CoVid Star Power

We are all the stars of our own lives.  This applies to each of us, whether we choose to luxuriate in the spotlight or are repelled by the mere thought of being noticed.

All of this is to say we have the ultimate say on every choice we make because at the end of the day we are the person taking the action.  It’s not only our name and reputation, but it’s our decision that keeps the entire project that is US afloat.

And nowhere has this been more apparent than in the recent uptick of COVID-19 cases across the United States.

Oh god

New COVID-19 cases are increasing in all 50 states in the US at an alarming rate.  Sure it’s worse in Florida, Missouri and the Arkansas border than it might be than where you’re reading this, but rest assured cases are also UP where you are.

Thanks Delta-Variant.  Thanks mask refusers.  Thanks pandemic deniers.  And most of all, thanks TO THE NON-VACCINATED.  They are all truly the STARS of their OWN SHOW.

Me, 24/7

The above sentence is meant to be read and/or said aloud with sarcasm.  You can also throw in a dollop of anger, impatience and even hate on my part on any given day or if the mood strikes you.   And given the news lately, it likely will.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Friday that this is becoming the pandemic of the unvaccinated.  This is because that population accounts for over 99% of recent COVID deaths.  However, that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t get a mild case of sick with perhaps lingering  lifetime effects from this disease.   

Nor does it mean that kids under 12 years old, who right now don’t even qualify to get a shot, won’t soon be in danger.  In fact, doctors tell us that if virus keeps surging the youngest members of our population will be the most affected.  Even now in Mississippi, a state with one of our lowest vaccination rates, seven children are in intensive care with COVID-19 and two are on ventilators.

Never more relevant

I won’t bore you with too many figures but just know that new cases are up 10% over what they were a week ago and 38 of our 50 states have seen a 50% increase. 

Across the US there were an average of 26,448 new cases per day over the last week. 

That might not seem scary in a country with 328 million people until you realize this figure was 67% higher than the week before.

If you take into account where we were in COVID-19 cases in, say, January 2020, and then look back and do the math of just a few months later, you’ll catch my drift.  Meaning we could be moving into deep sh-it once again if we don’t get our acts together.

Translation?  The answer is not to run to the nearest bar or local Med Men outlet (Note:  Google the latter) to not deal with what’s happening.  Instead, it’s to act like the best star in the world (Note: Think Tom Hanks or Meryl Streep) and step up, do your homework and carry the entire production on your shoulders if need be).

If we lockdown again, I’m ready for my Wilson phase

I live in Los Angeles, the most populated county in the country.  Because we’ve had a FIVE HUNDRED PER CENT increase in cases in the last month, an indoor mask mandate has been reinstated  as of Saturday night this weekend. 

What does this mean?  It means that if you go inside a supermarket, a workplace, a gym, a theatre or ANY INDOOR PUBLIC SETTING YOU HAVE TO WEAR A MASK.

It’s said that L.A. is leading the fight against the Delta Variant of COVID-19.  But, well, are we?

Or is it more like this?

I was fully vaccinated at the end of February and since then have always worn a mask at indoor public settings.  Except, well, a couple of times where I sat indoors at a restaurant when there was social distancing and I had to take my mask off to eat.  And then slowly decided to keep it off while I was inside because it seemed easier and no one else had one on.

Translation:  Truth be told, I never felt totally comfortable being unmasked in an indoor public space after I was vaccinated, even when I was six feet apart from others.  But I did it a few times (Note: Okay, maybe even more) anyway.

As a guy who used to lean towards the hypochondriacal, until I got older and realized there is truly NO escape from death, I figured that with the vaccine I could drop a shoulder strap or two at a socially distanced indoor restaurant. 

The Delta variant’s best friend

Still, there was no way I’d be doing a full strip indoors, even in L.A., at the movies or the, well, supermarket.  At this point, I no longer have any desire to prove just how comfortable I am onstage or center stage EVERYWHERE, even though, living in Hollywood, there is ALWAYS a chance you can be discovered, or rediscovered, at any moment and at any given age.  Or so the legend goes.

Nevertheless, it seems far too many Americans do see themselves as the center stage star of their own burlesque routine in towns big and small all across the country.  Rather than recognize they are part of a cast of millions in a daily blockbuster production called real-life, they see themselves as the spoiled pampered star at their local dinner theatre doing the same old thing in the same old way to less and less and FAR LESS success.  But, I mean, why change now, right?

Keep tellin’ yourself that, Norma

Those who’ve spent their adult lives in the entertainment industry realize at some point there is no reasoning with certain of these types.  They believe it is their right to act and strut and sing out exactly as they always have even if they put the entire rest of the cast and crew, in fact the entire show or project, at risk.

There is no shared responsibility. There is only the wants, needs AND DESIRES of the STAR. The star’s only real life are those moments that they are center stage and, for stars like these, those moments are every second of every waking hour of every single day. Consequences for all others be damned.

By the way, that kind of star doesn’t always have to be the performer.  It can be the director, the producer, the writer or the financier in the background.  It can even be, um, a former president of the United States.

HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED

Or it can be the person staring back at you each morning in the mirror, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

We all have the final say on what we do individually.  It’s our names, our reputations and our decisions that keep us afloat and, en masse, it is all of those things that keep the entire project that is the U.S. afloat.

Or sink it quicker than a summer stock production of The Sound Music in Atlanta featuring the Trump family.

Carly Simon – You’re So Vain

Our Not So Golden Globe

Each year the Hollywood Foreign Press ushers in a star-studded season honoring excellence in film and TV with the Golden Globe Awards.

It’s a televised party in Beverly Hills where celebs and film/TV makers drink, eat and try to make merry in the very tight quarters of an overstuffed hotel ballroom.

Think your rich Aunt Mildred’s chance for the over-the-top second wedding she never had or the bar mitzvah reception for the son of some tech giant classmate of yours who bought Apple stock early and married late that you only managed to get on the list for because you ran into him at the airport while trying to hide the fact you were flying coach.

and as a bonus – this guy harasses you on the way in!

Of course, that doesn’t quite do it justice.

The Golden Globes are often the most entertaining of all old show biz awards shows because for some god forsaken reason they consistently get almost every major star in the industry to show up and give or get one of those quite surprisingly small mini-replicas of our great golden earth.

Although, I am glad that they got rid of that ugly marble podium

Though even that was tricky this year because nothing about our earth or the product produced during this time period seems to represent anything particularly golden, at least not in the traditional sense.

No, in real life we citizens of the world are holding our collective breaths about the possibility of real global warfare between the United States and Iran.  Or we are obsessing yet doing very little about climate change as this weekend we watched large swaths of the real Australian sky burn an ominous blood red thanks to over 146 (and counting) environmentally induced brush fires.

Don’t worry, I’ll recycle the empties

Neither the evening nor few of the nominated and/or winning films provided much release from those catastrophic doldrums either.  For instance, I very much enjoyed Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in…Hollywood and its meticulous recreation of a 1969 Los Angeles.   But its win as best comedy/musical, director, screenplay and supporting actor still can’t help but remind us all of one of the most grisly crimes of our 20th century, the Tate-LaBianca murders; that is even as it tries to rewrite that history to give its victims (and us) our much more well-deserved (well, preferred) Hollywood ending.

Are you sure this didn’t clinch it?

The best drama and director award for Sam Mendes’ 1917 forced us to look back in terrifying detail at a fictionalized version of fact-based events in and around the battlefields of WWI.   While extremely well made, this also doesn’t so much as provide hope for humanity but hold a magnifying glass up to ALL the battlefields of our past and, inevitably, remind us of all those likely to come in our future.

On the television side, a miniseries win for yet another recreation of the catastrophic – the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl – brilliantly reminded even the most casual of viewers that another nuclear winter could even today be just one ignored safety regulation away. Not to mention that the recognition of Succession as best TV drama brought home every cynically snowflake propaganda worry we all ever had about Fox News and the Murdoch family through its fictional, though albeit much more entertainingly awful doppelgängers, the Roys.

He did! He did!

There were some small breaths of encouragement. Taron Edgerton and Renee Zellweger won best acting awards for personifying the real-life, stage and singing facsimiles of Elton John and Judy Garland as they rose to fame, slid into addiction and, well at least in one case, managed to survive.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her Fleabag season 2 gave some glamour and sympathy for those of us consistently making the wrong yet most human of choices even if it didn’t give us our full Hollywood happy Tarantino finale.  But perhaps that’s a clue to its popularity.  It doesn’t sugar coat our mistakes yet still shines some teeny tiny minuscule glint of light into all of our hopelessly aberrant collective futures.

Added bonus: Hot Priest!

Such was not the case with Globes’ host Ricky Gervais for most of the evening.  His shtick about being the worst possible choice to lead the festivities proved incredibly prescient given the world events of the preceding week and the jokes he chose to perform.

He opened by touting the Globes’ decision to this year serve an all-vegetarian menu but then chided its members for being, ahem, vegetables.  He attempted a timely jab at director Martin Scorsese for recently stating superhero movies were not cinema but more like amusement park rides he had no interest in and then cracked at the irony of the director’s statement because Scorsese was too short to actually meet the height requirement to ride in one. (Note: Har, Har?)

Me, during the opening monologue

Joaquin Phoenix, who won a Globe for playing the nihilistic title role in Joker, did try to be real and modest and world-aware.  Yet he managed to end his speech by saying it wasn’t enough to simply urge the Globes’ worldwide audience to “vote” their issues at the ballot box or voice concern about Australian climate change the way that others who came before him onstage had done. No, what he proclaimed from the podium was that what each one of the affluent in that room should do was to pledge to stop flying private jets to Palm Springs!  

Do not come for my Palm Springs trips!

Well, you gotta start somewhere, right?  And no, I am not paraphrasing.

Yes, of course, there were lovely moments.  Michelle Williams’ win for playing Broadway legend Gwen Verdon in Fosse/Verdon urging women to use their voices and votes to make the reality of the country better reflect its 51% female population.  Kate McKinnon’s tearful tribute to Ellen DeGeneres as the role model of what could be possible for her young lesbian self.  Tom Hanks on the true wonder of being a working actor who is nothing more than a small part of a larger team who must deliver in that moment to make each shot or the scene any good at all.

Everybody loves Hanks

Still, at the end of the evening one couldn’t help but think that our en masse feelings about the Globes/Globe, both in the ballroom and for those watching at home, were best captured by Mr. Gervais’ in his not very encouraging but thankfully closing line of the night to us:

Get drunk, take your drugs, f-k off.

This being a Hollywood production, needless to say that very last phrase was bleeped.

Complete list of the 2020 Golden Globe Winners

Sam Smith ft. Renee Zellwegger – “Get Happy”