The Way We Are

When you love someone, from Roosevelt to me, you go deaf, dumb and blind.

That’s a line from one of the great Hollywood love stories – the 1973 Barbra Streisand-Robert Redford film, The Way We Were.

It is said by the very blonde, flawed and handsome Hollywood screenwriter Hubbell Gardner to his much more passionate and intelligent wife, the unabashedly ethnic Katie Morofsky, as a roundabout admission that he’s cheated on her.

The reveal of his sexual antics was bad enough after years of her unwavering belief in him. But what made it worse was what it represented – the latest of a long string of lies that undeniably proved the person she knew all these years was not a person at all. He was merely a mirage she created for herself.

A mirage… with insanely good hair

The real guy, in fact, was someone much harsher and uglier – someone indifferent to all sorts of immorality in not only others but in himself. Someone she did not really know at all.

In light of that —

Here’s a partial list of recently exposed, accused and extreme sexual predators in the entertainment industry with multiple victims and/or accusers:

Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Brett Ratner, Jeremy Piven, Ed Westwick, Steven Seagal, Louis C.K. and producer-writer Gary Goddard. 

Yes, I’ve limited the group to the most RECENT and the most FAMOUS. Certainly, there are more. A lot more. And a lot more to come.

I need a drink… or 12

Here’s a similar list in politics:

Electoral College POTUS Donald J. Trump, Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, Fox’s recently deposed Bill O’Reilly and Fox’s recently deceased leader Roger Ailes, journalist and former MSNBC commentator Mark (Game Change) Halperin, famed New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and former NY Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Note: I’ve also left out former POTUS George H.W. Bush from the list because he’s 93, wheelchair bound and his accusers have so far limited his violations to recent ass-grabbing and sexual innuendo from his wheelchair.

Uh, yeah, this IS where we ARE at the moment.

#SAD

The Way We Were screenwriter Arthur Laurents was writing about Hollywood and the glittery protective wall that shields many of its most lauded inhabitants all those many years ago. This was long before I got here. As did people who came before him like F. Scott Fitzgerald. And so on and as far back as the industry existed.

Yet here I sit, a writer with nowhere near their credits, about to say what they and others described, a lot more directly.

Be careful about whom you admire and be careful before you agree to meet them. If they are in the handful of the top three or five you most admire they can’t help but disappoint you – and sometimes most grandly. Because what any of us admire in a public figure in any field is not about WHO they are but what they’ve ACHIEVED in their individual fields.

Many of us, including myself at times, like to say one’s achievements are a part of them – like kindness, a great sense of humor or looks. Sadly, that’s a lie.

Talent, a mastery of a subject and glaringly high-level success, is a marker of work not personality traits. Most certainly, they are not markers of a great person, a bad person or even, in the end, a mere average person. They are outward achievements that vault an individual into the public eye and provide those old-fashioned values like fame and fortune.

But they say little to NOTHING about who that INDIVIDUAL really is at his or her core – or whether they are even a guy or gal you’d choose to hang out with, much less call a friend, role model or even object of adoration.

What they only are is produce – from that person.

Living in the ruins

Certainly, this is confusing and downright un-American. Not to mention, it’s disheartening as far as popular culture is concerned. This is why I don’t tell my students about the evening I spent in the eighties with one of THE greatest and most famous artists of the 20th century. Or a work experience I had years later with one of THE great music stars of the last five decades. Or the several months in which I was paired with that renowned and supposedly sensitive writer-director-producer some time after that on some other project that will go unmentioned.

Disasters, all of them, and not because I wasn’t trying. Yet each was horribly disappointing (if not horrifying) in their own way and to this day I still can’t understand how three so brilliantly talented individuals whose work I admired that much could be so downright……ugh…well, I’ll let you fill in the blank.

Remember this formula! #keepexpectationslow

Which then left me with a small but personal dilemma I suspect many of us are going through at the moment with the above names and those I left out. How do we look at their work now? Do we boycott them for political and/or personal reasons? What is the line for boycott – accusations, convictions, suspicion, personal opinion or just a general mass zeitgeist feeling?

Well this was a bad idea from the start…

If you eschew one of them do you eschew them all?

How long do they have to be in the doghouse? For life? Maybe so. Especially for the most egregious.

But is there any room for reparations among the lesser crimes? Or can any of these crimes even be lesser? And how much do apologies really mean?

Certain apologies are enough to get you that Iron Man money

Also – Do we get special dispensation for the ONE artist whose work has helped us through hard times or served as a creative guide for our entire professional lives??? Why not? Or…why???

This is easy for me given the present list of all of the newest offenders mentioned above. I can easily live without their work. And for that matter, I still don’t understand why Hollywood has forgiven the sexual abuse and anti-Semitic rantings of Mel Gibson not that many years ago — so much so that they cast him in the current Paramount mainstream comedy Daddy’s Home 2??? Though perhaps that’s punishment in itself.

What she said. #flopflopflop

On the other hand, I still watch Woody Allen movies and have gone to see numerous films Roman Polanski has directed. One of these guys has been accused by his daughter of childhood sexual abuse and the other fled this country in the 1970s for giving drugs and alcohol to a 13 year old and having sex with her.

So yeah, there’s all of that for me to NOT be proud of. In fact, the complicity feels even worse when I write it and read it over. Though I fear if I only watched the work of people in the industry who I knew and morally approved of, it’d either be a very short list or I’d keel over in boredom. Maybe both.

I swear if there is a Tom Hanks scandal I will scream #teamRita

This is not to say there are not all kinds of cool, moral, wonderful and faaaabulously talented artists I’ve both met personally and have yet to meet that are at the top of their games creatively and who never cease to bore you – or me. And plenty enough of the opposite to bypass.

It’s only to admit that we now live in an age where the behavior of artists will be inexorably linked to their art – which will in turn determine how, where and by how many people it will be consumed.

Well, that should be interesting. Or not.

Soft Cell – “Tainted Love”

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Because We Can?

Definitely not kosher.

Definitely not kosher.

There’s a famous scene in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives where the brilliant Judy Davis plays Sally, a recent divorcee who terrorizes the unlucky new guy she is about to leave with on their first date when he tries to reassure her that not all men are, essentially, cads.

Davis, sneering with the authority of a jilted Medea, turns sharply to him and, after a long scary moment, ferociously roars: Don’t defend your sex!  It’s true!

Judy Davis is not in the house tonight (which is too bad for so many reasons), but I couldn’t help feel those words reverberating in my head many times almost every time I came across a news story this week.  If you’re an adult male of, well, any age, it’s pretty hard to stick up for the peanut gallery of ass hats who have been making it so much more difficult for all of the rest of us deeply flawed males in the world to hold our heads – well – not even high, just upright.

Who knew of these three Spitzer would come out smelling like roses?

Who knew of these three Spitzer would come out smelling like roses?

1. NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner and his serial sexting.  Oy.

2. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and his serial gropings (not to mention female headlocks). Oy vey.

And even:

3. Fox “newscaster” Geraldo Rivera posting a shirtless (naked?) photo of himself on Twitter declaring:  “70 is the new 50.”   Oy, no.

This should help get Geraldo out of your head.

This should help get Geraldo out of your head.

This is not to even mention in the last several weeks:

4. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signing a bill that REQUIRES all women seeking to terminate a pregnancy to undergo a mandatory ultrasound in order to bond with the fetus and potentially save it.

5. Texas Governor Rick Perry and his mostly male cohorts in the state legislature passing a law that will not only close 37 of the state’s 42 women’s health clinics but will also require all females to get their doctor’s approval before being allowed to obtain full doses of the morning after pill.

And even:

6. Virginia Attorney General (and current gubernatorial candidate) Ken Cuccinelli desperately trying to resurrect an old edict that outlaws sodomy, oral sex and just about any other kind of sex aside from the missionary position (could I make this up?) in the state.  Note: Certainly this is not so much anti-female as anti- human, not to mention what it will do to tourism, but it bears inclusion nevertheless.

They might want to reconsider motto.

They might want to reconsider this motto.

WHAT.     IS.       GOING.       ON????????????????????

Okay, so I’ve taken a survey and this is what I’ve come up with:

A. The intellectuals reason that this is the final expected retro grasp of the white male heterosexual patriarchy trying to expel its last burst of ever-dwindling authority over the rest of us.

My reaction:  Too glib.

B. The liberals blame Weiner and Filner for being idiots and blame the rest of this stuff on bigoted, hypocritical Republicans who want to require all of us to go to the Church of their choosing and re-institute school prayer (and Ayn Rand), as we await the Rapture.

My reaction: Too easy, not to mention impractical. 

C. And finally – The women I know, ALL of the women I know (which is many because, after all, I am a homosexual) are just plain disgusted.

My reaction: The correct response.

Though they are thinking about bringing back castration.

My reaction to that:  Uh, sorry ladies – the wrong response!!  

But still  —  who could blame them????

You should be sweating!

You should be sweating!

I haven’t seen such a motley group of guys since high school gym class – a class I, granted, did not attend much but one in which I was able to observe behavior on most days I was in attendance because I did little other than observe while I was there.

Weiner: I’m not gonna say he’s a dick because that’s too easy.  What I will say is that in the first go ‘round I didn’t understand why everyone was making such a fuss about a guy who liked to send naked pictures of himself to women who showed some interest, and occasionally pleasured himself over it when his wife was away.  I cared more about how he did his job, not what he did in bed (or out of it, or even standing up).  Also, like most native New Yorkers I began to resent the outcry from the morality police in the rest of the country (as if they’ve never done anything tawdry – and if they haven’t they certainly couldn’t relate to most of the rest of us), so I decided I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and show my support out of sheer Big Apple spite.

Field day is putting it mildly.

Field day is putting it mildly.

However, there comes a time – hard as it is for me, a Scorpio, to admit – that even spitefulness has to give way to common sense.  Suddenly, we now get online pix of the Full Monty Weiner.  Then we’re treated to a spinning press conference where his highly intelligent spouse, Huma Abedin, does a millennial generation version of Hillary Clinton standing by her man as she bares the details of her personal life to the world in an attempt to defend a flawed guy she happens to love who clearly and very desperately wants to remain in the politically relevant limelight.

Okay.  But then, just when you thought it was over, there are more naked Wieners revealed, as well as rolling admissions by the candidate of there being “6-10 women” he’s met online as recently as six months ago, though he can’t be sure of the actual number since behavior that is immoral is a matter of personal opinion – the implication being his opinion is that he has done nothing else wrong with #’s 11, 12, 13 or more….

It wasn't me, it was Carlos Danger!

It wasn’t me, it was Carlos Danger!

Yuk.  I think I need a shower.  Don’t you?  Not because I give an Instagram about whether Mr. Weiner is, indeed, a large tool but because he has become an impossible public figure to govern what is perhaps the most important and complicated city in the country – primarily at his own hands (pun intended, sorry).

Addendum:  Recently, I was shocked to learn that Mr. Weiner was 6’5”.  As a Jewish guy from New York, I’d always assumed he was closer to around, say, 5’7”.  My height.  It just goes to show what I’ve always secretly hoped – bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better – especially when it has to do with wieners.

Filner: Any 70 year-old man who has, with the women he employs, chosen to:

  1. Put them in headlocks
  2. Grope their asses
  3. Asked them to come to work not wearing underwear
  4. Forced them to hug him, kiss him and tongue him and
  5. Rinsed and repeated on all of these behaviors many times over —

SHOULD. GO. AWAY.

Do Not Pass Go and go directly to Jail

Do Not Pass Go and go directly to Jail

Instead, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner gave a press conference Friday where he announced he was entering a two-week program in behavior counseling for…well, something – WHEN his microphone cut out the audio and we couldn’t hear what it was he was actually going away for.  One wag tweeted that “even the mic didn’t want to hear,” but this didn’t stop the mayor and his staff from getting him another mic and podium so he could restart his mea culpa from the beginning (Oh, goodie).  And speaking of staff, just after the revelations of sexual misconduct towards women came out days before – the San Diego city attorney announced that as an interim measure the mayor, who still refuses to resign, would no longer be allowed to be alone in a room with any female who worked for him.  At all.  This was particularly fascinating since that same press release also stated that Mayor Filner had just hired yet another woman to replace his exiting chief of staff. Certainly it gave new meaning to the term team players for everyone else nearby.

By the way, the fact that both Mr. Weiner and Mayor Filner are Democrats is meaningless.  This has nothing to do with political affiliation as current Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter (you know, the former Congressman who was kicked out of office in the prostitution scandal, then reelected) and current Republican Congressman Mark Sanford (he’s the former South Carolina Governor who a few years ago disappeared to Argentina with his mistress when his aides told us he couldn’t be reached because he was out camping – the gayest excuse I’ve ever heard a straight guy give) serve as only two of the most recent analogous examples of sex scandals from the other side.

Who knew Animal House would be so right??

Who knew Animal House would be so right??

No, what this all has to do with is this:  When it comes to the penis, and everything it connotes for them – some men have remained in permanent adolescence.  Sexual compulsion/addiction; it’s about power, not sex; generational shifts in mores; they’re all just the extreme examples; blah, blah, blah –  I get it.  But as a guy, I gotta tell you – there has been too much of this kind of stuff in the news lately to intellectualize it away.  There’s something going on with some of us men out there and it’s not pretty.  Or even handsome.  Actually, it’s kind of abhorrent.  And unless the rest of us guys stand up to the bullies it’s not gonna go away any time soon.   I’m not talking about what guys do in the privacy of their own – well, you know.   I’ll be the first one to fight back against anyone who says we have to stop doing any of that.  I’m talking about – well, you know what I’m talking about.

Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley pondered a variation of all this in his Oscar-winning screenplay, Moonstruck.  Faced with the knowledge of her philandering husband, Olympia Dukakis (the Mom) spends her time surveying various opinions of the other characters on one particular question:  Why do men cheat?  Finally, one person, the biggest philanderer in the film, gives her the only answer that ultimately makes sense:  Because they fear death.

Interesting answer.  But it’s movie dialogue.  As it applies to the mistreatment of today’s women via sexual scandal, which is not about so much as cheating but behaving like an immature idiot – the answer in the real world is more like: Because we can.

Though just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  That might sound like a response from someone’s mother.  But maybe it wouldn’t hurt to think about it that way.  After all, Mom’s a woman, too.  And us men, we’re just wieners.

Pun Intended?

Yes, there are carcinogens in hot dogs but we continue to eat them (most of us) because we love them and there is a debate as to just how many can hurt you over how long a period of time.  There are also carcinogens in the public discourse – many different types and varieties – probably more than there are found in the average hot dog.  Or in — as they used to say in the Cub Scouts with a lot of snickers – the average weiner.  Weiner!  Hahahah!

Yes, we’re talking about NY Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal (Note: sexting defined as sending sexually explicit pictures and/or sexual words over your phone, through the internet or in any other hand held device… yuk, yuk).  One talking head on cable news this week called it a real life tragedy.  Tragedy?  Like, uh, Columbine?  AIDS?  Genocide in a third world country?  Are they kidding?

Being born and bred in New York, I got a good chuckle from the poll released yesterday that more than 50% of New Yorkers surveyed don’t want Weiner to resign.  I haven’t lived there in many years but I don’t get it either.  Yeah, yeah, I know – he now can’t do his job with the same effectiveness because all the other uber-ethical congress people won’t work with him, he has bad judgment and can’t be trusted and – the biggie – HE LIED!!  (Imagine, a politician trying to cover up a sex scandal!).  But New York has always been a bottom line kind of place.  Does he deliver the goods to us?  If so, then I don’t give a —- what the —– he does.  Who cares!!  Fuggedaboutdit!!!!

I tried explaining to a very good friend of mine that this kind of sexting behavior is how MANY Internet savvy people (single presumably but not necessarily) often flirt these days.  There are degrees, certainly, but it’s pretty common.  (Who’s shocked?  Raise your mouse.  Eek!).  Truly.  Really.  I didn’t grow up with the Internet and am a bit shy so – disclaimer – this isn’t my thing.  But I know of many, many people who treat some sites on the internet, or some phone numbers or email addresses of people they meet (in person or on the Internet) the way people of my generation would treat people or experiences at an in-person mixer or singles bar.  Taking or stretching this metaphor further (pun intended), there are all kinds of mixers – all kinds of bars.  Use your imagination.

But this isn’t the point.  The real point is – exactly what DID happen in this case?  The Congressman had no physical contact with anyone. I mean, it would be a REALLY BORING scene if I were writing it in a screenplay.  I guess Aaron Sorkin could make it sound interesting with lots of provocative dialogue or a director like Danny Boyle could pump it up visually (pun intended).  But strip (yet another pun!) all that aside and we’re still left with this basic dramatic question – was he unfaithful to his wife?  (or us?)  Is virtual sex immoral in the same way physical sex is?  Be careful here.  Think about it.  Now keep thinking while I promise not to send in the thought police.  And I give you this example — in the seventies, Jimmy Carter got some flack admitting during a Playboy interview he had “lusted in his heart after women.”  Isn’t that ridiculous??????  And side note:  in the seventies, Playboy was seen as a LEGITIMATE and prestigious JOURNALISTIC SOURCE.  It also trafficked in naked pictures (mostly female body parts but still…) AND interviews with presidents like Carter, movie stars like Barbra Streisand and famous writers like Kurt Vonnegut.

That (of course) is not the case today.  Imagine today’s president doing an interview for a magazine with naked pictures of women.  (Certainly one that featured naked men would be downright carcinogenic).  A magazine like, well, uh – What is the Internet equivalent of Playboy?  Is there one?  Can there be 2011 respected journalistic publications that feature us (humans) as our maker (is that God or our parents?) made us or as we entered this world? Is there one that isn’t porn or halfway in between?  Is there no halfway point anymore?  That is the Weiner question.  Pun intended.  What is the moral compass that points you to the moral line you can’t cross?  As the Supreme Court decided in an obscenity case I did a social studies report on in high school (yeah, that was in the seventies, too) – it depends on “community standards.”  What are those  – your community? The Internet community (is there such a thing?)? Uh, well, it depends who you are and where you live.

William Hurt asked this question in the great movie “Broadcast News” .  (Yes, I quoted BN in a previous blog but it’s great movie dialogue so indulge me) when his (sorta) girlfriend played by Holly Hunter chastised him for possibly fudging part of a news story when he did a retake of himself (the reporter) crying when a woman he interviewed on camera related a sexual trauma that happened to her.  You mean, that’s “verboten?”  Hurt’s character asked?  Well, Hunter’s character was incredulous that he could even ask such a thing — how he couldn’t know that he had “crossed A LINE.”  Hurt’s reply – “well, they keep moving that little sucker, don’t they?

Questions:

  1. Is Weiner’s problem as bad as Bill Clinton’s in person sexual dalliance with intern Monica Lewinsky?
  2. Is Weiner’s problem as awful as having an affair with a male or female staffer (IN PERSON) in the office?
  3. Is Weiner’s problem more offensive than soliciting another guy LIVE in a men’s room if you’re a married male congressman?
  4. Is Weiner’s problem worse than hiring numerous prostitutes, having real sex with them and charging it all on your personal credit card to the tune of many thousands of dollars?
  5. Is Weiner’s problem a problem for us?  Or for him and his now pregnant wife?

Logic would tell us it could now be a problem for all of us because it now renders him unable to do his job because of bad publicity.  Logic would also tell us you can’t lie to the world and your colleagues for a week and then expect full support from them given the climate in the world or American political reality show entertainment.  But logic has nothing to do with any of this.  It’s all about personal and/or “community standards.”  And the line is fluid (pun intended).  With little wiggle room (hahaha!) for anyone anymore.