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Tarnished celebs reinvent themselves in 2011

By Stephanie Goldberg, CNN
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed December 28, 2011
Charlie Sheen aims to put his career back on track with new FX show
Charlie Sheen aims to put his career back on track with new FX show "Anger Management," set to premiere next summer.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • After an apology at the Emmys, Charlie Sheen welcomes 2012 with a clean slate
  • The entertainment industry is always quick to forgive celebrities, publicist says
  • David Arquette rebounded with help from rehab and "Dancing With the Stars" appearance
  • Lindsay Lohan should follow example of Britney Spears, image consultant says

(CNN) -- As fast as Charlie Sheen fell from Hollywood's good graces at the start of 2011, he made his comeback even faster.

Thanks in large part to his public apology at the 63rd Emmy Awards, Sheen will welcome the new year with a clean slate -- and a new TV show slated to premiere next summer.

But it wasn't tiger blood that allowed the self-proclaimed warlock to turn his life around so quickly. It was the magic of celebrity.

The entertainment industry is always quick to forgive celebrities, said Eileen Koch, owner of Eileen Koch and Co. public relations firm in Los Angeles.

Once celebrities own up to their wrongdoings and apologize, Koch said, it's easy for them to get back on track -- often with help from a skilled team of handlers and image consultants.

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Fellow comeback kid David Arquette can attest.

After separating from Courteney Cox in October 2010, and sharing TMI on Howard Stern's Sirius radio show, Arquette checked himself into a live-in rehab facility at the beginning of the year.

In April, the same month "Scream 4" hit theaters, the actor appeared on "The Tonight Show" to celebrate 100 days of sobriety. And with a spot on the 13th season of "Dancing With the Stars," Arquette was back in business.

One reason it's so easy for celebrities to bounce back from scandal or personal issues is because when they hit rock bottom, they're doing it with money and connections to boot, Hollywood image consultant Michael Sands said.

And as nice as disposable income can be during a crisis, their connections shouldn't be discounted.

Arquette wouldn't have rebounded so quickly if he hadn't been in the public eye each week on "Dancing With the Stars," Koch said. With Cox and their daughter, Coco, in the audience supporting him, viewers saw a wonderful family image.

"Even I fell in love with him through that show," she added.

But without a willing client, Koch said, such connections are irrelevant.

Stan Rosenfield, Sheen's ex-publicist, might agree.

Rosenfield resigned in February after representing Sheen for about seven years -- through the actor's dismissal from "Two and a Half Men."

Sheen obviously wasn't cooperative for a while, Koch said, referring to the actor's media outbursts, including a "no-holds-barred" live interview with TMZ in which Sheen ripped into his "Two and a Half Men" bosses and talked about one day sharing his "epic" drug stories with his children.

But once celebrities apologize and man up to what they've done, Koch said, the industry is usually quick to forgive. And when that happens, the fans will follow suit.

Chris Brown has certainly benefited from this cycle as well.

The singer, who pleaded guilty to assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, surprised viewers with a high-energy performance at the MTV Music Video Awards in August.

Koch said it's much easier for a self-destructive celebrity to rebound than it is for someone such as Brown, but "the music industry has forgiven him now. So (his fans) are starting to."

Of course, this year hasn't been all steps in the right direction for Brown. He raised his voice and stormed off the "Good Morning America" set in March after being asked about the Rihanna assault.

By being respectful, apologizing and focusing on his work, Brown has slowly started to rise above his problems, publicists agree.

Brown did what celebrities should do when plagued by scandal -- focus on the work, said Samantha von Sperling, director at Polished Social Image Consultants.

Brown's album "Graffiti," released in 2009, received mostly negative reviews from critics. "F.A.M.E.," however, was met with praise -- debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in March.

Britney Spears was also due for a turnabout this year -- having been on the mend since her public meltdown in 2007.

The pop princess released "Femme Fatale," her sixth chart-topping album, in March. She received the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the VMAs in August. And she confirmed her engagement to her former manager, Jason Trawick, on December 16.

The media was quick to acknowledge Spears' comeback.

In a post about her March appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," the Los Angeles Times said, "Whoever's managing Britney Spears these days is doing a pretty great job."

Koch said, "I love Britney. She didn't do anything wrong. She got sick. People were very mean to her and they shouldn't have been. ... I don't worry about her anymore. She got it together, and she has a strong team behind her."

At that level of celebrity, Koch added, a star's team is everything. "They can block a lot of stress for you. Tell you why you shouldn't pay attention to this or that. ... The average person doesn't have that kind of support."

Now at 30, Spears finally seems to have her life back on track, which von Sperling said makes her a good example for one of 2011's most notorious celebrities: Lindsay Lohan.

But things may be looking up for the tabloid-prone Lohan.

Already on probation for two 2007 drunken-driving convictions, Lohan is required to complete community service after being sentenced in May in the theft of a necklace.

On December 14, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge praised the 25-year-old for complying with her probation requirements.

Moreover, Lohan's Playboy pictorial "is breaking sales records," Hugh Hefner tweeted on December 18.

"(Lohan is) not a diplomat," von Sperling said. "She's a blond bombshell movie star, so a Playboy cover makes sense. ... But she needs to do another film. And for her sake, it better be a good one ... not some bubblegum crap."

Like Spears, von Sperling said Lohan has time on her side.

The industry is less likely to forgive older celebrities, Koch agreed, adding that celebrities should be able to pull it together by their late 20s. And then there's Sheen, she joked.

"Instead of doing a one-man rant directed by nobody," von Sperling said, "(Sheen) should assemble a team of brilliant comedy writers ... pay them their weight in gold and produce a film."

But his FX comedy, "Anger Management," to air in the summer, may be close enough for now.

And while some people call Sheen's "Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour and public outbursts a fiasco, others are dubbing it a genius marketing ploy.

"(Sheen has) had his problems," image consultant Sands said. "But I think he got it right this whole year. He created a great persona and a great character, and I think this was a great act on his part."

Regardless of how people choose to read into Sheen's tumultuous year, it would appear he's on his way back to the top.

"We're all rooting for Charlie," von Sperling said. "Every time we turn on 'Two and a Half Men' I think we miss him. Because, as charming as Ashton Kutcher is, he's not Charlie Sheen."

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