Fallen Idols

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I always thought that losing an icon was a terrible thing. I sadly remember that stretch in 2016 when several musicians and actors that dominated the formative years of my life started dropping like flies. FB was flooded with people my age imploring God and the Universe to stop taking our idols. Prince, David Bowie, William “Father Mulcahy” Christopher, Gene Wilder, John Glenn, Arnold Palmer, Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty, Muhammad Ali, the list is so terribly long and sad. But they all left a happy memory with me if not a reminder that life is fleeting and I am getting older. I always could reflect on their impact on my life and smile. It’s not the worst thing in life.

The worst thing is actually finding out that someone you looked up to is not the person you thought they were.

I had the pleasure of being great friends with a guy who was the son of a professional basketball player. A Boston Celtic, the replacement for the great Bill Russell, Mr. Hank aka “High Henry” Finkel. My friend had grown up in an affluent neighborhood North of Boston populated by many famous Bruins, Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics players and he knew all of them and their kids.

When I first met him, I was enamored by his childhood friends and I prodded him constantly for info on them. I am not a celebrity chaser at all, I just wanted to know more about some players that I grew up idolizing. In particular was a certain baseball player, an absolute legend from the 70’s and 80’s that my Dad and I practically bonded over when I was a kid. My friend told me, actually warned me first, that I wouldn’t like what he had to tell me. I insisted. He told me a harrowing tale of a guy who smiled for the cameras and the fans but mercilessly beat his wife and children on occasion…losing streaks in particular. I was crushed when I heard this, as an adult mind you, that an icon of my youth was a great ball player, but a very bad man. Not one for hindsight, I’m pretty sure that I wish I had never learned this.

We live in the information age, as the saying goes. I contend that in some cases there is such a thing as too much information. I stop short of wishing for ignorance but I can think of so many instances where “new information” or “old family secrets” have destroyed a person that at one time gave me a warm and fuzzy. From the late Uncle that you just learned cheated on your beloved Aunt, to the knowledge that a young President that used to reign over the empire of “Camelot” was actually a pill-popping whore-monger, the list is almost endless and equally sad.

The job of role-model is a barnacle on the hull of celebrity. To be fair, other than elected officials, it is unrealistic to expect actors, athletes, musicians, etc., to be anything more than human. They’re really just people like you and I. I fondly remember the scene in a Bronx Tale, where Sonny challenges young “C” on his idolization of Mickey Mantle. “Does he pay your rent? No, he’s just a regular guy. What’s he do for you?” The boy was disillusioned, but it was the day he realized an important truth. That Mickey Mantle was just a ballplayer.

But OJ Simpson was just a football player…and he almost divided the country in half. And cost me a friendship.

I used to go to the same Barber Shop every Tuesday in the 90’s. I had hair back then. I was good friends with the Barber. Every haircut consisted of small talk and I would always find myself drawn to his wedding picture on the mantle before me. The tall, thin white guy with the pretty African American Wife. I never thought twice about him being married to a black woman. Then the OJ trial happened, and you can only imagine that Barber Shops across the country buzzed about it for months. One day, as the trial was close to an end, my Barber and I became engaged in the conversation as well. I offered up, in my own informed opinion, that I thought OJ was guilty. The room got colder than my ex-wife’s side of the bed. My haircut was over and I was asked to leave. I resisted, asking my friend why he was acting this way, and he said “You know my situation! How can I interact with you now?” I was stunned. I asked him:

“By situation…do you mean that because your wife is black then you have to support OJ? That’s preposterous!”

“Well, you believe he’s guilty because he’s black, don’t you?” How do you argue with that kind of logic? I paid for my haircut and I haven’t seen him since. I guess I’m a racist. My real takeaway is that many in the black community couldn’t accept that such a positive role model as OJ could be guilty of such a crime and their disappointment had morphed into anger and denial.

Facts:

I was disgusted when I heard that Bing Crosby beat his kids.
I was bothered when Eddie Murphy got busted with a tranny prostitute.
I was let down when I found out that our founding fathers owned slaves.
I was pissed when I learned Obama went to a church led by an America-hating minister.
I was disappointed when Mark Maguire and Barry Bonds did Steroids.
I was horrified when Michael Richards went on a racial tirade onstage.
I was shocked when Mel Gibson went off on an anti-Semitic public rant.
I was embarrassed when our president was caught on tape talking like a frat-boy about molesting women.
But at the end of the day, It’s just the new norm. People are not what they seem and they probably never were. The latest and perhaps most disappointing entry of late is Mr. Bill Cosby.

Bill Cosby is a unique story. He was a role model to millions of people regardless of skin pigmentation. He didn’t fall into being a role model, he set the framework. He kept it clean, he worked with children, created positive Television programming, spun wonderful yarns of his beloved wife Camile and his flawed but great kids. He did cable comedy and only swore once. He even defied stereotypes and created a hit TV show about a powerful, affluent power couple with a bunch of kids. His superpower was solving any major issue in 22 minutes once a week. A true icon, I admit I looked up to him.

Today, I just looked at him as he did the “perp-walk” from court after being convicted on all charges of sexual assault on a multitude of female victims. Yup, good ole Dr. Huxtable was dropping Mickey’s in their drinks and then slipping them his famous “Pudding Pop”. Another disgraced icon to contend with. A younger me may be disappointed or disillusioned, but this me is not. He’s just a man. A flawed man. A ruined man. My only disappointment is that I allowed myself to look up to him.

Nothing surprises me anymore. In this age of endless information and instant gratification, I can’t even control what I know about people. My real role models have always been the non-famous among us; the great teachers, hard-working parents, and broke philanthropists who volunteer their time and energy to bettering the world. Celebrity is a height that can only lead to a long fall and a painful landing. My advice, keep your feet planted firmly on the ground secure in the knowledge that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Day 10…a letter to the leader of the Country

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Dear Mr. President:

You are perhaps the most amazing story in political history. Your election shook the world. It was historic on so many levels and the shock waves still ripple across the world one full year after your election.

On election night I watched the results unfold with unbridled glee. Not because I was supporting you, (I did in the same manner as every other election I have voted in, I voted against a candidate, not for one), but because of the sheer excitement of it. I felt vindicated because I predicted your victory when no one in my circle did. I simply knew that the polls were not accurate. That many who were polled either gave no answer or lied. for fear that supporting you would cause them backlash or social condemnation. Therefore the numbers that predicted a Hillary victory were simply not accurate and the “silent majority” would speak with their vote, not their voice. As I sat on the edge of my seat I embraced the tumult that then unfolded.

Of course, I didn’t realize the chaos that would ensue. The reaction from the pundits was hilarious and expected. While required to maintain an “objective” expression they failed miserably, they couldn’t contain their anger at your election. No surprises there for me. But the country itself did surprise me and continues to do so. College students felt violated and clamored tearfully for “safe spaces”. Grown men and women cried in public and called for the immediate disbanding of long-standing election protocols. In short, millions of people lost their fucking minds when their candidate didn’t win. It is a sad state of affairs but it is very telling of the mindset of our country. Our youth is unaccustomed to not getting their way, our adults have lost the ability of reasonable discourse, and our country is hopelessly divided. If you do an absolutely amazing job in the next three years your popularity will never exceed 50%. Fortunately, you don’t care about any of that.

Mr. President, you were elected by a lot of people who didn’t agree with the direction the previous administration was going. They didn’t necessarily vote for you, but for the issues that you stood for and that, let’s face it you were a lesser evil to many. You are not an ideal candidate. You are not Presidential in the way you carry yourself. You are crass, you can be a braggart, you are not well-spoken and you are impulsive in your words and actions. I can only speak for myself, but I thought your competitor was corrupt, while I only find you imperfect. I compromised a lot of my personal convictions to vote for you in hopes that you will grow into the job.

As the country still reels from your win, and as your critics and enemies pull out every stop to destroy you please remember that you hold the most powerful position in the free world. If I love my country I cannot possibly in good conscience want you to fail. That would be commensurate to hoping the pilot of my aircraft will fail. Do what you said you would do, fulfill your promises because that is integrity. Please also remember that with integrity comes the ability to absorb criticism, be civil to your detractors and to act upright at all times. The insolent temper tantrums, name-calling, and dick-measuring need to stop. It is not, whether you care about this or not, representative of your office. Even if I didn’t respect you, you sit in the chair that many great men have before you. Act like it.

The country is not broken, but it is cracking. Everything you do can either help fix or further the damage. I’m counting on you. Put the damn twitter account away and charge forward.

A concerned citizen.

Day 7…a letter to a celebrity to despise

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Dear Kathy Griffin:

I just want you to know that you are a despicable celebrity. It annoys me to no end that there might be a person somewhere  that is influenced by you. Your spotlight is undeserved, your celebrity is unearned and your influence is as toxic as it is unexplained.

If you have read this far you are probably knee-jerking your way to dismissing me as a Trump-supporter. You know, the white-supremacist Nazi redneck hillbilly inbred gun-toting bible-clutching toothless moron label that you have attributed to about 61 million people that didn’t vote for your candidate. If you came to that conclusion then you are wrong. I am just a middle-of-the-road American citizen. I don’t fit into any molds, I don’t have an agenda. I just care about right and wrong. And I think that everything about the way you make a living is wrong.

I am a lover of comedy, all kinds. The ability to laugh offsets much of the sadness in the world for many. Those that know how to create laughter have a special gift. You possess no such gift. Your “comedy” consists of mean-spirited barbs and attacks. You viciously attack anyone whose name is recognizable to draw attention to yourself. But once we are looking at you there is nothing to look at. You lack substance, empathy, discretion and sensibility.

It is not all your fault, I partially blame anyone who thinks that you are entertaining enough to dedicate time to. There is no accounting for taste.

I have earnestly hoped that Natural Selection, Nature’s way of eliminating the weak and impure, would have taken you away by now but that was not to be. Instead of falling through the chain of Hollywood, finally being spit out of the bottom of the porn industry like you deserve you again rose to National attention by sporting a likeness of the President of the United States’ bloody head. Yea that’s funny. Regardless of political party, a civilized person cannot find that acceptable or funny.

That was wrong. And you were called out for it. You received tremendous backlash and you begrudgingly gave a bullshit apology that no one believed. But at least you did. I was resentful that people knew your name again but happy you did kind of the right thing.

Until you later retracted your apology, realizing that your fans had no more of a moral compass than you. And for that I will always hate you. It was bad enough that you are talentless and unfunny but you are now a liar who spit in the faces of the people that never deserved your unwanted attentions in the first place.

Please crawl back into the pool of primordial ooze that you and your bad dye-job climbed out of. And please, for the sake of all of us just shut the fuck up.

with disgust,

A decent citizen