Charlie and the derangement factory

Perhaps the best to hope for now is that actor Charlie Sheen is perpetrating an elaborate, unfunny joke. After years of clashing with alleged substance abuse and spousal abuse, he has spent the past several days in public interviews lashing out at -- well, whatever personal demon makes an illusory leap into his view.

Predominantly it's Chuck Lorre, the TV executive who decided Sheen's reported cavorting with porn stars and binges on illegal drugs make the actor too unpredictable to reliably continue production of the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men .

Sheen's remaining fans don't want to think he actually believes the unhinged epigrams he has been spewing lately in interviews -- like this:

"I am on a drug, it's called Charlie Sheen . It's not available, because if you try it once, you'll die, your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body. Too much?"

Yes. Way too much.

Sheen has become Hollywood's Moammar Gadhafi. Don't just take our word for it. It's a conclusion many people have arrived at independently over the past week. He's irrational. Bombastic. Garrulous. He lacks, as one psychologist put it, "emotional sobriety."And the national media have been far too compliant in allowing the public a window to witness Sheen's sad self-destruction.

He seems intent on burning every personal and professional bridge connecting him to reality. About the only celebrities to publicly offer Sheen any encouragement or friendly words throughout this ordeal have been two other poster boys for disturbing, erratic behavior -- Sean Penn and Mel Gibson. Does that sound encouraging?

A high-pressure environment, science tells us, can produce a sparkling diamond, or it can kill living things.

That's the high-pressure environment of Hollywood, too. It produced a diamond in Sheen, who has shined on film and television for years.

Now it's killing his career. With Sheen's antics helping the process, it's assisted suicide.

This is what happens far too often when a person with talent is thrust into fame and money amid a crowd of entertainment-industry enablers who never bother to tell a celebrity the word "no."

By all appearances Sheen has become one of the latest celebrities to succumb to the aspects of show business that seem to take the hardest toll on mental health.

Recall Tom Cruise's odd, manic jumping on Oprah Winfrey's couch and his excoriation of psychiatry. Or a mood-swinging Britney Spears shaving her head. Or Lindsay Lohan's seemingly deliberate sabotage of her career through alcohol and drugs. It makes Christina Aguilera's Tuesday arrest for public drunkenness seem depressingly quaint.

But celebrity is an abnormal state. It easily can rip a person away from the very things that keep us non-celebrities grounded and focused, such as a solid family life and the building of healthy relationships. Sheen's life -- his third divorce is pending, and he has two morally sketchy live-in girlfriends -- scarcely suggests healthy stability.

Sheen's outrageous behavior should be loathed. His rudderless life should be pitied.

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