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On the ABC series Nashville, the teen queen supernova Juliette Barnes, whom everyone wants to tag as Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood, shares the same back story as McCready.

10,000 ANGELS AREN'T ENOUGH

Fame, Love, Glory Can’t Beat A High Impact Past for Mindy McCready
A rememberance by Holly Gleason
 
She was pretty, that’s for sure. One more kryptonite blond drawn to the star-making machinery, A moth to a flame. The soprano, a little fluttery, was not the uber-power vocal  throttle made de rigeur by Carrie Underwood, but it cut in a way you paid attention to. That sob under it all was unfiltered raw emotion, even in her most brazen songs.
 
No one made stars like  RCA Nashville chief Joe Galante, especially not back then. The Judds, Alabama, KT Oslin, Ronnie Milsap, emerging Dolly Parton... Mindy McCready, with her centerfold-evoking bod and blond ambition, was gonna be his next one.

Came out of the chute hot, too. “Ten Thousand Angels,” a syrupy Harlequin romance kind of single, went to #6, and “Guys Do It All the Time,” a turnabout-is-fairplay power midtempo, hit #1. Ten Thousand Angels hit double platinum, and the young woman, who’d taken her little brother in in spite of a career that needed tending because their mother was a trainwreck, looked like a sure thing.
 
She sure could attract male attention. Dean Cain, who was Superman on TV’s Lois & Clark, became her fiancée; a Saudi Arabian prince sent his jet for her, producers, managers, hockey players and a slightly less savory beau who would eventually be charged with attempted murder over a domestic disturbance.
 
Not since Tanya Tucker or Tammy Wynette before the original jailbait singer had country music seen a woman who lived her songs from the inside out. Lotta drama. Lotta collapsing. Lotta love, lust, heartbreak. 
 
Lotta dumb kid arrogance, too. Bad decisions, squandered opportunities, high living in every sense of the word. And always a whispered chorus of hangers on and wanna-be-near-the-spotlights offering the entitlement validations, justifications and validations of “not your fault.”
 
A roman candle up, a corkcscrew twisting fast and hard down. But man, could she blaze. Even being busted for forging prescriptions, she’d catch your eye, larger’n’life and ablaze in her peroxide contrition, sniffling and smiling as the moment needed.
 
Desperate for attention, calling out an affair with the married Roger Clemens… when she was 15! Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. In and out of trouble with the law, suicide attempts, kidnapping her son, then revealing to the word she was pregnant…with twins! And on, and on, and on. Exhausting keeping up with her trials (literally) and tribulations; one more bad punch line just around the corner.
 
She was tabloid death waiting to happen.
 
And then she did. Details are pouring out. Everywhere. And then some.

Tawdry. Squalid. Tabloid. White trash. Trailer. Oh, yeah, pile on the pejoratives. And trust me, Mindy McCeady made it easy. Arrests. Forged prescriptions. Abusive boyfriends, including the guy who tried to kill her, then fathered her child. Kidnapping her son. Mental illness. Blah blah blah.
 
And you look at the early promo pictures: sex on the half-shell. Ooooh la la. A young white-headed blonde with a long, thin frame and a come-hither aura. She was  phosphorescent, with a bright smile that was pure innocence and joy. Well, innocence, joy and enough mischief to catch your eye.
 
Because—for all her sexual charge—and men wanted her, her songs were mostly about impaling chauvinism with one of her stilettos. “Guys Do It All Tte Time,” “A Girl’s Gotta Do (What A Girl’s Gotta Do)” and the later single “Maybe (Maybe Not),” all celebrating jettisoning gender expectations to kick up your heels, live on your own terms and not accepting what you’re handed.
 
But when you’re high maintenance… When you’re raised hustling karaoke bars and keeping company with married baseball players, a good sense of perspective isn’t the first thing you learn… Scared and desperate, you run after anything that sparkles and seems like the next big deal.
 
People tell you how awesome you are, feed your imploded self-esteem and instill an entitlement that’s delusional. “Of course, you’re the best…,” “You’re a HUGE star…” and my favorite “You deserve this…”
 
When it works, those people are right. When it doesn’t, eventually they abandon you and move on to faster horses. No matter how far you slide, there will always be a lower-feeder happy to whisper those same words, feed those same fears and surf the access whatever celebrity you have left may offer.
 
It’s a Ponzi game of proximity. Then as the slide begins, we blame the victim, pour gas on the burning bridge and don’t look back. And hey, dealing with people who have a sense of grandiosity or mental illness is tricky; more so because of the sycophants, who will dig a trench and poison their meal ticket.
 
And when you grow up not being able to trust your family, how do you learn how to trust? Where do you pick up those lessons in a business that feeds on narcissism, vanity and greed?
 
Yet you believe because you want that dream so hard, the thing that will deliver you from too many bad nights, shitty deals and low-class men who’d use you. No one’s talking about the manager who signed the kid from Florida to a usurious contract, made her work as a secretary in his office, ultimately forcing her to declare bankruptcy as her career was taking off to extricate herself…
 
It starts early. And those people undermine whatever core reality there is. That guy isn’t alone. There were plenty of men who slept with the impressionable young woman, fed her the lines, then got bored and walked away. That gashes away at your soul, makes you think love is dangerous, toxic.
 
It had a hand in killing Anna Nicole Smith. All those people beguiled by her beauty, wanting to take advantage of the life and glamour it provides. Not doing the right thing, but whatever advances their cause. Always pimping into a bad deal to have money to fuel the lifestyle, making the artist think it’s the only way.
 
Anna Nicole died; her body just gave out. Elvis, Michael Jackson, too.
 
On the ABC series Nashville, the teen queen supernova Juliette Barnes, whom everyone wants to tag as Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood, shares the same back story as McCready, a girl whose brother moves in with her to remove him from his chaotic home life in Florida.
 
The difference: Barnes’ success was meaningful, not a few hits and some fame. And Barnes got hard as nails, shrieking at people, brooding and flexing her rage at how unfair it is, recognizing that she wanted more than be some packaged princess for little girls to get their childhood onto.
 
McCready, for all the dubious choices, high-risk romances and squanderd opportunities, never got hard. No, she kept believing, kept taking the emotional batterings of being a punchline and bounced back. Like Tammy Wynette, who sang “I Believe in Fairy Tales” and “Til I Can Make It on My Own,” as well as “Stand By Your Man,” was always looking for Prince Charming and believing in the best in people.
 
But for McCready, the doing what she had to do was pretty godawful. Not just the stint on Celebrity Rehab, where America saw a child-like woman almost too naïve to be believed, coping with all sorts of addiction, but there was “Mindy McCready: Baseball Mistress,” the Vivid Video someone thought was a good idea.
 
When she was arrested for kidnapping her own son, her maternal instinct was in full-rut. When her paramour and father of her nine-month old died, she was beyond comfort with grief. 
 
Calling David Williams her “soul mate,” perhaps she lost her anchor. When the authorities took her children, she lost her reason to live. Everything she loved was gone, taken from her, what could she possibly hope for? Or believe in?
 
Beyond the obvious issues with how mental illness defies rational people’s thinking, it requires massive amounts of patience and compassion. Beyond the tangled thinking, the afflicted need that sense of there’s a reason. Through the delusions, the warped thinking, something has to reach through and make the person believe, “You matter.”
 
In addition to addiction, which is so much easier and pop culturally sound to blame, mental illness is a shadowy place of self-absorption you can’t just hit bottom and crawl out of or decide to break the chemical bonds. It’s not free will or snapping out of it. It’s a steep precipice, and you can’t see it, but they can… And it’s often too much for them.
 
It takes real faith to reach someone in that state, and trust. For them to reach out, hold your hand and believe it will be solid, that you will be there. I know: when I was 15, I had a hardship driver’s license to be “the control patient” when my father was in a lockdown ward. Someone to come in and tell the stories of how whatever had happened had happened.
 
And there is no more haunting sound then the doors of a lockdown ward clanging shut, then power locking behind you. Maybe prison; I’ve never been there. But this is its own kind of incarceration, one where even logic can be elusive.
 
John Gleason knew I was fighting for him to get better.  He knew he was loved. He had a partner in getting there. And he did. But he had a genius IQ, the strongest Catholic faith I’ve ever witnessed and a child he was impossibly over-invested in.
 
McCready might not have had that. Certainly not in the formative years, or during much of her “Mindy’s running amuck” time as a music industry-supernova. The night the news broke, I found myself on a five-way text conversation with a labelmate of hers, a manager I respect, a couple promo people. The things that the radio guys said reflected their frustration with the ungrateful girl who couldn’t man up and be a professional.
 
And so it is people slip through the cracks.
 
We, as a culture, build them up to tear them down. Make people more than they as humans can be, and then are angry when they’re mortal. Or worse, make ourselves feel big by laughing at the outlandish behavior we’ve fed.
 
Is there an answer? I don’t know.
 
Is there a way things can be different? Hard to say, since we’re all given the family hand we’re dealt, our friends based on where we live. Joe Galante, her label head, and Stan Moress, her manager during those years, are good men who genuinely cared. They can’t do it all, and they can’t control the people who work under them and so it goes.
 
I used to think suicide is the most selfish act. Took the high road of “how dare they?” But over time, I’ve come to realize we can’t know someone else’s inner torment or the circumstances they’re grappling with. Even what kinds of things are said to them by their intimates when no one is around.
 
It’s an echo chamber of damnation, vexation, recrimination. Sometimes, there’s no other way to escape. We can’t know. We just can’t know. And that’s the bitch of it. Two small children without a mother, the baby having just lost both parents, and they did nothing wrong.
 
So it begins, so it continues. To break those chains is hard, to keep the faith harder. Factor in addiction, mental illness, the need for fame to feel like you matter... Well, how much of that does the business have to shoulder?
 
That’s where this discussion—beyond remembering the vibrance that drew trouble to her like filings to a magnet—should really start. Because she didn’t know to demand, she had to be taught. Just like she didn’t learn to cower until the damage was done. Nor did she have the swelled head until she learned her beauty gave her license.
 
I’m lucky. I got the 158 IQ and none of my parent’s issues. When it was dire, I learned his faith and I believed in God. I can’t tell you how many times I’d look up, saying to God, “I just can’t…” with tears running down my face, knowing I didn’t have a choice.
 
And so I did. I thought about it once. Put my car in the oncoming lane at 60 miles per hour, heading for a semi on Military Trail because life in Florida as a high school kid with a father in quicksand was too much. I couldn’t cope, I had no help, I wanted it to stop.
 
What stopped me was seeing the face of the trucker coming at me. Being a writer even then, what if he had a family he loved? Children to raise? Elderly parents to care for? It all flashed in less than a second, just like the terror on his face.
 
I swerved back into my lane, and pulled onto the grass shoulder sobbing.
 
He kept going. I was glad. I couldn’t have looked him in the eye after that.
 
When I told my father’s therapist that night, he wrote me off. I got the message loud and clear: “Don’t be a problem.. No one cares. Shut up and make it work.” And so I did.
 
That’s what Mindy McCready most likely was trying to do. Unfortunately, she ran out of notions to draw on, and she just couldn’t do it any more. When she was coming up, if someone had taught her how, maybe things would be different. But they didn’t, so here we are.
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