Once upon a time in the eighties I was over a friend’s pool lounging in the sun and listening to an Eddie Murphy comedy album. Why? Well, this friend of mine had just worked on an Eddie Murphy movie and they had enough of a love-hate relationship that he had an advance copy and we figured, why not? Then I heard it – the joke.
I don’t know whether to repeat the joke because that gives it more credence. So I’ll paraphrase. Mr. Murphy was on a comic roll and mentioned AIDS and how scary it was at the time. Then he made this off-handed remark about not dropping your wallet in a gay neighborhood for fear that you’d have to bend over, pick it up, risk getting AIDS and basically dying.
I didn’t find the joke funny at all then and find it even less so now. Especially since the friend whose pool I was lounging around at the time is now dead of AIDS and has been for, oh, about 15 years. And Mr. Murphy, who I don’t know but somehow still resent, seems to be flourishing.
Eddie Murphy was announced as the host of this year’s Oscars and for the first time in, oh, 40 years, I doubt I’ll be watching.
Is this a hissy fit, or just typical Scorpio behavior (my astrological sign being the one that you supposedly never want to cross for fear of retribution), or an honest reaction. Or all three? I’m not sure. I mean, life isn’t fair. People get sick and die. And the nature of comedy is that you have to put yourself on the edge and joke about things that a segment of people will in no way, shape or form feel is funny.
Nevertheless, I can tell you that I hadn’t seen an Eddie Murphy movie in more than 20 years (ask all of my friends) until “Dreamgirls,” which was directed by an openly gay writer-director and, as a film adaptation of an iconic musical, seemed gay enough in my mind to make an exception. Not only that, but I actually leave the room whenever he or one of his films is on television. And I avert my eyes whenever the coming attractions for his movies appear at my local theatre.
Meaning, I can’t stand the sight or sound of Mr. Murphy doing comedy. Perhaps I’m the only one. At the very least, I must be in the minority.
But I know a long line of women who do this with Woody Allen movies ever since he married his longtime girlfriend Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter. I understand their anger but don’t have the same reaction. Is that cause I’m insensitive to anyone’s plight but my own or a typical double standard-bearing man? Or is it because we all have our own issues? Probably the latter. But again, I’m not sure.
What I do know is that the Motion Picture Academy could do better for a night of movie celebration. But ask producer/director Brett Ratner to co-executive produce and you wind up with the star of one of his upcoming holiday films (whose name I won’t plug) hosting the show. It reminds me of the time I was in a charity committee meeting years ago when a very high level gay Hollywood lawyer wanted to get his then client, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to be keynote speaker at a huge L.A. gay fundraiser event. This was not long after Mr. Murphy’s AIDS joke and right after Ah-nold (then years away from Governator) had publicly endorsed any number of top politicians of the day who were outwardly unsupportive and downright anti all of this group’s issues. But he personally likes gay people, the attorney argued.
Well, this guy and I did get into a bit of a row when I called his client a snide (but not dirty) name and this lawyer scolded me for being “very unfair” to his client. For the record, I stated I was actually being quite fair because the last thing this lawyer really wanted to do at the time was put said client in a room full of lesbians and gay men who, most everyone else in that room agreed, would feel no compunction at biting his head off or booing him off the podium for his public support of the very politicians (and in turn laws) their organization were fighting to circumvent.
Was this a missed opportunity? Perhaps. But nearly two decades and many fighting-for-civil-rights years later, I don’t think so. Still, Pres. Obama preaches bi-partisanship and reaching out to the other side. Building bridges. And since that’s obviously working for him, well then, I guess perhaps I could have been wrong.
Yes, that’s a bit petty and cynical but that’s why he’s the president and I’m a mere blogger and not Martin Luther
But back to Eddie Murphy and the Oscars. Do we have to? Oh yes, I think so.
My arguments are admittedly personal. But FYI, others that younger people have voiced to me in person and online about Mr. Murphy’s Oscar hire are: “uh, what a great choice – for 1985.” Or – “are there going be fart jokes?” Or – “huh, what was the last good movie he was even in?” I prefer the latter argument because it would have me believe more than a few of you in the upcoming generation believe Oscar night should still be about film quality and that does give me (or us?) hope. In fairness though, those same people have said things like, “Bring Back Whoopi,” and when I try to think of the last good film she was in, my mind goes blank. Though I do remember her famous Oscar line when she hosted one year and, looking at the array of young women so impossibly perfect-looking who were modeling that year’s costume designs, quipped to us all at home – “Don’t they ever smile?” So there is that.
But obviously Mr. Ratner and folks want some new blood and, after the debacle of trying to “hip it up” with James Franco and Anne Hathaway last year to somewhat disastrous results, they’re going with a film comedian whose movies, they tell you, have grossed $7 billion worldwide (HOW is this possible??). In the end, I guess you have to bow to and accept and even love the overriding rule of show business and all industries (and in fact, the world) – survival of the fittest. This is not necessarily the same as what you, the audience member, blogger or pundit see as those who are the most deserving. Which is why boycotts, hissy fits and any combination thereof actually do matter. It’s irrelevant if you’re Martin Luther Queen or well, Ellen (who has also hosted the Oscars). The only way to get your voice heard and have any effect at all (even for the next time and because you never know who is listening, or is listening and will tell someone who is listening) is to voice it. And loudly. Yes, I’m talking to you Motion Picture Academy — In honor of my then poolside friend Rafe who very much loved the Oscars, the movies and pretty much all of the business.
No, it’s not fair to play on your sympathies, but as they say on the battlefield, “by any means necessary.” I suppose that’s one way those who will be judged the fittest among us, will survive. By any stretch of the imagination, Mr. Murphy is a survivor, and a damned resilient one at it. But he’s not the only one. Is he?