Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon

Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon

by Andrew Breitbart & Mark Ebner

Wiley

Making our way into Hollywood, Interrupted (full title: Hollywood, Interrupted, Insanity Chic in Babylon — the Case Against Celebrity) finds such “revelations” as…

1. Celebrities hire people to protect their careers and themselves from personal scandal. You’re as shocked as I am, I can tell.

1a. These people include private investigators, attorneys, and PR firms. Brace yourself, there’s more.

2. Popular religions in Hollywood do not all reflect the one true Word Of God (that being Christianity, of course, and how come you didn’t know that at once, hmmm?). Some of them may be kinda scammy. Unlike all other religions, which are pure and true and good — ask your closest altar boy.

Aghast yet? Well, try this on for size:

3. A lot of celebrity children are raised by nannies.

I know, I know, you’re crying now, make it stop, make it stop! But no, I must go on… the world must know the truth… the truth, as this book so boldly makes plain, that…

3a. These children grown up to be students in high school that sometimes –okay, often — do drugs!

Still not convinced that celebrities are like a plague of frogs raining down upon our nation? So naive. Well, how about this:

4. Those self-same celebrities go on shows like Oprah (and went on shows like Rosie) to market themselves and their latest project! I mean, how dare they? Certainly, the authors of this book would never stoop so low.

5. They use the internet for the same things you use it for. Hey…one of “them” could be looking in at this very moment! Drew honey, missed you in the chat last week…

Okay, fun’s over. What I’m saying is, this is a bad book. It is bad on almost every level. If it were just trying to be, as the press release would have it, a gleeful, “sobering, yet savage look at the flameouts and meltdowns in our celebrity obsessed culture,” it would be bad enough. There are better-written books you can read, such as Joe Eszterhas’s American Rhapsody, Biskind’s Down & Dirty Pictures and various roman a clef novels and I-worked-for-a-celebrity books. Yes, better-written, yes, even Eszterhas. The man can write. Not screenplays, but the man can write.

However, being a juicy, gossip-filled read is only this books’ disguise. What it actually is is a piece of right-wing propaganda for the “culture wars.” Think I’m being a left-wing paranoid? Then come with me, won’t you, as we seek to find the (not so) hidden secrets of Hollywood, Interrupted

The readers’ quotes from people like Ann Coulter and Lucianne Goldberg are the first clues that this book is going to have something of an original relation to truth and ethics. For those of you who don’t know, smearing a former Senator who was not patriotic enough to please her — a former Senator who is also a silver star-winning, triple-amputee veteran — is only the most recent in a long line of Coulter’s documented, verifiable lies. For a more complete listing see bestselling author Al Franken’s latest book. Goldberg is the woman who told Linda Tripp to surreptitiously tape record phone conversations with a woman who thought she was a friend. But let’s not judge a book by its cover quotes; fortunately, we don’t have to, thanks to three magical words, “consider the source.” This gives us co-author Andrew Breitbart, who works for lying fink Matt Drudge, the man who is to respectable journalism what the Taliban is to feminist erotica. Which also explains why Drudge gets a two-page plug in the book, ending: “Power to the people — populist anti-corporate troublemaking courtesy of the Web’s best-known radical in the tradition of Ben Franklin!” Yeah. Ben Franklin, Matt Drudge. You talk about your evolutionary slopes…

The charges this book is attempting to make are best illustrated by the section entitled “The Left Wing,” consisting of three chapters. The first, with the tragically unfunny (but all too typical) title “Reds,” accuses actors who criticize George W. Bush in international interviews of “fueling anti-Americanism abroad.” As though, if people like Robert Redford and Woody Harrelson would just shut up, the rest of the world wouldn’t notice that we dropped the ball hard on capturing Bin Laden. That we’ve lost hundreds of soldiers on a wild goose chase in Iraq. Or that our President is currently pandering to homophobes. The authors then go on to take a smug shot at Susan Sarandon for saying she feels a “fear that exists now in the United States to even question anything for fear of being labeled anti-American.” Their reply:

“Nothing Sarandon says in the public arena can take away from the genius of her breast rubdown in Louis Malle’s Atlantic City,” followed by a few other examples of films in which Sarandon exposes her breasts, and then topped off with “…the naked truth behind Sarandon’s Age of Aquarius meets WPA political vaudeville act with lover/father of some of her children Tim Robbins is that when not acting on her back [italics mine — BV], she is every bit as demagogic and intolerant as those she so loudly despises.”

Amazing, isn’t it? In other words, shut up, whore.

Need I add that this “naked” truth — tee hee, that’s an example of the elementary school level wit you find throughout — is not backed up by a smidgen of evidence?

The next chapter, “Blue Country Haze” purports to be about Hollywood as “ground zero in the culture war.” It starts with a perfectly serviceable definition of “Politically Correct” from the American Heritage Dictionary and then goes on to argue that the words mean something else. American Heritage says:

adj. Abbr. PC 1. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. 2. Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.

Anyone have a problem with that as a definition? Looks pretty fair and balanced — to coin a phrase — to me. Covers the intention and the capacity for abuse of both the term and the attitude. But, no, according to this book, PC is all about making members of minority groups imagine themselves to be the victims of prejudice. Which presumably would never have occurred to them were it not for those troubled entertainers telling them to find oppression where none exists. None at all. None whatsoever. None, I tell you.

“Troubled entertainers” like Rosie O’Donnell. Now, I’m no fan of O’Donnell’s. I actually would agree with the authors that she is a textbook definition of how good intentions can go too far and those with them can take themselves too seriously. When she demands that Bernadette Peters delete a lyric from an Irving Berlin song before performing it on her show — because it could be seen as promoting hunting — she crosses a line into arrogance. I’m an arrogant guy myself, but not so arrogant that I think I can rewrite Irving Berlin on any grounds. I also think that as an entertainer O’Donnell has bad taste and is just plain unrefined. So perhaps you will appreciate just how mean-spirited, cheap, and veiled in homophobia this book’s attack was that I came out of it actually feeling sorry for her. They imply that her sexual and emotional maturity is retarded, and call her a “shameless Trojan horse” for gay and lesbian parents.

O’Donnell’s example points up another flaw in the book. Even when the writers stumble into a point that actually makes sense, as they do once or twice, they do it with overblown rhetoric and self-important, humorless posturing. And I speak as one who has found a laugh in Rush Limbaugh and a valid point in Michael Medved. It’s as though the authors of this book thought they were writing an exposé of the government instead of a tabloidesque catalog of celebrity flameouts. Put simply: The silly fucks take this seriously.

In “The Death Of Comedy,” the authors’ big example of the harm “PC” did in this country is that they claim it ruined the career of Andrew “Dice” Clay, who is presented as a poor unfortunate. A neat trick for a man who became rich and famous with hateful comedy. “PC is to discourse what the left says old McCarthyism was to politics,” they say. But the kind of “discourse” they mean is that they want to be free to make jokes about anyone they want, without having to stop to even consider the notion of civility and respect toward other peoples and cultures. That’s not a free, robust exchange of ideas; it’s an excuse for bullies to hurt people.

The authors insist that all they want is “honest communication.” But what do they honestly communicate? Well, they then turn their attention to female and/or gay comics such as Ellen Degeneres and Margaret Cho. “For the most part, women have been a disaster on the comic stage,” the writers proclaim, “not tapping into the universal plight of humankind but focusing instead on the woes of womanhood alone.” So, next time you see a male comic talking about ejaculating on his date’s prom dress, remember: He’s tapping into the universal plight of humankind. We’ve all been there, right? Unsurprisingly, it seems completely outside the authors’ sphere of perception that a male, straight audience might be able to laugh at, or even (gasp!) identify with, a point of view from a different context. The writers express complete bewilderment that The Vaginia Monologues is called “empowering,” but “Howard Stern, for some reason, does not receive the same kind of rave media reviews over his empowering penis talk.” Oh, honestly, Andrew and Mark. Do you imagine even for a moment that penises need to be any further empowered in our culture than they are?

Well, maybe theirs do. This all reminds me of something said by one of the original woman writers for Saturday Night Live (I think it was Anne Beatts, but it may have been Rosie Schuster): That a lot of men are threatened by women’s humor, because they think the ultimate woman’s joke is “How big is it?”

Breitbart and Ebner, who align themselves with the so-called “flyover country” despite living and working in southern California, seek to present themselves as heroic investigative journalists. But with their clichéd prose, disapproving tone and obvious prurient interest, they come off like slack-jawed yokels gazing over the fence of the Playboy Mansion.

“Lookit all them weirdoes…hey, you think we could get in, man?”

John Wiley Publishers: http://www.wiley.com/

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