As the old saying goes, “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”
Bad publicity and profit are not-so-strange-bedfellows these days, especially when it involves once-innocent teen stars, money, success, alcohol, weed and a proclivity to drive while overserved, stoned or both.
The biggest news story of the week—when the definition of big is gauged by media coverage—was Justin Drew Bieber’s DUI arrest in Miami. There’s a 98 percent chance you’re now exceedingly educated on the details of said arrest, so let’s explore the consequences, er…benefits of JDB’s actions (Note: this column will never refer to him as “The Bieber”, “Beebs” or any variation of Bieber Fever. It’s simply unseemly for anyone born before Top Gun came out to do so).
Benefit #1: JDB’s biggest sponsor, Adidas, says it will continue its business relationship with its troubled client. Being charged with driving drunk, driving stoned and drag racing with a rented Lamborghini and an expired license apparently isn’t going to sway the German juggernaut to break up a sponsorship deal with one of its biggest celebrities. Overall, JDB earns $58 million in endorsement deals alone, which is about $57 million more than what is made in total salary and endorsements by the runner-up for overexposed-bad-boy-of-the-week, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
Benefit #2: Bail set by a Florida judge for JDB’s freedom after arrest was $2500.00. In a related story, it still leaves $149,997,500.00 of his estimated net worth intact.
Benefit #3: JDB is alive and appears to still be (relatively) sane. This is a decidedly different outcome than that of other young stars like Britney Spears (mental breakdown), River Phoenix (dead) or Lindsay Lohan (too many physical and psychological issues to list).
Benefit #4: JDB added 34,456 Twitter followers on the day of his arrest alone (despite not Tweeting anything that day or since)…or 33,581 more than I’ve added in my entire existence since creating an account. The 19-year-old’s total followers now stands at 49,041,073, which is approximately 14 million more than the entire population of his home country, Canada, and over seven million more than the leader of the free world (See: Obama, Barack).
Families are always rising and falling in America, wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne. This especially applies to teen stars. We’ve seen this movie so many times recently that Bieber’s arrest was the least surprising news we’ve heard since learning Dennis Rodman had checked into rehab two days prior.
Whether it’s Lohan, Hilton, Spears, Bynes, most of the cast of Different Strokes, the female side of the cast of Joanne Loves Chachi…it doesn’t seem to matter. We expect the other shoe to drop at any time when it comes to teenagers with millions to spend, a driver’s license (even expired ones), access to alcohol and weed, and a God complex bestowed upon them by the same media more than happy to take them down with Chris-Christie-like coverage.
Mike Tyson is a fine example of what we should expect to see for JDB in the coming months. For those not old enough to remember, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion of the world at age 20, and did so in such spectacular fashion that he achieved Ali-esque stardom before he was legally allowed to drink. Iron Mike occupied the throne for 3 ½ years before a 42-1 underdog named Buster Douglas knocked him out for the title. Tyson spiraled downward from there, eventually being arrested and found guilty of raping a teenage beauty pageant contestant in 1992.
After serving three years, Tyson quickly got back into the fight game and regained the heavyweight title one year later. Tyson was always seen as a menacing, violent, fascinating creature thanks to his devastating power in the ring. But the prison time somehow enhanced that persona; somehow made him bigger than ever before (most of his $400 million in earnings came after being released). And biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear in a 1997 loss elevated him from insanely popular to a certifiably mythical figure (for all the wrong reasons, of course). Tyson should have faded away after that, but the love affair with the public and media was too strong.
Years later, Tyson landed a small role in The Hangover (the watchable one) and now is the toast of Broadway with his very own show. America adores him. And this fascination applies to yours truly as well: Whenever any fight of his is repeated, particularly any between 1985 and 1990, I always stop to watch it.
Bieber and Tyson are polar opposites in terms of personality and physical power, that’s understood. What they share in common—along with the aforementioned Lohan, Spears and guys like Chris Brown—is the unique ability to capture our attention simply by rising and falling.
So we’ll see JDB go to luxury rehab. We’ll watch his first interview when he comes out (even money it’s with Oprah; Ellen DeGeneres is a dark horse at 3-1). He’ll proceed to do a comeback tour that will surpass anything he’s ever done before. His Twitter followers will exceed the population of Italy (59 million).
And if the history of those in a similar position is any indication, he’ll fall off the wagon again. Because without true consequences, how does any young adult learn from anything? And the whole affair will be analyzed on cable news by legal analysts, psychiatrists, former child stars (Corey Feldman, CEO) and media pundits alike. That is, of course, until some 10-year-old whom we’ve never heard before records a YouTube video, gets discovered and becomes the next Bieber.
Justin Bieber may lose his license, might even be deported back to Canada for his actions in Miami on Thursday morning.
But when weighing the pros against the cons, it’s no contest.
If you thought (OK, hoped) this was the beginning of the end of the biggest thing to come out of Canada since Wayne Gretzky…
Well, think again.
Because in 2014, there really is no such thing as bad publicity…except your own obituary.