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Stars bitchslapped out of alignment

This is par for the course in the creative industries: the two best places for young people on the make in Hollywood to meet the players are bars and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.But celebrity can be an even more powerful drug than cocaine. It encourages people to push the limits: the more scandalous they are the more they attract the attention of the paparazzi. Mr Galliano produced ever more outrageous fashions as his fame grew. In 2000 he dressed his models like tramps—le look clochard—with newsprint dresses and dangling pots and pans. He probably counted the fact that protesters surrounded Dior’s offices as a publicity triumph. Celebrity also makes people think they are fireproof: their fans love them come what may. Mr Sheen seems to have revelled in his bad-boy image. But there is clearly a line that you cross at your peril: insulting your boss in Mr Sheen’s case or endorsing the Holocaust in Mr Galliano’s.      –Schumpeter, The Economist, March 3 2011

I was reading through one of Harry Turteldove’s alternate history volumes last night, and there was an extended piece on how well things would have gone had the media been as omnipresent in 1941 as it is today. Well, the answer is not well…little things like announcing Doolittle’s raid and the location of ships headed for Midway resulted in defeats leading up to Roosevelt’s impeachment. Point taken — in an era where everything can be known to everybody at everytime and anything can be said and gain some credence, Churchill’s idea of the Bodyguard of Lies for truth becomes more important and less achievable.

The Schumpeter column from The Economist is focused on the creative industries, especially film and fashion. However, it’s a cautionary tale for anyone who achieves stardom. Athletes face it, but people in business, industry, the military and government need to pay attention. Hubris, the overwhelming pride that the Greeks used to set up heroes for failure — and possibly redemption — is the real issue. When you start to  think you’re irreplaceable , you’re one screwup away from the door.

There’s a great line from the first season of Justified, when Raylin says to his ex-wife that “I never thought I was an angry man,” and she responds, “You don’t show it, but I’ve never met an angrier individual.” It seemed perfectly reasonable to Raylin Givens to give a thug in Miami 24 hours to get out of town, and then to get into a gunfight. So, he finds himself back in Harlan. Hilarity ensues, and  the show is supreb and captures that Scots-Irish flavor of the Mountains. And, the anger…

The difference between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton was miniscule, except that Burr was fairly open in his scandals, and Hamilton was discreet. In a time when honor was critical, piercing the veil of hypocrisy could be fatal. As attorneys — and by all accounts, very good ones — both Hamilton and Burr knew that truth was the absolute defense. Had Hamilton admitted that he had said somethings about Burr that were uncalled for even though true, and apologized publicly, he could have avoided the duel. Unfortunately, that was impossible.

Personally, I have on more than one occasion decided that I needed to stand on my hindlegs and sound off. While not convinced, it may have worked out fine at the time, but at some point the bosses felt compelled to do something else. I could have been right, and might even have been civilized and restrained in my approach on a particular issue, believing not only   that I was irreplaceable, but that  I was right and that right was an absolute defense.  Things may have worked out up to a point,  but bosses may have come to believe they’d been backed into a corner by my previous behavior. In most cases, we parted friends, but we parted.

Have I changed? I’d like to think so, and that I am more careful about picking my fights. However, as I look around, I see a world where lots of people are not careful. I have opinions, and I express them. Since I no longer drink, I suspect that more of them are rational than there were 20 some years ago. I hope I am more articulate and reasoned in my approach…

But, one thing to remember is that everybody get’s tired of people who are always right. Sometimes the wisest thing to do is shut up early and help pick up the pieces.

Then, there are people like Charlie Sheen and others who just can’t shut up. In his case, the constant media and self-aggrandizement and just plain craziness far exceed what one might expect a boss to tolerate. Unfortunately for Charlie, so long as his lifestyle seemed in line with his character on Two and a Half Men, he could act out as much as he wanted to. However, rich drunks and crackheads tend to become mean drunks and crackheads, and then violent drunks and crackheads. If you lead your life in a transparent bubble, and make a point of shooting off flares to attract attention, you’re going to bump into an unpleasant reality, from which recovery is difficult.

If you must be outside the normally acceptable range of deviance, I recommend that you do everything you can to make your deviance be simple and not let it extend to all aspects of your work. Barney Frank is an openly gay man; however, he does everything he can to keep his personal life a fact, but stand in the public as an expert on government and the economy. But, some people can’t avoid crowing — Newt Gingrich is so far removed in character from the moral paragon he purports to be…and yet, he feels comfortable crowing about morality. He’s intelligent and a deep-thinker on some levels; but, he’s neither as bright, charismatic or intelligent as he thinks.

In a similar way, Sarah Palin draws fire from the moderate right through hard left for what many commentators see as a “snowbilly” white-trash existence. There is probably some justification to that view, but in a way she’s a more modest,  Alaskan version of Daisy Duke. I suppose Todd could get his snow machine to jump a ditch or two…

Palin became a star nationwide for no discernible reason, and her ability to stay on script and mouth cliche’s has kept her in conscious for a while. But, she’s one bit of craziness from becoming a denizen of infomercials, and that’s probably where she’d be most comfortable. Bristol and Levi and the rest are really the Kato Kaelins of that experience. Again, so long as she stays on message and doesn’t really say anything, she’ll be fine.

Killing Time and Pain Chris Hillman tells a story about trying to find Graham Parsons back in the Byrds days for a gig that he was probably going to be late for, and found him hanging out in a recording studio with the Stones. When he refused to leave, Jagger got very angry and basically threw him out of the studio, telling him that “Whatever else, you do the gig.” When you start missing the gigs, you tend to go away. Somewhere, Brian Jones is nodding to that, and for a change not because he’s high…


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