Bad boy Bieber’s celebrity affluenza takes a turn for the worse
At what point does youthful mischief turn to dangerous behaviour, and has Justin Bieber crossed that line?
On bail: Justin Bieber waves to fans as he leaves jail in Miami after being released on bail. Photograph: Andrew Innerarity/Reuters
Justin Bieber has been on a North American tour of police arrests and criminal charges. In Los Angeles, where the 19-year-old Canadian singing sensation is based, he is under investigation in a felony vandalism case after allegedly causing thousands of dollars of damage to a neighbour’s house.
In Miami two weeks ago Bieber was charged with resisting arrest and driving on an expired licence after being pulled up for apparently illegally drag-racing in the early hours of the morning following a visit to a nightclub.
The arresting officers say Bieber told them he had taken prescription medicine, smoked marijuana and consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel of the car. Court records show he is pleading not guilty to the charges. If convicted he could face a six-month prison sentence.
This week the teen heart-throb handed himself into Toronto police to be charged with assaulting a limousine driver last December. The charge is that he struck the driver on the back of the head several times as he was being ferried from a nightclub to his hotel. Bieber’s lawyer says he is innocent of the charges.
His behaviour last year seemed like a warm-up for this year’s arrests and legal difficulties. A disastrous UK tour saw him arriving on stage two hours late (excusable perhaps if you’re a hairy rocker, but not when you’re keeping eight-year- old fans waiting). At some shows he had to be treated by medical staff for “breathing problems”, and he was caught on video in London lunging at a paparazzo while screaming, “I’ll f**king beat the f**k out of you.”
When he arrived in Germany his pet monkey was seized by customs because Bieber did not have the proper paperwork. The last pop star who travelled with a pet monkey was Michael Jackson.
But last year Bieber was “growing up in public”: behaving the way any privileged 19-year-old kid does at that age. This year is very different. The head of Universal Records (the label that pumped money into him and made him a global superstar), Lucian Grainge, broke company protocol when he said this week: “I’m very concerned about him. I’ve been concerned for many months. He needs help. He needs an intervention. We are going to give all the support as a company to take as much pressure off him.”
Grainge is a very well-respected industry figure, and it is believed that his public call for intervention can be traced back to the heartbreak he suffered while doing all he could to help another Universal act, Amy Winehouse, with her drink and drug issues.