“There can’t be many more pitiful, humiliating ways to potentially end your life than face down in an infamous Nevada brothel, vomiting uncontrollably from the overdose of herbal Viagra you took to keep up with myriad prostitutes during a 4-day binge.
As I write, Lamar Odom is clinging on. He’s in a coma, distraught family and friends at his bedside.But his dignity and reputation are already dead, shredded at the altar of reality television.
It would be inhuman not to feel a massive jolt of sympathy for this giant 6ft 10in champion sportsman as he faces his greatest challenge.
It’s not been an easy life for Lamar.
His mother died when he was 12, his father was a heroin addict, and he lost a six-month old child to sudden death syndrome.
But many others have survived similarly catastrophic blows and emerged stronger and better from the emotional wreckage.
They, though, didn’t marry a Kardashian.
I say this as someone who likes the Kardashians, especially Kim.
I can admire their work ethic and business acumen, whilst also acknowledging that their billion-dollar global family brand is built on an entirely false edifice of transitory, talentless fame.
I don’t blame them for this, I blame society for evolving into the very thing Andy Warhol warned
us all would happen: everyone could be famous for 15 minutes.
The Kardashians have just survived and thrived longer than their peers because they’ve shown greater drive, determination, smarts and creativity.
And that, in its way, is a talent worthy of admiration.
But those sucked into their crazy world need to be very, very careful it doesn’t also suck them down in the process.
When Lamar Odom met Khloe Kardashian in 2009, he was an outstandingly good basketball player. I know, because I used to watch him at the LA Lakers performing wondrous feats with his great friend Kobe Bryant, helping them win back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010.
He was focused, intense, combative and brilliant. The consummate professional.
Then he fell in love with a Kardashian and his life became public property.
Lamar and Khloe wed on TV in ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ after a 30-day courtship. Even Lamar’s proposal, usually one of the most private, intimate moments of a couple’s life, was filmed on camera.
Within months, a new spin-off show was created: ‘Khloe & Lamar’.
At first, he loved every minute of his new found celebrity status, throwing himself into photo-shoots, premieres, interviews and parties with all the enthusiasm of Charlie Bucket entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
But then, after a while, he stopped loving it.
Filming was up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for months on end.
‘They want you to be at your wit’s end and tired,’ explained Khloe, ‘I think he (Lamar) thought we could send the cameras away whenever you want, but you can’t.’
No, you can’t. The tap of reality television, and I speak from some experience of this as a former contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, runs even faster when you’re desperate to turn it off.
Lamar, in a frantic attempt to protect his real career as a basketball player, persuaded the LA Lakers to allow the reality show’s cameras to the games and even into the inner sanctum of the dressing room.
It didn’t work. None of it worked.
Viewers watched Lamar grow increasingly stressed as the series progressed, and his game simultaneously deteriorated.
Eventually, in 2012, he was traded against his wishes to Dallas Mavericks.
From that moment, the spiral of self-disintegration continued apace.
He was arrested for DUI, he went to rehab amid rumours of drug abuse, a tape emerged of him apparently admitting infidelity, the couple split, then divorced, Khloe & Lamar was cancelled and his basketball career hit skid row.
Lamar himself seemed utterly bemused by what had happened to him.
‘I don’t do Twitter,’ he protested, ‘I don’t Instagram. I don’t believe in following people around. It just came with it. Me and that girl fell in love.’
Fine words, but utterly disingenuous.
Lamar pursued and embraced his reality TV fame with the kind of ravenous hunger he used to pursue victory and titles on the basketball court.
The problem though is that you have to lay yourself bare to it, warts (sometimes literally…) and all.
There’s no ability to control the beast. Your life is public property, your human qualities and frailities exposed to millions.
Everywhere you go, everyone knows everything about you.
It takes a very advanced degree of narcissism and the hide of a thousand rhinos to deal with that kind of scrutiny.
Lamar, unlike the family he married into, was too sensitive, too vulnerable.
Two months ago, in a dramatic exchange with TMZ, Lamar raged: ‘To everybody that supports me: I’m sorry but the dog has to fight back. Y’all won, y’all beat me down, degraded me, said.. I’m a womanizer, a f**ing drug addict, everything. I probably couldn’t even get f***ing hired by Home Depot right now because of how people look at me.’
If the ‘dog’ had fought back by cleaning himself up, getting match fit and going back to what he’s really good at, then he may have had a chance.
Instead, he’s lying unconscious and critically ill in a Vegas hospital.
Who’s to blame for this shocking descent?
Well, his estranged father Joe Odom has no doubts – it’s the Kardashians.
‘They haven’t been a very good influence on my son,’ he said recently, ‘It’s been the curse of his life. He hasn’t really accomplished anything since he’s been with them.’
Of course, there’s a heavy irony in this statement, coming from an appallingly selfish absentee junkie dad.
But it also contained a wider truth.
The sad, tragic truth about Lamar Odom is that he couldn’t keep up with the Kardashians.
And he should never have tried.”