Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dangerous Dieting- a Homage to Karen Carpenter

There are some really bad diets out there. I should know, I've been on a few. The Mexican Montazuma's diet, The Fran Liebovitz diet, (coffee and cigarettes) The Hollywood cleanse, (21 days of water, lemon, and cloves) and the 8 glasses of green sludge a day diet. Those are the most radical. I've been very lucky. I've been able to maintain a decent weight for 23 years, and keep myself in good health. In my 20's I was dangerously over weight and had to lose over 100 lbs. Yeah, I was really fat. I've written a lot about this in the past on this blog, and I have talked about my weight issues on the air. The next few weeks we are talking about fad dieting on "Hair on the Air " radio, and I'm reminded again that dieting and weight obsession can go to far, WAY to far, fatally to far. Extreme and obsessive dieting can slip over the line into eating disorders. The following bio of an iconic alto who wanted to lose a few pounds shows how she brought deadly dieting out of the closet.



A Homage to Karen Carpenter


Anorexia became a well known word in the early 80's with the death of Karen Carpenter. Biographer Adena Young says about her:



"Karen Carpenter was well known in the 70s and 80s for her dazzling music. She was one half of the sibling music group, The Carpenters. Born in 1950, she grew up listening to the Beatles and performing with her older brother Richard, and in her lifetime captured 3 Grammy's, 8 Gold Albums, 10 Gold Singles, and 5 Platinum Albums. The music she made was so great that she held the record for the most Top 5 hits in the first year of business. You could say that she lead her life in the spotlight. Young girls looked up to her. She was a role-model and a symbol of American culture. At least, this is what she was trying to be. As it turns out, it was these social pressures that ultimately lead to her downfall.
Richard Carpenter recalls that Karen was "a chubby teenager". Genetically, she wasn't meant to be super thin. Unfortunately for this singer, the only body that she would stand to have was a thin one. The dieting began in 1967 when Karen's doctor put her on a water diet, bringing her weight down from 140 lbs to 120. When she had made it down to 115 lbs, people told her she looked good, but she could only reply that this was just the beginning of the weight loss, and that she wanted to lose still more. By the fall of 1975, Karen was down to 80 lbs. She was taking dozens of thyroid pills a day, and throwing up the little food that she ate. Karen's body was so weak that she was forced to lay down between shows, and the audience was gasping at her body as she walked on stage. It was this year in Las Vegas that Karen collapsed on stage while singing "Top of the World". It was a big scare to the audience and her family. After being rushed to the hospital, it was reported that Karen was 35 lbs underweight. It was this final collapse that made Karen Carpenter realize that she had a serious problem. She went to doctors and therapists, and eventually began to believe that she was well. However, in reality, her body was still suffering from the lack of food, the over dosages of laxatives, the lack of sleep, and the anxiety of being on the road. When she died in 1983, it was a shock to many people who believed that she had been cured.
The emergency call came at 8:51 am on February 4, 1983. Karen Carpenter's mother found her naked and unconscious on the floor of a walk-in wardrobe closet in their home in Downey, California. At the age of 32, she was 5'4", but weighed only 108 lbs".




Todd Haynes's Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story




"Openly gay, experimental filmmaker Todd Haynes burst upon the scene two years after his graduation from Brown University with his now-infamous 43-minute cult treasure "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story" (1987). Seizing upon the inspired gimmick of using Barbie and Ken dolls to sympathetically recount the story of the pop star's death from anorexia, he spent months making miniature dishes, chairs, costumes, Kleenex and Ex-Lax boxes, and Carpenters' records to create the film's intricate, doll-size mise-en-scene. The result was both audacious and accomplished as the dolls seemingly ceased to be dolls leaving the audience weeping for the tragic singer. Unfortunately, Richard Carpenter's enmity for the film (which made him look like a selfish jerk) led to the serving of a "cease and desist" order in 1989, and despite the director's offer "to only show the film in clinics and schools, with all money going to the Karen Carpenter memorial fund for anorexia research," "Superstar" remains buried, one of the few films in modern America that cannot be seen by the general public. Now finally you have a chance to see this piece."

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