Friday, March 12, 2010
WHEN STARS COLLIDE WITH PEOPLE: GO JUB JUB GO!
“Having a DUI section on your Wikipedia page and serving a few days community service has almost become a right of passage in Hollywood. A badge of honour. Finally made it…”
“In the end, he got the same punishment he would have got if he had run over cattle.”
It’s Monday afternoon. It’s just gone 4pm. Working days are winding down. Things are peaceful. Suddenly, two Mini Coopers come speeding down Mdlalose Street in Protea North, Soweto. Local hip-hop star JubJub and friend Themba Tshabalala are showing off. It’s race time. Fuck everybody else.
One of the Minis speeds up to overtake the other. “Shit!” There’s a car in the oncoming lane. The only way back forces the other Mini off the road. It collides with a group of school kids on the pavement, killing four and seriously injuring two more. It rolls through the grass and lands in a heap on the side of the road.
JubJub – real name Molemo Maarohanye – and co-accused Tshabalala face “four murder charges, two attempted murder charges, one count of reckless and negligent driving and another of driving under the influence of alcohol.”
To make things worse, JubJub’s been accused of calling his insurance company before checking on the students he mowed down, aged between 16 and 19. And get this, he’s even been accused of representing a fake charity on Survivor SA: Santa Carolina AND he owes the Traffic Department almost R5000 for 10 outstanding traffic fines. What a guy! When the police whisked JubJub and Tshabalala away, hundreds of local students skipped class to pelt the van with stones.
South African kwaito superstar Mandoza was involved in a less tragic but much more suspicious-sounding crash on February 14, also involving a Mini Cooper (and a palm tree). Bizarrely, the crash and subsequent investigation led to the arrest of several men linked to an asset fraud and identity theft syndicate – including the super sketchy-sounding alleged owner (and according to some reports, driver) of the Mini Mandoza was found in, bleeding from his head. Luckily, no one was killed... this time.
But on March 1 2008, Felix Thebe and Charles Shabalala weren’t so lucky: It’s 1:00am. Mandoza – real name Mduduzi Tshabalala – drops his wife Mpho off at home and races back along the N1, heading for the Stars of Mzanzi Awards after-party. At 1:23am, Mandoza’s Chrysler slams into the back of a VW Jetta near the 14th Avenue offramp, so hard that passengers Thebe and Shabalala die on the scene.
Accusations of drunk driving fly. Mandoza is found guilty of “culpable homicide.” Mandoza gets off, as long as he pays off Thebe and Shabalala’s families and keeps his nose clean.
Meanwhile, in America, tween stars like Lindsay Lohan, Shia LeBeouf, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie have all been accused of “driving under the influence.” Even little “I see dead people” Haley Joel Osment got in on the act, crashing his 1995 Saturn station wagon (1995?) into a brick mailbox near his house on July 20 2006. He pleaded no contest to “misdemeanor” charges of driving under the influence. Luckily for them, no one was killed and they all got off with suspended sentences (aka probation). Although Hilton did spend 23 days in prison when she violated the terms of her probation.
Of course, there’s Mel Gibson’s famous anti-Semitic 2006 rant after being arrested with an open bottle of tequila on his front seat. There’s Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora’s 2008 arrest, pulled over in his Hummer with his girlfriend and daughter Ava, from his marriage to Heather Locklear, in the car. Ava was released into Locklear’s care. Sambora was NOT charged with child endangerment. And Locklear was pulled over under the influence in 2009. After pleading no contest, charges were dropped against her.
Halle Berry escaped accusations of hit and run in 2000 with a fine and some minor community service. And cooped up in Hawaii, Lost stars Daniel Dae Kim, Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros were all arrested for driving under the influence. Rodriguez and Watros’ characters were later famously killed off in the season two episode “Two for the Road.” Producers claim that it wasn’t punishment and that Anna Lucia (Rodriguez) and Libby (Watros) were always going to die.
The celebrity DUI-without-any-serious-jail-time list’s pretty endless (the DUI Club): Mickey Rourke (on a Vespa), Mike Tyson, Mischa Barton, Nick Nolte, Busta Rhymes, Ty Pennington, Pete Doherty, Eve, Vivica A. Fox, Ray Liotta, Rip Torn, Tracy Morgan, Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar, Three’s Company’s Joyce DeWitt, Yasmine Bleeth etc… Hell, having a DUI section on your Wikipedia page and serving a few days community service has almost become a right of passage in Hollywood. A badge of honour. Finally made it. Still, nobody’s dying. Surely a celebrity’s preferential treatment ceases the minute they kill someone? You’d think.
In August 1987, Matthew Broderick and then girlfriend Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) were on holiday in Northern Ireland when their rented BMW somehow ended up in the wrong lane and collided head on with another vehicle. 30-year-old driver Anna Gallagher and her 63-year-old mother Margaret Doherty died instantly. Broderick was charged with careless driving and fined $175. "In the beginning, I was very angry. Did Matthew get off lightly because of who he was? In the end, he got the same punishment he would have got if he had run over cattle,” said Margaret’s son Martin in 2003.
Then there’s Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil’s tragic 1984 trip to the liquor store that killed his passenger and new buddy, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley. Drunk as fuck, Neil lost control of the car and hit an oncoming vehicle head on (as they all seem to do). The drivers of the other car were seriously injured but Dingley was the only fatality. In total, Neil spent 15 days in prison.
In the end, it's a simple case of preferential treatment. Everyone from Jacob Zuma and Schabir Shaik, to Mandoza and JubJub know it. What are you going to do? The same rules don't apply. That's why they do the crazy things they do. JubJub's crash is particularly tragic. And the most striking thing about the case is his arrogance. His blatant disregard. His meat-headed certainty that the world revolves around him and everyone else is just an expendable extra in his own version of The Truman Show. The difference between murder and culpable homicide. What a guy...