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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What the [BLEEP] was that?

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 10.41.53 AM

Ricky Gervais really did seem like he didn’t want to be there. No, really. It wasn’t his usual faux pose of I’m in on the joke and too good for this except, really, I’m not and want the money and probably should have the exposure. It was more, Oh, just give me your damn script, I’ll make a few tweaks, ad-lib and then we’ll be fine.

Except he wasn’t and it wasn’t. What it was –- was a mess.

The highlight, of course, came when Gervais had to introduce Mel Gibson – who has somehow been granted a reprieve from Hollywood Siberia after more than a large handful of alcoholic/rage-induced, anti-Semitic and/or anti-female rants and/or actions. See, several years prior Ricky had unmercifully ragged on an absent Mel during all that hubbub but now Mel’s asylum meant he needed to be re-introduced as a presenter.

I'm already exhausted

I’m already exhausted

Well, Ricky got some jabs in, compared Mel to Cosby and got some uncomfortable laughs. Then Mel came out and was a sport, especially for Mel. And he seemed sober, even if Ricky seemed not to be. (Note: was the whiskey glass a prop? We’ll never truly know, will we?) But more importantly –

Mel began to speak, Ricky came back out and —- BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP. Well, he said something but we never knew what.

The same way Jonah Hill said something funny they wouldn’t let us hear – BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP – while we had to listen to all of his other bombing lines.

giphy

Jane's reaction to Jonah's schtick almost makes her dress forgivable... almost.

Jane’s reaction says it all

In the same fashion that Amy Schumer told Jennifer Lawrence – BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP – …well, we couldn’t hear a bunch of that either.

And that’s how it went. Over and over again.

I kind of like the idea that celebs don’t seem to give a damn what happens on a show like this. Everyone is either lit or overly appreciative to God (Note: Whomever you may imagine Her or Him to be), and there’s always those rare cases of sincerity – to friends and family (as if it were a cell phone plan) or even a handful of co-workers.

And then there's this

And then there’s this

When the camera captures that and we, as spectators get to enjoy it, it’s like a candid snapshot of a strange counter reality – which is not as fake as you usually get but not 100% real. When you can count more than 10-20 bleeps, heck…THAT’S NOT FAIR! IT JUST ISN’T!! WAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

RICKKKYYYYYYY

RICKKKYYYYYYY

If I sound like a six year-old well….what do you mean if??? Okay – full confession – I guessed the winners of 8 out of 25 categories on Sunday night’s show – scoring a pathetic 31% average of correct choices. Maybe that’s real issue. Of course, I’d be worried if I really understood the Hollywood Foreign Press but hey, this was embarrassing. I’m a gay guy and I didn’t pick Lady Gaga to win for American Horror Story: Hotel. Instead I went with Kirsten Dunst for Fargo – a show I’ve never even seen! (Note: And please, please don’t say I have to watch it, that this season was the best and it’ll change my life……ahhhhhh!!!!).

Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Gaga Oo-la la!

Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Gaga Oo-la la!

Well, at least Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) didn’t win for the 29th time. Sure, the one year I bet on her they give it to…Rachel Bloom??? Who the hell is she? I haven’t seen Crazy Ex-Girlfriend either. And let’s be honest – NEITHER HAVE YOU.

There were lots of other surprises that made not much sense. Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle won for best comedy series – well, we know you certainly haven’t seen that one. And I haven’t either. But now I guess I (we?) will. Maybe.

I guess it’s actually kind of great that lesser known stuff wins. But then Stallone wins for best supporting actor for Creed – which you sort of have to like given it’s been almost 40 years since the first Rocky; Kate Winslet gets it for supporting actress for Steve Jobs; and Aaron Sorkin wins screenplay for that film over the lesser known writers (who isn’t?) of Spotlight, Room and The Big Short. Not that it’s ever illogical when either Sorkin or Charlie Kaufman receives a writing award. What’s illogical is why I (or you) complain about it or expect anything different.

The champ

The champ

I’m here to tell you that you can go crazy predicting Hollywood. And show you. Clearly.

Spending more than three hours of your life watching this and an equal amount of time writing about it before and after it airs does that to you – especially after decades of living here and working in the industry. Well, whose fault is that? Squarely mine.

Still, give up show business? No way! This is a commitment, voluntary though it may be. Sort of what McMurphy discovers about several of his mental asylum friends halfway through One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But that movie won FIVE Golden Globe awards back in 1976 – a time when all of this made a whole lot more sense. Not like this year when The Revenant wins three and Steve Jobs and The Martian both win a puny two. And Joy and Creed get just one. Heck, that’s as many as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!

OK.. the show has spontaneous musical numbers, I can probably get behind it

OK.. the show has spontaneous musical numbers, I can probably get behind it

Well, at least my fave new show of this year – Mr. Robot – won best drama series. Though that’s only because I listened to my students and started binge watching it several days ago. Yes, the children are our futures. I’ll close with that. Thanks Hollywood Foreign Press for…not very much. #Tina&Amy2017.

Miss any of the Chair’s tweet beat during the Globes? Catch up here!

Superheroes

Hero-Worship

Lance.  Jodie.  Manti Te’o.  What are we to do about you?  You thrill us.  Then you disappoint us.   Then you thrill us again.  And then you drop us down even further.  Have a heart.  And just be real.

Of course, that’s exactly what we DON’T want you to do, despite what we say.  We’re like a put upon boyfriend or girlfriend who begs their untrustworthy mate to be honest and then, when faced with their true self, angrily throws the book at them along with the front door and whatever else we can grab.  And since I have been in this position at least once in my life I can honestly testify to the truth of this action. This is not to say that I wanted to NOT know the truth and to remain living in the lie.  It’s more – I wanted confirmation that the person who I loved was, indeed, the person I thought that I had chosen to love, rather than who they really were.

This is unfair and does not make for good relationships.  But it is what hero worship is about.  And that’s what we’re talkin’ here.  Or maybe it’s a potential reality show called Heroes: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Yes, the latter is more like it.  That avoids words like lies and truth and anything in between.   Because once you go there you get into very murky territory (as the military can tell you).  There’s a reason why despite all the remakes and sequels you will only learn so much about Batman, Superman, Spiderman or even our much-maligned Cat Woman, even though you’re sure you know everything.   But they are fictional creations where filmmakers (or other makers) are in control, and every really great creative artist knows better than to tell-all.

Superhero's cape stuck in revolving door

On second thought, this cape ain’t so easy

However, this is not the case in our current age of mass celebritydom, which can be confirmed by watching any one of a parade of B-stars on reruns of Celebrity Fit Club or Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.  You will find out and/or see more than you ever wanted to realize about recognizable names like Sean Young, Brigitte Nielson and Jeff Conaway (RIP) and be none the better for it.  Nor, will they.  In fact, though a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, in some public cases it will, indeed, work quite nicely.

Which brings us back to this week’s live celebrity superheroes and the people who love them (the latter of whom would be us).  We’ve had quite a week.  And it’s hard to know where to start.  But I say, let’s go for the gusto.

THE LANCEMAN

STERN EXCLUSIVE LANCE ARMSTRONG GRAFFITI-100 

There was something about watching (now former) seven time Tour de France champion cyclist Lance Armstrong confessing his lies about a long history of illegally drugging his body to celebritydom’s mother confessor Oprah on international television that was the worst kind of cliché.  And yet, it was fascinating and riveting and featured two superheroes – one at the height of their super-powers (Oprah) and the other forced into an arena stripped of everything that once made them the most formidable force on the planet.  Imagine Christian Bale’s Batman in the black suit and with full arsenal (Oprah) fighting a Tobey Maguire Spiderman (the Lanceman) with zero accessibility to anything Web-based (a daunting task for any of us these days.. oh and pun intended) and you can sort of get the picture.

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Not a good look

Lance is a survivor of stage-three cancer whose name has raised mega-millions of dollars for a cancer education and prevention organization called Livestrong that has helped untold numbers of people psychologically, financially and even physically.  For those reasons alone, he will always be somewhat okay in my book.  But I’m not a sports fan and after a lifetime in the entertainment industry I know that no one – not one person – that you know from their public image is ever, ever, ever giving you the full truth of all that they are.  In fact, often they are disappointing in real life simply because as mere mortals they can NEVER live up to the carefully constructed image of what they are resonating in the zeitgeist.

Nor, if they want to survive, should they.  Because if all is exposed then nothing is protected. And with more than 7 billion people in the world, that makes you a pretty easy target.

The problem for Lance Armstrong is two fold.  One is the boldness of the lie upon lie and the other is the denial of such once he was caught.  Though he operated in a haze of credibility for years, he and Oprah pretty much acknowledged that had he not tried to make his last big comeback in the last decade he might have “gotten away with” all of his previous wins and no one would have ever been the wiser.  Yet the truth  – as anyone who has really known a celebrity can testify to – is that it takes a real-life superhero to walk away from that status (and those are rare, if they exist at all).  I mean, once you’re a god with all of the perks it affords, you begin to believe you ARE a god so why would you ever want to be simply human again???  For love?  For sanity?  For…humility?  Are you kidding????

Yet this activity also fostered The Lanceman’s escalating denials – which proved to be his version of Kryptonite.  There was no way he could stay in the game without upping his vitriolic disownment of the real truth.  And every time he did this, he got more famous (or infamous) and further away from reality, thus making his superhero achievements even bigger and more open to public consumption than they ever were.  Consequently, the perch from where he would inevitably fall grew higher and higher – prompting some to dub him the “biggest liar” in the history of sports or, perhaps, humankind.

Thanks Lance!

Thanks Lance!

The latter hardly seems fair or true, though certainly those are not adjectives to be applied in this kind of discussion.  Yes, we know he was a bully who took down other people in his way.  And uh huh, we acknowledge he ripped off his competitors and the organizations that touted him by his “lies” and “win at any cost” strategies.  But worst of all – he’s proven to us that rather than embody a superhuman version of the good part of the human spirit, he’s merely the man behind the curtain posing as The Wizard Of Oz – a man who in real life is equal parts great and awful  — a reflection of the best and the worst of our qualities.  Quelle Suprise.

JODIE POSSIBLE

Jodie-Foster-3

There are very few 50 year-old movie stars who have been in the business for 47 years, won two best actress Oscars, directed three feature films and still find time to raise two seemingly very well-adjusted children.  In fact, I can’t think of one — except Jodie Foster.

Then it shouldn’t be surprising that in recapping to us highlights of her life in a slightly odd, slightly rambling stream of consciousness speech while accepting a lifetime achievement award at this year’s Golden Globes, that she drew so much attention, concern, praise and vitriol – the kind usually reserved for some sort of superhero (or perhaps villain, depending on where one stands).  Being exceptional and famous and on television can do this because you can never please everyone by being exactly and totally who you are in public.

If Ms. Foster were to have a superhero name I vote for Jodie Possible, after the TV cartoon heroine Kim Possible – because a) we know the likelihood of childhood star human survival to age 50 b)we know the likelihood of leading movie actress industry survival to age 50 and c)we know the likelihood of sanity and so many other forms of survival that seem to actually make Jodie IMpossible.

But what has not been traditionally super heroic to the mainstream (up until maybe this year?) for Ms. Foster is the fact that she is gay, or to put it even more precisely, a lesbian – two words she managed to clearly avoid yet more than hint at in the seven minute acceptance speech heard round the world.  Ironically, that is part of what made her a bit of a superhero to me up until that night – the fact that she has lived her own sort of life all these years with intelligence and grace, often out of the spotlight yet hiding in plain sight of anyone who has driven through the hills and valleys of southern California.

jodie-foster-golden-globes-2013-speech

Amazingly the conversation the next day was not about her arms…

So why is it that Jodie Possible’s speech, tinged with a tone of arch, dare I say it, anger, left me and a significant portion of others – confused, upset, disappointed and, dare I say it…pissed off?  Why was she now so suddenly upset about celebrity culture when for years she wisely chose to ride above (or below) it? At a time when there are numerous out gay celebrities in 2013, why was she cryptically addressing her ex-female lover and personal life in odd language that implied some sort of public persecution for years by evil onlookers? Especially when today most people no longer care what she does in bed or are willing to give her a pass for secrecy because a crazed would-be assassin named John Hinckley famously said he was trying to prove his love for her when he shot some bullets at Pres. Ronald Reagan in the eighties?

The whole seven-minute speech was strange and uncomfortable in a way we weren’t used to from the public superhero named Jodie.  What it also seemed to be was – honest.  Sort of like when Tom Cruise went on Today and eschewed all of psychiatry to Matt Lauer, or spoke condescendingly about non-Scientologists on a famous You Tube tape espousing the superiority of all those in the upper echelons of his adopted religion.

In full disclosure, I’ve briefly met JF several times in passing (not making passes!) over the decades (once when she was a teenager and several more times as an adult) and have always found her to be nice, smart, classy and more normal than any 50 year-old former child star/still movie star should humanly be.  This is why I was so taken aback by a side of her on television that I had never seen publicly or privately.  Why so edgy?  Why that look in her eye that implied she was capable of saying something she could never take back or, worse, something we could never forget or forgive her for?  Well, why not?  Why couldn’t she do all of those things and what difference does it make that she’s confused and disappointed me by not being Jodie Possible this one time?  Unless, of course, this is who she really is and all of the other times on screen and the handful in person were just….acting.  Which would mean, I’ve been duped.  And – we (I?) don’t like that.  Especially from superheroes we look up to.

Not to mention that these are her sidekicks

Not to mention that these are her sidekicks

But aside from all that fancy reasoning, here’s the one thing her speech really did teach me – all actors, even the really good ones – need writers.  And I’m more than comfortable living with that.

THE MASK OF MANTI TE’O

quite literally, the masked man

quite literally, the masked man

This story is still unfolding and is still thoroughly confusing.  To paraphrase the famous line from that classic hero worship film Love Story – what can you say about a 24-year-old college football player who was runner up for the coveted Heisman trophy, led his team to record victories weeks after enduring the gruesome deaths of his beloved grandmother and girlfriend on the same day, and won the heart of the sports world for doing so?  That you loved him?   That you looked up to him?  Or — that he’s a pretty big liar and now you’re a pretty big jerk with egg on your face?

love_story_car

Note:  The Love Story tag line, for those of you under 50

“What can you say   about a 25 year-old girl who died?  That she was beautiful and brilliant.  That she loved, Mozart and Bach,, the Beatles and………me?”

It appears that part of Manti Te’o’s aura is not just that he is a very good college linebacker (now turned pro, with an agent) who performed exceptionally well in a specific period of time, but that he did so against emotional odds heavy enough to inspire at least one or two after school specials or network TV movies if the industry still made them with the same amount of frequency they did in years past.

So imagine everyone’s outrage when it was unearthed this week that Manti’s  (or Mr. Te’O – we haven’t been introduced) relationship with his girlfriend was not only an online “romance” with someone he never met despite all implications otherwise, but that she did not even exist in real life and that he was the victim of what he and his coaches claim was an elaborate internet hoax perpetrated on a naïve and purely trusting soul.  So, you mean…he merely helped win all those games when just his beloved grandma was dying???  Well…I’m not sure if that counts at all….

What people say they are angry about in this case is not so much the reality but the deception and downgrading of the myth.  Forget the fact that this guy can play football, but how dare he make up a girl who never existed, even if he didn’t know she existed at all!! And if he was in on it and was using the story of the death of this girl to make his achievements even more spectacular – well, that’s really despicable.  I mean, it’s one thing to do that in a reality TV show (which everyone knows isn’t fact – or do they?) but this is real life.

Are you sure we're not watching The Bachelor?

Are you sure we’re not watching The Bachelor?

Some people posit that there might be some compelling reasons for the fictional girlfriend who then died.  The most popular of these is that Manti Te’O, a devout Hawaiian Mormon, is secretly gay and wanted to hide his private life because it goes against both his religions — those being both the Mormon faith and football.  Well, I have no idea if this is true but here’s a thought – in the scope and meaning of life as it exists in 2013 – who really cares?

We need to grow up and know that in reality heroic human achievements are never done by superheroes.  Translation:  If someone’s story sounds too good and looks too good – usually it is too good.  I learned this the hard way once when a bad movie deal that I desperately wanted to believe in went horribly bad.  But we need to know it today in real life — which sports and the movies we watch are not.  Not nearly.  Not even close.