come back story. Give them something positive to write about.
Lindsay Lohan is beautiful and talented and the best is still ahead of her, if she navigates the next few years wisely. The good news is that Saturn always rewards us at the end of its stay. What members of the 27 Club didn't know and were in too much of a hurry to find out is that The Saturn Return isn't the end; it's really the beginning.