It was good news to hear that Ronald Isley, one of the greatest singers who has ever lived, had been released from federal prison on April 13, after completing a three-year sentence for five counts of tax evasion and one count of “willful failure to file a tax return.” (They sound the same to me, but obviously they are two different things.) He also has to pay back $3.1 million to the IRS.
Not surprisingly, his trials and tribulations have led to a spiritual revival, and now he wants to record a gospel album.
“I was working at the chapel and I did gospel shows every week,” said Isley, who looks amazingly well for a man who turned 69 in May. “That kept me up.”
We wish Mr. Isley nothing but the best, and believe that the sentence was too harsh based on the crime, his age and his health issues.
That said, it is amazing how many celebrities have been to jail or prison. It gives credence to those who maintain that entertainers should be appreciated and admired, but not put on pedestals or emulated.
It’s very sad that so many young people, especially African-American youths, look up to hip-hop stars like Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Foxy Brown, Akon, DMX, Lil’ Kim, T-Pain, 50 Cent, Nas, the Game, Shyne, Mystikal and others, all of whom have spent time behind bars. Eminem was also arrested (twice). Some, talent notwithstanding, are hoodlums, to put it bluntly. But, of course, being a “thug” is considered a good thing in some circles.
LEST ANYONE get the wrong idea, this writer is not pontificating or sitting in the judgment seat. Just observing. We’re all human and, as such, make mistakes. I have a DUI in my history. I am not proud of it, but not ashamed either. It happened and lessons were learned.
One funny thing about it is that in the courtroom, a bailiff said to me, “What ever happened to the Floaters?”
Even Dionne Warwick was arrested at an airport when marijuana cigarettes were found among her possessions. However, charges were dropped when she agreed to make an anti-drug public service announcement.
Seemingly innocent young Tevin Campbell got arrested for picking up a hooker and having weed in his car. And let’s not forget Queen Latifah’s 1996 arrest for possession of weed and a firearm.
AS LONG AS no one was killed, maimed or anything that serious, people should be able to get on with their lives and careers — and it is amazing how celebrities are able to rebound today. Jail and prison no longer have the same stigma attached to them.
For example, superstar television host, magazine publisher, author and business mogul Martha Stewart didn’t miss beat in resuming her multifaceted career after doing five months for securities fraud and obstruction of justice.
No actor today is hotter today than Robert Downey Jr. His comeback has been amazing, after five years of substance abuse, arrests, rehab facilities, relapses and time in prison. In addition to being a great talent, Downey is hugely popular and always had many thousands of people pulling for him.
Kelsey Grammer and Chris Brown both faced the music admirably for their wrongdoing. They did the community service, paid the fines, endured the public humiliation, then returned to living and working.
JAMES BROWN’S importance and influence in the music world could never be overstated. He is irreplaceable and the virtual founder of funk. He fully deserved the “Godfather of Soul” and “Soul Brother Number One” titles.
But considering what a community activist he was, including quelling social uprisings, promoting Black enterprise, and making records about Black pride and the importance of staying in school, it was a shock when Brown was arrested and/or given prison time for domestic violence, assaulting a police officer, carrying an unlicensed gun, along with numerous drug charges.
The icon Ray Charles, whose addiction to heroin became legendary and landed him behind bars, had an unusual attitude regarding his longtime use of a drug that takes no prisoners. He said he had no regrets because that is what he wanted to do at the time. He did not, however, recommend it to anyone else.
Bobby Brown, who represented the “bad boy” concept better than just about anyone, seems to have himself together now. We lost track of all the arrests and incarcerations, for possession of cocaine, probation violation, etc.
Former wife Whitney Houston, however, seems to again be on the downswing. It’s incredibly sad what drugs have done to her life, voice and career. And no one will ever forget Houston denying drug dependency on national TV, saying “Crack is wack.”
Another bizarre denial was that of R. Kelly, who said that wasn’t him in those incriminating pictures.
There is one celebrity who gets on a lot of people’s nerves — supermodel Naomi Campbell. She seems to think it is her right to throw diva tantrums: punching and slapping people, screaming insults, throwing things and even spitting on the targets of her wrath.
It would take this whole page and more to name all the celebrities who have been in or are in major legal trouble, including Wesley Snipes, Charlie Sheen, Eddie Murphy, Charles Barkley, Sean (P. Diddy) Combs, Faith Evans, Chuck Berry, George Michael, D’Angelo, Mel Gibson, Mike Tyson, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Tucker, Kobe Bryant, Nicole Richie, Terrence Howard, Jay-Z, Phil Spector, Michael Vick, Tim Allen and seemingly into infinity.
Again, it all proves that famous people should not be idolized. They have just as many weaknesses and shortcomings as anyone else. In some cases more because too many have been deluded into thinking they are somehow above other people, exempt from the rules. And, unfortunately, those “other people” so often buy into it.