How the once ubiquitous entertainer Paul Williams disappeared into cocaine, booze addiction … In the 1970's songwriter Paul Williams was ubiquitous. He wrote and sang the bittersweet Muppets tune 'Rainbow Connection,' won an Oscar with Barbara Streisand for 'Evergreen,' sat on Johnny Carson's couch countless times, and appeared on TV shows like 'The Love Boat' and 'Policewoman.' Then he disappeared. Director Stephen Kessler ('Vegas Vacation') grew up worshiping the diminutive Williams and contacted him to do a documentary. Initially, Williams wasn't interested, but eventually he relented. Their relationship, along with what happened to Williams, is portrayed in 'Paul Williams Still Alive,' a fascinating look at fame, addiction and recovery. – Fox News
Dominant Social Theme: This man, this legend, this Oscar-winning songwriter is an inspiration to us all. Read how he lost everything and bounced back. If you don't tear up, you're not human.
Free-Market Analysis: We read this article on Paul Williams with considerable fascination. He's never been a favorite songwriter of ours, this famous, tiny songwriter (a little over five feet tall) who seems to have a schmaltz button where his heart should be.
But there is no denying he's had tremendous commercial success and that in his own way he's a courageous man, having beat drug and alcohol addictions that claim the lives of so many others.
So when we read this article, we were touched by a life story that was full of ups and downs, successes and failures …
And then at the end of the profile we shouted out "Arrggh!" – sort of like a pirate.
We were dismayed.
We were rooting for the talented little guy and then suddenly … BAM like a slap across the head – a totally unexpected piece of news that changed our entire opinion of the man.
A glass of cold water dashed across our collective puss.
Okay, perhaps you are jumping to the end of the article now, but you don't need to. It's short enough. Here … we'll set the stage.
Paul Williams was born poor and grew up small. He became a songwriter and wrote a number of songs, becoming a successful, and bestselling composer.
According to him, it didn't work. They were not from the heart.
Only when he began composing from the heart without pretense of insincerity did he become successful. The list of his successful songs is presented above in the article excerpt. (It's actually an interview rather than an article.)
We figure the interview was conducted because Paul Williams is experiencing a kind of surge of popularity since a movie came out about his life. In the movie (which we haven't seen) he seems to come across as a sensitive curmudgeon, someone who "still wants to be loved" but in his older years is more suspicious about the motives of others and more protective of his privacy. Here's a review from Rotten Tomatoes:
He won Grammys and an Academy Award; wrote many #1 songs; starred in a Brian DePalma movie; put out his own hit records and albums; was a guest on The Tonight Show fifty times; and is the president of ASCAP…and you might not have heard of him. In the 1970's, Paul Williams was the singer / actor / songwriter that emotional, alienated teenage boys all over the world wanted to be, a sex symbol before MTV, when sex symbols could be 5"2 and sing songs about loneliness with the Muppets. A wistful musical journey that will re-introduce a new generation to Williams' soulful classics, Paul Williams: Still Alive is the charmingly self-narrated story of Stephen Kessler's lifelong obsession with the former superstar-and what happens when the nostalgic filmmaker finally catches up with him. − (C) Abramorama
In the interview he admits to a booze and cocaine addiction and tells the story briefly of his recovery and over 20 years as a "clean" person.
But it is toward the end of the interview that we get slapped upside the head. Of course, it is information that we probably should have known considering we follow this stuff regularly. But for some reason we didn't. So when it came to this revelation we were knocked back a little. Here's the relevant info:
In March 1992 I took a Valium that belonged to a girlfriend and I said, 'That qualifies as a slip,' so I changed my date. It's been 22 years. You can't imagine my life today. I've been on the board of directors of ASCAP for about 12 years and the President for the last three. It's a great opportunity to be of service. The two things I'm passionate about are recovery and music creator's rights. My favorite thing about the film beyond the fact people are really entertained by it is that ultimately it gives me an opportunity to talk about those things.
You see? ASCAP! It doesn't help that he elaborates as follows:
I don't know when I crossed the line from use to abuse to addiction; probably in the early 80's is when it got out of control. It is a disease but I can't use that as an excuse for my behavior. The path that I chose, the places that cocaine and vodka took me, my behavior along the way, I'm responsible for. Part of my recovery was to make amends for that. That's a real gift. You spilled it, you clean it up.
Yes, this is the curse of knowledge! We know what ASCAP is. Like other Hollywood institutions, it lobbies for the use of the awesome force of the US government to prosecute people who play movies and music without paying the appropriate tithe to Hollywood.
We're long past considering this logical. Look … you don't pay a tithe to the builder of a chair or table, do you? Why not?
Because copyright was not invented for reasons of fairness but for reasons of control.
It was invented by the power elite about 500 years ago to keep track of the books and periodicals spilling off of manual printers around the world – courtesy of the just-invented Gutenberg Press. It didn't do to confiscate the damn things because that would just drive them underground.
Instead, the powers-that-be claimed an artistic prerogative. Really, it's absolutely brilliant! Needing to make the spread of subversive (anti-elite) information difficult, they claimed to be concerned about the welfare and wallets of the very artists who they wished to control!
In one stroke, they co-opted the very people they considered their most subversive enemies!
This is a little-appreciated facet of copyright but it is the true one, in our view. The power elite, then and now, is imaginative when it wishes to be so. They turned enemies into friends and opponents into quasi-supporters.
This is the same sort of the thing that has been done on other fronts. It's a manipulative technique writ large. Now we have gone from being moved by Paul Williams's courageous life story to wanting to ask him a couple of hard questions.
Why doesn't the farmer get paid for his corn and beef several times over? Why doesn't such a person get paid when corn is turned into cornbread and beef into hamburger?
It's the farmer's "intellectual property," after all. He grew the material in question.
Here is another question. Why doesn't Paul Williams use his OWN money to enforce copyright? See, he speaks about personal responsibility but then devotes his professional life to offloading his livelihood onto the shoulders of others.
No doubt Williams makes a good part of his living from royalties. This has allowed him to live the comfortable life of a recluse instead of travelling around the world touring. He probably could have made a comfortable life this way as well but it wouldn't have been so relaxing. He likely would have had to work harder.
We'd like to introduce Paul Williams to the concept of private justice. Public justice, of course, is a dominant social theme of the power elite. But as the elites run out of money the vast penal gulags that have been built are going to start to collapse.
You won't be able to put people in jail for 20 years for smoking a marijuana cigarette or for being the patsy of an FBI "terrorist" sting. Already it's starting to cost too much. Inevitably, in our view, private justice is going to make a comeback.
As the faux central banking economy collapses people will start to deal with their "legal" problems by themselves again, or with their families, the way it was done for tens of thousands of years.
We've written a lot about private justice and how simple it is. If you are aggrieved you take human action and seek out the offender. You use your OWN resources to bring him or her to justice. Given the millions incarcerated unfairly under the current system, it surely cannot be said that such a system would be worse.
And so we say to the Paul Williams of the world: Stop talking about personal responsibility without taking the time and effort to become economically and socio-politically literate.
Someone once said, famously, "Check your premises." In the era of the Internet, there is no excuse not to do so. It may change your mind, and even your life. At least it will diminish your public displays of cognitive dissonance.