Thursday, August 04, 2005


Summer 2005: It's Not the Heat, It's the Stupidity

It's only the first week of August, but I don't think it is too premature to say that -- based solely on the criteria of celebrity behavior -- this may be the Stupidest Summer in recent memory.

No, minor flake-outs like Jude Law, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jessica & Nick and the white-gloved pedophile don't count.

Like the poor, the sexual foibles of the rich & famous will always be with us.

No, we're talking mega-celebrity inanity here. The collapse of the once almost-universally admired.

Appropriately enough, the "summer" season got off to an early start: Tom Cruise's appearance on the May 23rd Oprah Winfrey Show. That would be the now-notorious moment when the one-time can't-miss Hollywood wunderkind had a one-for-the-books meltdown in exuberantly pronouncing his love for Katie Holmes. The sudden Scientology Stepford-ization of the aforementioned Ms. Holmes (even before the engagement/press conference at the Eiffel Tower) and subsequent other bizarre Cruise incidents (such as the anti-psychiatry rant on the "Today Show") managed to put this entire episode in a class by itself -- especially in contrast to Cruise's previously cultivated pure public image. That the Cruise-Stephen Spielberg collaboration managed to produce one of the worst movies in either of their careers was a bonus. That this was a gift that kept giving was revealed in the interesting role Cruise's Scientology plays in a minor political New York scandal unfolding this week.

Proving celebrity stupidity is contagious, Oprah Winfrey herself caught the bug three weeks after Cruise's appearance. The most successful celebrity in the world accomplished the impossible: By throwing a huge temper tantrum after being denied after-hours entry into the chic Parisian Hermes boutique -- and then crying racism -- Oprah actually managed to make Americans feel sorry for the French. Ms. Winfrey and her crew went to Hermes to buy a gift for her dinner guest Tina Turner. The initial story was that because Oprah wasn't all "Oprah-fied" in a fashion sense, the Hermes staff wouldn't let her in, thinking she was some skanky North African. Later, it turned out that this wasn't quite the case: Oprah and Co. were late -- ironically enough, they were trying to buy a watch -- and a security guard explained the store was closed for a private event. ("Private Dancer" Tina Turner might have appreciated the irony).

Nonetheless, Oprah says that she will never shop in Hermes again and -- of course -- will devote an entire show to her personal "crash moment" when the new season starts in September.

How times have changed. When Harry Belafonte faced real racism in the '50s -- not being allowed to buy a co-op because he was black -- he knew how to fight it:

The singer-cum-activist fought back not with picket signs, but with the muscle celebrities give such a workout: money. He bought the entire 13-story building and converted it to a co-op two years later, attracting the likes of singer Lena Horne to take up residence there.
Today, proving that there may be some limit to celebrity stupidity, Martha Stewart gets slapped with an additional three weeks in home detention.

Not only has she been clearly violating the terms of her probation, "tooling around in her new off-road vehicle" and "dropping in on a yoga class" in multiple interviews, Stewart has made a mockery of her entire prison time.

In her Vanity Fair interview, she proudly revealed her prison name of "M.Diddy" and boasted of how easy it was to remove her electronic detention anklet. Ah a real Gangsta Doyenne!

Maybe not though. She, of course has to play the role of the unfairly-treated victim. The lesson drawn from her prosecution: "Bring 'em down a notch, to scare other people. If Martha can be sent to jail, think hard before you sell that stock." Poor, poor baby!! As if reality-king Mark Burnett would have approached her to do the "Apprentice" spin-off without the street cred that jail-time gave her.

Martha gets bonus stupidity points for inspiring stupidity in others and laying the seeds for even more to comel: Gangsta rapper Lil' Kim got a relatively mild sentence last month for perjuring herself before a grand jury examining the details of a shooting at a New York radio station. Judge Gerard Lynch said he was worried that the public would compare the fate of the lying "younger African-American entertainer" to that of the lying "older, whiter" Stewart.

So Lynch sentenced Lil Kim to a year and a day -- when she could have gotten 33 to 41 months. In short, lying in a case where bullets went flying and people could have gotten killed is only twice as bad as lying about when a stock was supposed to be sold. So, because of the "inspiration" that "M. Diddy" gave Judge Lynch (who obviously couldn't live up to his own name), we can all look forward to the that-much-quicker return to the streets of this classic sort of urban commentary:

Uhh, uhh
The Anne Klein-sportin, coke-snortin ni**az lovely
I keep my p***y fresh like Dudley; watch the show
as my flow bubble over like Mo's and Cristal's
Ain't scared to bust my pist-al, sippin hard on Cristal
Dream accounts, large amounts
Cause Frank
don't play with lai money, get high money
Ready to die Grady, no if's, and's, or maybe's
I'm not your average lady; put that on my 380
Me and my b*tch catch flights to Texas
Ni**as call us Crystal and Alexis
Bump into some hoes that be in Houston boostin
Trunk full of Donna Karan in the rental LeBaron

Now, that's a good thing.

Oprah was right. This is the summer of the uber-celebrity "crash moment": Tom, Oprah and Martha all had crash moments -- when the public persona that they had all built up over decades came crashing down. Tom the smiling good-guy actor; Oprah the self-empowerment queen of daytime; Martha, the confident businesswoman who built an empire.

That is how they were known and admired.

Today, as their self-confidence now mutates into overwhelming self-entitlement, each stands revealed as manipulative, calculating and not a little bit domineering.

Tom -- calling the press conference after a staged, very public engagement; Oprah -- the petulant "don't-you-know-who-I-Am" diva outraged that simple rules can't be changed for her. Martha -- who drifted away from reality last year in comparing herself to Nelson Mandela was completely revealed as she now wavers between personas of tough ex-con pop-gangsta wannabe -- and a poor misunderstood victim.

Who knows: Maybe Oprah can have Martha and Kim on when they're both sprung and they can all plan a group trip to Hermes. Who knows? Tom & Katie may want to hang out at the Eiffel Tower again and they can all fly over? Would it be too cruel to wish for a different sort of "crash moment"? (Hmmm...Lil' Kim is close enough to being a musician that it could happen.)

Ah, let's not got that far. Yes, it's easy to want to wish harm on our Idiots Celebritie. To paraphrase
Richard Nixon, "We could do that, but it would be wrong."

And stupid.

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