It was with a feeling somewhere between nausea and fascination that I watched Larry King’s exclusive interview with Brittany Murphy’s husband Simon Monjack and the actress’s mother Sharon on Saturday night.
When celebrity tragedy meets the spin machine, truth never ensues – only more sad spectacle.
And so it was. Monjack, a mysterious figure and presumed villain of the story, was there to change his public image, well-established by the tabloids and all those pictures of him as a dark, hulking presence beside the petite Britney.
And he brought with him a B player from central casting – the distraught, bereaved stage mother without the sense to know how she was being used.
But clearly no one coached the guy to spout the proper platitudes. Instead, he pouted and like an oversized baby, mixed melodrama with fact and generally made much ado about himself.
“I suffer seizures and migraines,” he confessed, explaining why TMZ got it wrong – that the long list of drugs found in the house, including anti-seizure, anti-depression and prescription painkillers, were actually his.
We learned that he had a heart attack in the wake of her death. It was hard to take all this very seriously – he kept referring to various ‘bar mitzvas’ apropropos of, um, I have no idea.
But the portrait of widower and mother-in-law didn’t add up as grieving adults beset by freakish circumstances. Brittany’s mother Sharon came off as a naïve and rather lost. Monjack said of Sharon Murphy: “We cling to each other.” She said of her daughter: “We were inseparable. We grew up together.”
Brass tacks – here’s what we learned: Murphy, as TheWrap reported early on, had a heart murmur. She was not supposed to be taking drugs because of that condition.
She was ill on the day she died with laryngitis.
Simon recounted that when Murphy woke up on the Sunday morning, she couldn’t breathe. He recounted: “She said, ‘Mom I’m dying, I love you.’”
Monjack, mixing imminent death with the absurd: “She ran to the bathroom. Brittany’s safe haven was the bathroom. She was pulling herself together, reading Vogue, and putting on lipstick….”
Then: “Sharon screamed ‘Simon!’ I ran as fast as my large frame could take me. And she was on the floor.” He called 911, which took nine minutes to get paramedics to the house.
Mother: “I knew from when she collapsed. I was with her in the bathroom. I was sitting across from her with little puppy Clara. She said, ‘Mom please hug me.’”
The coroner has ruled that Murphy, 32, died of pneumonia and “multiple drug intoxication.”
But Monjack denied any drug use, along with widespread reports that Murphy was losing jobs because of her erratic behavior. It was all the tabloids’ fault, he said.
“Someone runs a story saying she was fired from a movie in Puerto Rico. They pulled the offer from a second movie because of that stupid item.“ He said that the complaint was: “Her bathroom breaks were too long….” After that, “She cried and cried and cried. She was a flower. “
He added: “Hollywood broke her heart.”
This reads like a bad script. Murphy, whose death is entirely tragic, did get fired or pulled from one project after another. TheWrap already reported that Murphy had been disoriented and zoned out on a recent film, to the point of having to have her part rewritten.
And her husband was making things worse. The professional managers and representatives on Murphy’s team regarded Monjack as a Svengali, and as an impediment to her getting work.
“He showed increasingly bad behavior on her last four or five films,” said one person in her camp who was incensed by Monjack’s behavior. As a business manager, Monjack pulled infuriating stunts like agreeing to a business fee, then doubling it at the last minute.
The two of them consistently showed up late to meetings. Monjack was so distrusted among Murphy’s work colleagues that few believed in the immediate wake of her death that he had nothing to do with it.
He may not have. But with the quantity of drugs lying around the house, it certainly doesn’t sound like he promoted clean living.
Monjack just exudes distrust. But he was no ‘Svengali,’ he insisted. Well, it was true, that he and Britney did used to sequester themselves in her trailer on movie shoots.
“That was our magic time,” he said. “That’s where ‘Svengali’ comes from.”