By Stacy Jenel Smith
Fans watch with a blend of admiration and, yes, morbid fascination as certain members of the celebrity set employ their talents in antics that range from offbeat to downright strange. Who are the most eccentric among the eccentrics?
It's a hotly contested field, but here are today's top 10.
1)You guessed it: Michael Jackson. With his Nov. 17 "Number Ones" album reminding us of why he was, indeed, once the King of Pop, the oft-masked man dubbed Whacko Jacko cannot be eclipsed. The bits just keep on coming -- from his September Neverland Ranch dinner (just $5,000 per couple to get in) to his baby dangling over a hotel balcony, his (and his children's) masks, his hyperbaric oxygen chamber, his exotic animals, and, of course, his face.
Courtney Love keeps ping-ponging between brilliance and crazy behavior. The rock singer/actress currently faces 90 days to a year in jail, charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance, following her arrest this month outside the Los Angeles house of her manager and ex-boyfriend Jim Barber. At 39, she's not showing any signs of maturity tempering her turbulence. Yet, this is the same celebrity who initiated a stock-buying drive to cushion the financial blow of the 9/11 terror attacks before Wall Street reopened in 2001 -- the same woman who has mounted legal challenges over record royalties. But still, she's also the one who showed off her breasts in a transparent top at a charity performance in February, got in trouble for screaming obscenities at a flight attendant, etc., etc.,etc.
3) Nick Nolte. The actor, who loves to wear pajamas in public, has also gone public in discussing such practices as shooting human growth hormone into his stomach -- not to mention telling Bryant Gumbel on the air that he'd had a testicle tuck. He also has tanks of ozone bolted to walls in rooms all over his property because he believes "bad things can't live in it...Gets more oxygen into your plasma. It's all about getting oxygen into your brain." Of course, he also says he's lied to the press throughout his career. When he was arrested by the California Highway Patrol a year ago and charged with driving under the influence, his wild-haired mug shot image was no lie. It was scary.
4) Magician David Blaine, suspended in a perspex box above the south bank of the River Thames in London for more than a month now, reportedly explained to a group gathered beneath his box the other day that his self-imposed starvation "is my way of finding beauty in suffering." He said the stunt had been inspired by his mother's death from ovarian cancer when he was 17: "I watched my mother die a beautiful death as a kid. She was starving, but yet she managed to smile always, and find love through the worst of conditions." Granted, he expected to begin mentally breaking down before his planned release (after 44 days) Oct. 19, but the fact he considers all the above as entertainment is eccentric in itself -- to put it in the nicest way.
5) Christina Aguilera. Often times, outlandish stage makeup and bizarre outfits are a performer's way of hiding the fact that he or she is not attractive. Marilyn Manson comes to mind. It makes sense for him. But there's no explanation for Christina Aguilera, whom nature has gifted with wonderful physical beauty, but who persists in pursuing her garish clownish tramp style, with Tammy Faye Baker makeup and lots 'n' lots of piercings. At 22, the "Stripped" and "Dirrrty" girl seems like a rebellious teen.
6) Gary Busey. That pontificating, dress-donning star of "I'm With Busey" was reportedly among the celebrity pals at Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory party. Be afraid, be very afraid.
7) Lil' Kim. Her clothes. Her forgetting to answer a warrant for her arrest. Her clothes.
8) Anne Heche -- or, as she wrote in her book, on her home planet "I was called Celestia, the reincarnation of God."
9) Nic Cage. He memorably got on an airplane's PA system once and announced that he was the captain and the plane was losing altitude and he wasn't feeling well.
10) Penny Marshall. Plagued by insomnia and agoraphobic impulses, the gifted actress and director admitted, "I hate people watching me eat all the time; that's why I don't go anywhere."