FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Untouchable

 “I’m untouchable! I’m Charlie Sheen! I’m more famous than Obama!”

— Charlie Sheen to his wife

It’s possible that Carlos Irwin Estevez, the actor known as ‘Charlie Sheen’, is ranting the simple truth when he claims to be invulnerable and indestructible because he’s fleetingly super-famous and has “tiger’s blood” running in his pharmaceutically-enhanced veins.  With “serious” journalists and TV bookers tripping over themselves to get him to vomit up something, anything, to feed us on his Roman Circus, shrewdly timed, allegedly suicidal spiral caused by a diseased ego and an apothecary’s shopfull of mind-blasting substances, he probably IS more famous than the President.  After all, he just broke the Guinness record for gathering one million Twitter followers in the shortest time.

We Americans do love our bad showbiz boys (even more than out-of-control girls like Lindsay Lohan and Britney) running amok.  It’s a tradition that goes from Mel Gibson, Dennis Hopper, Robert Downey Jr. all the way back to Robert Mitchum, Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle.   Sex, dope, a slug of violence (preferably against women) and most recently a soupcon of anti-Semitism will magnetically snag the electronic gatekeepers of TV’s celebrity-hungry audiences.

A lot of us indulge in this pleasure of watching human train wrecks, otherwise the Charlie Sheens wouldn’t even get a local-access gig.   Exposure is the ultra-violet ray that springs this hardy weed into life, without it he’d be dead or institutionalized.  Look on the bright side: we keep Charlie alive.

But there I go, being judgmental, just like he accuses his esteemed actor father, the Catholic-activist Martin Sheen.  Maybe it’s that predatory Charlie look, both feral and smug.  In fact, he’s a sub-so-so actor of a string of rotten movies except for Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war masterpiece, Platoon, where Charlie superbly played a rookie grunt with divided loyalties.   Platoon made Charlie’s career from which he launched his now-notorious all-year drunks culminating in beating up women including his wives, girlfriends, live-In porn stars etc.

Woman-beating never bothered his CBS network bosses where his really dumb show, ‘Two and a Half Men’, is a hit and earns him up to two million smackeroos per episode.  What exasperated CBS into firing him in mid-season, tossing hundreds of backroom workers on the dole, was Charlie’s snide digs at Jews aimed at his main producer Chuck Lorre (formerly Charles Levine) and maybe at his business manager too though Charlie accuses his in-rehab wife Brooke Mueller of the latter.  You can rape a dozen nuns at high noon in the village square and still catch an Emmy, but in my allegedly “Jewish” business mind your mouth.

We did these things differently when I first got into movies, as a gofer, musclehead and playing a ‘native boy’ on the magnificent cult film ‘Bride of the Gorilla’.  Hush hush sweet Charlotte was the studio’s law then The ‘seven sisters’ studios – MGM, Fox, Paramount, Warners, Universal, Columbia and RKO – had such a censoring stranglehold on stars’ pranks – rape, homosexuality, abortions, (especially mixed race) affairs, even murders – see Jean Harlow, Thelma Todd, Lana Turner, William Desmond Taylor – that nothing got past the publicity mavens except what they wanted the public to see, perfection in spike heels.  This Gadaffi-like system of suppression operated via payoffs to LA’s then-bribable cops, coroners, doctors and ex-spouses to shut them up.  [hough the cover-ups collapsed with monotonous regularity, as a glance at Kenneth Anger’s brilliant Hollywood Babylon  makes pitilessly clear. Editors.]

The studios’ conspiracy of silence began to crumble when Robert Mitchum was arrested for partying on Mary Jane and got his picture on Page One smiling sleepily, dreamily at us through the bars of a county jail cell.  There goes his career…not.  A whole new bobbysox audience aided by their grownups liberalized by war values surprisingly sprang to Mitchum’s defense and his career skyrocketed.

Then, in the McCarthyite Fifties, along came the explosive New York-based, Reds-under-the-bed ‘Confidential’ magazine – the National Enquirer of its day.  Edited by an alcoholic former Communist Daily Worker writer Howard Rushmore, it “ripped the lid” off scandal by publishing sex-and-race scurillity – naming names!  Liberace gay!  Clark Gable’s first wife tells all!  Elvis!   Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr!  Pinkos, ex-felons, illegitimate kids!

When House UnAmerican Committee informers and narks ruled Hollywood, the Confidential operation depended on a spy network of shady private eyes, waitresses, going-nowhere starlets, parking valets, call girls.

Millions in America read this 25 cent weekly but nobody would admit it.  Or as Humphrey Bogart – one of its targets – dryly remarked, “Everybody reads it but they say the cook brought it into the house.”  My mum devoured Confidential claiming she’d found it in the garbage dumped by a neighbour.

This spy network is reincarnated today in a vast network of tipsters to celebrity programs like TMZ and other Hollywod gossip programs which deliver the unflattering dirt preferably with Iphone images of the star sprawled in the gutter.   Trouble is, most of the nailed “stars” are publicity-crazed ‘Day Of The Locust’ hangers-on you never heard of because the real mega-stars – Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Natalie Portman – often lead dull domestic corporate lives.   If America ever goes more rightwing than it is, say if a Tea Party president were elected, an American fuhrer would have a ready-made Gestapo in this seemingly innocent TMZ-like web of informants.

Politics and celebrity overlap until they’re almost the same.  Most recently, the ethically challenged and confessedly twice-adulterous former House Speaker  Newt Gingrich has been making the rounds of evangelicals upchucking his personal miscreancies in the hope of getting their pastoral support for a 2012 presidential run.  In this context, Charlie Sheen sounds almost reasonable, rational and honest.

CLANCY SIGAL is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. He can be reached at clancy@jsasoc.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

March 26, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How ISIS’s Brutal Project in the Middle East was Finally Overthrown
Joshua Frank
To Celebrate or to Not? The Mueller Question
George Ochenski
The Fox in the Henhouse: Bernhardt at Interior
Thomas Klikauer
Corporate Bullshit
Chelli Stanley
Detectives on Smollett Case Have Troubling Backgrounds
William deBuys
12 Ways to Make Sense of the Border Mess
Robert Fisk
Ardern’s Response to Christchurch has Put Other Leaders to Shame, But Not for Its Compassion Alone
Binoy Kampmark
Disinviting Jordan Peterson: the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge and Approved Ideas
James C. Kennedy
The Poisonous History of Neo-Classical Economics
Jenna Orkin
Quentin Crisp’s Posthumous Book, the Sequel
Elizabeth Keyes
My Russia Hot-Air Balloon
March 25, 2019
Jonathan Cook
Three Lessons for the Left from the Mueller Inquiry
Dave Lindorff
The TSA’s Role as Journalist Harasser and Media ‘Watchdog’
Tanya Golash-Boza – Michael Golash
Epifanio Camacho: a Militant Farmworker Brushed Out of History
Robert Fisk
Don’t Believe the Hype: Here’s Why ISIS Hasn’t Been Defeated
Jack Rasmus
The Capitulation of Jerome Powell and the Fed
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s Moves to the Right
John Feffer
After Trump
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9/11
Dean Baker
The Importance of Kicking Up: Changing Market Structures So the Rich Don’t Get All the Money
Lawrence Wittner
What Democratic Socialism Is and Is Not
Thomas Knapp
Suppressing Discussion Doesn’t Solve the Problem. It is the Problem.
Stephen Cooper
“I’m a Nine-Star General Now”: an Interview with Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson
Andrew Moss
Immigration and the Democratic Hopefuls
Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail