Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute. He is a professor of Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, and Contracts at the National Paralegal College, a counselor at the American College of Education, and a founding board member of Salt and Light Global. Washington is a co-host of "Joshua's Trial," a radio show of Christian conservative thought. A graduate of JohnMore ↓Less ↑
In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.
~ II Samuel 14:25-26
Case No. 1: Annie Mae (circa 1972)
Thirty-five years ago, Annie Mae was the legendary beauty at our local elementary school in Detroit, Mich. Like presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, Annie Mae was from a mixed-race background – her father was black and her mother white (German). She had long, dark brown curly hair that went past the middle of her back; her big, beguiling light brown eyes captivated all who gazed upon them. Her mother always put a lovely bow in her hair. She looked like an exquisite doll in a curio cabinet that you would never touch, but only admired from afar.
We went to different middle and high schools and I lost touch with her. Ten years later, after college, I found out from an old friend that Annie Mae was caught up in the gang life, had a baby and dropped out of school. I was devastated to hear the news.
The mid-1970s saw the ascendancy of organized gangs – the Errol Flynns, The BKs (Black Killers) and the Scony Onyes, among many other black youth gangs that terrorized the community with violence and mayhem.
Gone were the long, curly locks of thick, beautiful black hair, that captivating smile, that sweet high-pitched voice, the twinkle in her big, light brown eyes, and that lovely bow her mother put in her hair every day that she came to school. All gone! The curse of beauty.
Case No. 2: Marilyn Monroe (circa 1960)
Perhaps the most lionized beauty in American history was Marilyn Monroe. In the early 1950s, she became one of Blue Book’s most well-known models, appearing on dozens of magazine covers. Her first screen test was with 20th Century Fox for a starting salary of $125 per week. In December 1953, she appeared in the first edition of Playboy.
After a storied movie career, Monroe was found dead at her Los Angeles home by Eunice Murray, her housekeeper, on Aug. 5, 1962. She was only 36 years old. The coroner ruled her death as an overdose of Nembutal, a sleeping pill. Nevertheless, questions of foul play regarding her death refuse to allow Marilyn to rest in peace. The most well-known conspiracy resurfaced in 2006 in FBI-released documents that implicated John and Robert Kennedy as having had a cause in her demise. The curse of beauty.
Case No. 3: Anna Nicole Smith (circa 2005)
Born Vickie Lynn Marshall Nov. 28, 1967, she was known to most people by her stage name, Anna Nicole Smith, an American model, actress and celebrity. She caused great public controversy by her marriage to oil business executive and billionaire J. Howard Marshall, who was 63 years her senior, which caused most people to openly speculate that the marriage was a sham pretense in order to get the old man’s money, which she denied. However, after his death, Anna Nicole began a long and acrimonious legal battle over a share of his estate with Mr. Marshall’s children. The case Marshall v. Marshall, because of a question of federal jurisdiction, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite her meteoric rise to fame, fortune and celebrity, Anna Nicole did not have a storied life in her early years. Born and raised in a small Texas town, Smith dropped out of high school and first married at the age of 17. In the early 1990s, she gained notoriety by posing for Playboy, becoming the 1992 Playmate of the Year. Next, Guess jeans came calling and she modeled for that famous clothing company. The TV people recruited Anna Nicole and offered her own reality TV show, “The Anna Nicole Show.” Next, death came knocking at her door twice – first was the controversial death of her son, Daniel Smith, while on vacation in the Bahamas.
As the news media were transfixed on the death of her son, next the grim reaper came for Anna herself on Feb. 8, 2007, in room 607 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fa. The ignominious end came at age 39, just three years older than her idol and role model, Marilyn Monroe, at the time she mysteriously died. The official coroner’s report cited death by drug overdose. Until this day, her mother, her “husband,” lawyer Howard K. Stern, and Anna’s baby daughter’s father, Larry Birkhead, are fighting over custody and Anna’s fortune in courtroom battles for the world to see in Florida, in California, in the Bahamas … and in future places of infamy. One writer summarizing Anna Nicole’s circus life said, “She was entropy porn at its finest.” The curse of beauty.
Case No. 4: Absalom (circa 1000 B.C.)
Absalom, that tragic, Promethean Old Testament figure and favorite son of Israel’s greatest king, David, was the most legendary beauty of the four people I narrate here. How was Absalom cursed by beauty? Like Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole, he was beautiful on the outside, but very ugly on the inside. He foolishly believed his press reports and what others said about him – and not God – that he was not only beautiful but intelligent beyond everyone, and thus entitled to whatever his heart lusted after, including his father’s kingdom.
After a time Absalom achieved his coup d’etat and had his father on the run in the wilderness of Judea. However, while he was riding his mule, the story takes a dramatic and unexpected turn. The biblical narrative reads:
And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.
The irony here is irresistible – the long, thick, beautiful, gorgeous hair of which the Bible states when cut annually weighed 4 lbs, the legendary beauty that made Absalom the Adonis of Israel, was the very thing that led to his demise, for while hanging there precariously between heaven and earth by his hair, Joab, the impetuous and equally ambitious general of the army of Israel, happened upon the ruthless king and immediately killed him with several darts through his heart. Joab then unceremoniously threw Absalom’s mutilated dead body under a pile of rocks like a dog.
One of the great theologians, Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, wrote of Satan, but can be equally said of Absalom, “He rose in pride and fell in despair.” The curse of beauty.
What is the curse of beauty? It is believing what others say about more than what God says about you. It is the difference between fact and truth. Facts (“Paris, you are so beautiful”; “Hillary, you deserve to be president of the U.S.”) clouds ones judgment, leading to a perversion of the truth and distortion of judgment, which leads to foolish and self-destructive life choices, which leads down the rose-covered, star-studded road to Hollywood (I’m sorry, dear reader) … I mean to Perdition.