Today marks the twentieth anniversary for the shooting death of twenty-three-year-old Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, “The Queen of Tejano.” A biopic about the musician was released two years later, Gregory Nava’s Selena (1997), starring Jennifer Lopez. Film critic Roger Ebert described Lopez’s performance as “star-making.”
Selena was murdered by then thirty-four-year-old Yolanda Saldívar, the president of her fan club. Selena’s family fired Saldívar from the club when they discovered that she was embezzling money, and Saldívar gunned Selena down when the songstress went to collect financial records from her at a motel in Texas, two weeks away from her twenty-fourth birthday and two months away from the release of her first English-language album. Saldívar will not be eligible for parole until March 30, 2025.
Selena is but one of many victims of fan-on-artist violence. At twenty-five years old, Beatles fanatic Mark David Chapman killed the band’s forty-year-old front man, John Lennon, in front of his wife, Yoko Ono, on December 8, 1980, outside of their Manhattan apartment; Lennon was on his way home to tuck his five-year-old son, Sean, into bed for the night. John Hinckley, Junior, was twenty-five years old when he attempted to assassinate former President Ronald Reagan thirty-four years ago yesterday in Washington, D.C., stemming from a fixation on Jodie Foster’s child prostitute character in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), with Hinckley going so far as to stalk and harass the two-time Academy Award-winning actress while she was studying at Yale University; on July 18, 1989, nineteen-year-old Robert John Bardo shot and killed twenty-one-year-old model and television and film actress, Rebecca Schaeffer, in the doorway to her West Hollywood apartment, after stalking her for years.
Chapman, Hinckley, and Bardo have all cited the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger as an inspiration for their respective crimes, a book which has literally nothing to do with shooting celebrities. One would think that talent and wealth are what dreams are made of, making beautiful things for a living. Tragically, art finds itself twisted by warped minds, and fame invites dangerous strangers into your life.
Speaking of The Beatles, convicted serial killer Charles Manson believes himself to be a prophet who interpreted their pre-heavy metal rock-and-roll song, “Helter Skelter,” as a blueprint for an apocalyptic race war (after which, he would reign king), with Manson’s “family” of hippie runaways trying to trigger the event in 1969 by murdering rich, white people in their homes in California, including acclaimed director Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, movie star Sharon Tate – all this coming from a BEATLES song, you know, the band that recorded “All You Need Is Love.” James Eagan Holmes identified himself to police as Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning character, The Joker, from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008), after he opened fire on a crowded midnight premiere of Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado in 2012. A thirteen-year-old and twelve-year-old girl stabbed their friend nineteen times in Wisconsin last year in an attempt to appease the Internet meme “Slender Man.”
I tend to agree with Marilyn Manson in his 1999 essay, “Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?,” published by Rolling Stone when the mainstream media was blaming the shock rocker and his music for the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. Manson writes, “Times have not become more violent – they have just become more televised,” reminding readers that Cain did not need movies or books or music or video games when he bludgeoned his own brother, Abel, to death (whether you interpret the Bible literally or not is entirely up to you; somebody wrote it, centuries ago, someone cynical enough, even then, to come up with this grim portrait for the first generation of man). Human nature is simply predisposed toward violence; we are descended from neanderthals, after all, and we’re endowed with teeth and fingernails and survival instincts that have allowed us to evolve from hairless jungle dwellers into what we are today – out of the dozens of Batman fans in that movie theater in Aurora, only one of them started shooting.
Rest in peace, Selena. In a world so full of ugliness, it’s people like you who make life worth living.