One of the first stories I ever filed for this newspaper was on Fort Myers native, and faded country star, Mindy McCready. It was July 2005; the blond singer was some nine years removed from her biggest hit, the No. 1 smash Guys Do It All the Time.
As was the pattern for great swaths of her life, McCready made local, and national, news not for an artistic achievement but for personal turbulence. She had just enough success to make her failures that much more alluring.
In the case of my feature: a suicide attempt, via drugs and booze cocktail, at the Holiday Inn Harborside Hotel in Indian Rocks Beach. She was with ex-boyfriend Billy McKnight, who was once accused of trying to kill McCready.
We've never stopped talking about McCready: her relationships with actor Dean Cain and pitcher Roger Clemens; arrests for fake OxyContin prescriptions and scuffling with her mom in Fort Myers; a 2010 appearance on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew. She was a gorgeous woman with gobs of talent who gave it all away, a modern train wreck.
And now, eight years after the Indian Rocks Beach incident — and 17 years since she was musically relevant — comes her final, darkest chapter. On Sunday, in Heber Springs, Ark., 37-year-old Malinda Gayle McCready — who had recently given up custody of her two sons, including 10-month-old Zayne — was found dead on her porch, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was fresh out of yet another rehab stint. According to the AP, her boyfriend's dog was found shot beside her.
With McCready, once an 18-year-old Nashville prodigy who had sold 3 million albums, the truth has never been easy. Figuring out her love life and custody battles is exhausting. She fought McKnight for custody of oldest son Zander, now 6, then lost custody of him to her mother, whom she took the boy from in 2011.
But therein lies the reason she dominated watercooler chat long after she made positive musical contributions. She was a hot, raging mess at a time when our celebrity-fueled, 24-hour-TMZ culture kicked into overdrive.
And dark truths be told, there wouldn't be a TMZ if a whole lot of us didn't eat this stuff up. Much like Lindsay Lohan — who also showed shimmering talent then opted for nonstop turmoil — McCready is the very epitome of our modern pop-culture machine.
And if you'll forgive me for sounding cruel: McCready's death is an extra hot topic because we're in a slow news cycle. Everyone is jumping on the story about a faded country singer because, simply, there's not a whole lot of juicy stuff to talk about. As soon as Nicki Minaj berates Mariah Carey on American Idol again, McCready will be old news.
Oh, there might be a few final flares of McCready chatter. Last month, McCready's boyfriend, David Wilson, the father of Zayne, died from a gunshot wound. His death is under investigation. When asked by Dateline if she pulled the trigger, McCready responded: "Oh my God, no. He was my life. We were each other's life." But there will now be much speculation about whether the deaths are related.
McCready's turbulent life was prime gossip bait because there always seemed to be some new twist or low-rent turn. And yet, the irony is that for all the drama, all the headlines, her last act wasn't surprising or shocking at all.
We all saw that one coming.