One Last Thing About Charlie Sheen

The first time I was flown out to Hollywood to work on a film was a very exciting experience. Barely a year before, I had been a struggling wannabe, now suddenly someone was paying me more money than I’d ever imagined making and even flying me across country first class. My wife was so excited she took a picture of me getting in the limousine  that the studio sent to my door.

In LA, I found myself sitting at a power breakfast with a bunch of studio muckamucks whose tie-clips cost more than everything I owned. I did my best to make small talk, but I was nervous beyond description.   Somehow, the conversation turned to Maria Shriver, and one of the people at the table said, “I’ve always liked her because she’s the one member of the Kennedy family to whom nothing tragic has happened.”  To which I immediately piped up:  “Oh, I don’t know.  She married Arnold Schwarzenegger!”

Well, the table went silent.  A long time.  Long enough for a bead of sweat to run from the nape of my neck to the small of my back.  Finally, one of these studio guys cleared his throat and muttered, “Nice man – Arnold.”  And the conversation resumed.

See, it’s not that I thought Arnold was a bad man, or a bad husband or a bad match for Maria Shriver.  It simply never occurred to me that Arnold Schwarzenegger was real! To me, he was a two dimensional image on a screen, a celebrity, a persona not a person.  I made a joke about him because that’s what he was there for, that was the purpose of his existence in my life.  It had never truly entered my mind that he was an actual living, breathing human being whom other people might know and work with, respect or like or care about.

Last week, like everyone else, I took an occasional five minute break from work to watch, laugh at, shake my head over, pontificate on and make jokes about the drug-induced psychosis and probable incipient death of actor Charlie Sheen.  Like everyone else, I watched the bear-baiting “journalists” draw yet more absurd statements out of the man, then shared the videos with my friends and slugged the emails with headings like, “The Train Wreck Who Thought He Was A God,” and “I Too Am Tired of Pretending Charlie Sheen’s Not Special.”  I even discussed him in an interview on New York radio.

And no, I’m not about to get all moralizing and sententious about it.  It is what it is.  They put this stuff on TV because we watch it.  We watch it because they put it on TV.

It did, however, remind me of that embarrassing moment at my first power breakfast in LA, and of something else as well.  Once, when Johnny Carson was still hosting the Tonight Show, his staff took out a full page joke advertisement in, I think, The New York Times.  It said – I quote from memory, “You may think Johnny Carson is your friend, but he doesn’t even know who you are.”

That’s a deep truth about celebrities–and like many deep truths, the reverse is a deep truth as well.

Charlie Sheen may think we’re paying attention to him, but we don’t even know he’s real.

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  • Spaniardo


    a) “My wife was so excited she took a picture of me getting in the limousine that the studio sent to my door.” Can we take a look at that picture?

    b) Can we read more anecdotes about your first days in the movie industry?

    c) “Charlie Sheen may think we’re paying attention to him, but we don’t even know he’s real.” You know how it works: le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!!! (Sorry for using the French language in your blog, but if you think you Americans have something against France, think on me: I’m Spanish and they’re my neighbors!)

  • Pascal (the derivative)


    What happened to this?

    KOC: Your Public Sector Union At Work
    by Andrew Klavan

    As a member in good standing of Tiny Satiric Commentator’s Local #456, PJTV’s Klavan on the Culture understands that private sector unions are a necessary evil in a world in which fat plutocrats bathe in their own money while smoking cigars–a patent fire hazard. But the public sector union is a different kind of animal altogether, a ravening beast with a single red eye and fangs dripping the blood of devoured state budgets. Or something. Anyway, KOC is here once again to explain it all to you in under four minutes–after which, by union rules, he gets a six hour break.

    I’ll embed the vid here when it’s available.

  • Anonymous

    Good point, and part of a larger truth. My epiphany occurred at an early age when my mother passed away suddenly. I was surprised it wasn’t a big story in the local newspaper – and realized then how much information is being integrated down for consumption and how easy it is to manipulate that integration to whatever your particular bias might be.

  • AK

    Thank you for asking. This was posted a week early by accident. It was intended for this coming Thursday, when the video will be released and it will be posted again.