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Yes to rehab 

Get in and stay in

Rehab. Last week, troubled British pop/soul star Amy Winehouse performed via satellite during the 2008 Grammys. The 24-year-old chanteuse was visibly shaken and stumbled through a rendition of her songs, "You Know I'm No Good," and her signature smash "Rehab." Anyone who is truly familiar with Winehouse's work knows that her first album, Frank, is actually one of the best R&B albums of the decade, and that her live performances are earth-shattering. I consider myself to be an Amy Winehouse fan of old, before her image transgressed major bodies of water and she became known as a junkie. I remember the Amy with meat on her bones and a voice so soulful and full of depth that it would move you to dance, feel and think. To witness this visibly scarred young woman suffer through her timid performance was painful.

It is troubling that in the wake of the high-profile drug overdoses of actors Heath Ledger, Brad Renfro and the anniversary of Anna Nicole Smith's death that Ms. Winehouse would be sprung from rehab, which she so desperately needed, in order to perform for the Grammys. There is a reason that she was denied a visa to enter the United States to perform in-person -- she is sick. She is addicted to drugs and needs help, consistently. While celebrities cheered her on and the promoters for the show said that having her on was to show her some support, I believe that quite the opposite is happening.

In an effort to gain ratings for a show that has had consistently low ratings year after year, the Grammys needed a "hit," pun intended. Amy Winehouse was it, much like Britney Spears of the Video Music Awards debacle of last year. Record labels and media companies conspire to build hype around artists under the guise of giving them an opportunity to "come back" or to reclaim their clout in the industry. While the companies earn high ratings, increased CD sales and record advertising revenue, they exploit these young stars who are desperate to remain relevant and are fighting major demons. How can you get the monkey off of your back when so many entities are invested in seeing the monkey stay put?

It is shameful that an industry that pretends to care about its artists would allow those that are clearly in trouble to tank publicly. People said that Winehouse did well -- yeah, for someone with a serious drug habit. What is the deal with these rehab facilities that cater to celebrities? What is up with coming and going as you please, when it is common knowledge that the reason that one goes to rehab is to remove him or her from the environment that is fueling the addiction, whatever it is?

We have witnessed star after star go in and out of rehab. Lindsey Lohan. Britney Spears. Nicole Richie. Lohan was famously photographed leaving a "live-in" rehab facility to go clubbing and return in the wee hours of the morning. Ben Affleck started the trend in 2001 by checking into a live-in rehabilitation facility to combat alcohol abuse. A few days after checking-in, he left to participate and accept a Teen's Choice Award for favorite actor. The common denominator is that these people are young and extremely famous at an age where most people need help and guidance from concerned people.

It speaks volumes about celebrity culture that many of them (stars, managers, agents, families) believe that it is more important to accept awards than to get well. Unfortunately, hangers-on who co-sign on this bizarre and questionable behavior surround these young people. Everyone benefits, except the celebrity. What good will Amy's Grammy awards be if she is six feet underground? Seriously, what would it matter?

Industry players suggest that they are supporting Winehouse by allowing her to have a platform when she is being heavily criticized for her drug use. Perhaps it would be more supportive if they did not allow her to perform, so that she can get clean and silence her critics by reclaiming her health and her life? Perhaps not being allowed to travel to the United States for the Grammys and not being able to accept her awards because she was in rehab would serve as motivation for her to stay clean. We'll never know because of all of the vultures circling her impending corpse.

Somebody needs to make these troubled stars go to rehab and actually stay put so they can get the help that they need, regardless of what "opportunity" might pass them by. Celebrity rehab is so transparent that it seems like celebrities enter only for the publicity. Every other day some star is entering rehab. Don't get me wrong -- if you need help, you should do it, but not because you need publicity. To treat something so important as rehab so flippantly is dangerous and troublesome.

Celebrity rehab has become so popular that there is even a television show called Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, that airs on VH-1. Getting clean as a reality show. Classy. The fact that this show can exist means that there is an audience for it. Yikes! Perhaps we need to be in rehab from a culture addicted to celebrities, media companies addicted to money and celebrities addicted to drugs.

For more commentary from Nsenga Burton, visit www.theclogblog.com.

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