Death of a Star
Ramona Blank was sixty-one years old when she realized that her life was a lie. Not the type of white lie told daily by everyone, but an earth-shattering lie; a lie to end all lies. In her youth she had been an actress; Hollywood’s beloved sweetheart, she brought light on an otherwise dark world. She was swarmed everywhere she went; she often recalled the time she was in the dairy section at the grocery store, when a little girl tugged gingerly at her dress and asked her for an autograph.
Many of her contemporaries bristled at the thought of fan encounters; the disdain they held for the mania that followed celebrities was well-known and understood. Ramona, however, relished in the attention. While other stars were suffocated by the dissection of their every move, Ramona was enamored with the fact that the entire world had to know what she was up to at every moment. Her love of fame went so far, she was notorious for tipping the paparazzi off about her location whenever she went into town. She often feigned surprise at the myriad of cameras shoved in her face, but behind the looks of shock was the most satisfied grin the world had ever seen. When driving in the city, she always made sure that the roof of her convertible was down so she could see her face smiling down upon her from the movie billboards. To Ramona Blank, the world was her servant. There wasn’t a life that rivaled hers; she was a queen in a democracy.
The glitz and glamour that consumed her young adult life was not always present, however; she came from humble beginnings. Raised in the small town of Batavia, New York, her upbringing was like that of the people she now saw as beneath her. She had a standard four-person family, a golden retriever named Henry, a traditional middle-class house, and childhood friends she had long lost contact with. She excelled as a student, but her goals did not concern academia; she wanted to be an actress, and not just an actress, but a star. Throughout high school, she performed in all the school plays, landing the leading role every time and drawing gasps of wonder from adults in the audience whenever she performed. She had an aura about her that separated her from the rest of the students; she was special.
After high school, she omitted college (much to her parents’ discontent) and moved to Los Angeles. Though a typical move for most aspiring actresses, Ramona knew that the fear and anxiety related to the move would dissolve into success and happiness sooner than she knew it. Sure enough, after living in the City of Angels for two months, she pegged a supporting role in a summer blockbuster directed by Wayne Bartlett, the biggest rising star at the time. While working on the picture, she and Bartlett fell in love and married shortly after the film’s premiere. The wedding was a media craze for weeks, occupying the tabloids for even longer. It was a marriage made in heaven; and Hollywood couldn’t get enough of it. The marriage was a happy one; they collaborated on a number of films in the following years, and when Ramona worked on films with other directors, he always showed up at the studio to support her. It seemed like Wayne and Ramona had the only marriage in Hollywood that worked; but like all good things, they must come to an end.
After ten years of marriage, Wayne Bartlett and Ramona Blank couldn’t be happier. Both their careers were booming, their confidence was ever-expanding, and their marriage was still solid. Things fell apart, however, when Wayne was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver after he left his favorite coffee shop in Los Angeles. The police searched for weeks for the driver, but no suspects were ever charged. The press pretended to mourn for months, but were quickly distracted by the birth of an actress’s baby and quickly shifted their focus on them. No one’s pain was greater than Ramona’s. It was as though a magician performed a saw trick on her, but actually sawed part of her in half instead of it being an illusion. There was no task she could participate in without dissolving into boulder-sized tears. She was beyond inconsolable; and her career was never the same afterwards.
Though she starred in a few more films after Wayne’s death, her stony demeanor quickly earned her the ire of many a film director. As news of her emotionless state circulated amongst the Hollywood elite, Ramona’s career was put to an abrupt halt. Originally, Ramona couldn’t care less. Acting in films only reminded her of Wayne, why would she ever want to act again?
After about a year of this attitude, her mantra rapidly shifted. She was lost without acting; life was meaningless without the gentle chaos of a movie studio. She fruitlessly auditioned for numerous roles, but her sour reputation had not improved in the time since her departure. In response to her failures, she began exploring the rampant drug and alcohol culture of Hollywood. Whiskey and cocaine became her poison of choice, causing her physical and mental health to rapidly decline. When she dragged herself through the streets of Hollywood, she was no longer bombarded by fans or the paparazzi. She hadn’t signed an autograph or stood for a picture in years; no one recognized her anymore.
In the years of her addiction, she contemplated suicide on numerous occasions. She never performed the act, however, instead of the rope pulling her to her death, it seemed as though the rope was pulling her back, as if there was more to her life. She met a young man named Steve Marley who she married and considered her savior. Acting on the urges encouraged by her new husband, Ramona attempted to return to the film industry, kicking her vices in the process. Impressed by her new attitude, she was cast in a supporting role in which she played a strong mother raising six children on her own. The performance was met with critical acclaim and even earned her her first Academy Award.
She began earning roles left and right, breathing life into her career and giving her a second wind. In response to her good fortune, Ramona formed several charities under her name. Their purposes ranged from managing drug addiction, homelessness, and cancer research. Instead of merely giving money to these causes, she spoke at events, met with those helped by her charities, and frequently used her guest appearances on talk shows to promote her causes. Ramona was a woman reborn; gone was the attention-seeking diva that dominated her younger years, gone was the middle-aged drug addict, and stepping in was the moral-driven celebrity she became.
Ramona Blank was sixty-one years old when she realized that her life was a lie. It happened at seven o’clock on a Wednesday evening in June. She sat on her balcony, the waning sun stinging her cornflower-blue eyes. A glass of white wine in her hand, she began to think about her life. Her humble upbringing, her stuck-up stardom, her perfect marriage, her mid-life struggles, her second marriage, her new career, her causes. As she took a sip of her wine, she began to struggle with the thought of who she actually was. On one hand, she so desired to be the sassy diva that smiled down upon Hollywood Boulevard in her youth. On the other hand, she wanted to be the charitable celebrity, the one who really cares about a cause greater than herself. But most of all, she wanted Wayne Bartlett. For he was her only true love, and she needed him back. She could not have it all.
Ramona Blank was found in her garden the next day. She had jumped from her balcony the evening before. The media pretended to mourn for a while and moved on when an actor was found cheating on his wife. When the police searched the balcony, they found a note folded next to an empty wine glass.
I hope to God that I made a difference in this world. No matter how small. That I mattered somehow. I’ll see you there, Wayne.