Charlie being Charlie



I saw a big advertisement on a bus stop today for “Two And A Half Men.”  Charlie Sheen, literally big as life, wearing one of those ugly bowling shirts, was leaning out of the frame and leering at me.  Oh, I thought: this is the guy who just trashed his hotel room at the Plaza with some escort. And then I suddenly realized (literally for the first time!) that Charlie actually plays a character named “Charlie” on the show: a womanizing boozehound who pretty much does whatever he wants.  I then realized that his sometime wife Denise Richards had also been on the show for a while.

Now that’s reality TV.

There seems to be a whole mini-industry for celebrities whose private indiscretions match their public personae.  The famously loony Tracy Morgan plays a nutjob named Tracy Jordan on “30 Rock.”  Lindsay Lohan is making a whole new career of playing dissolute bad girls (check out “Machete,” if you haven’t already seen it).   I saw Randy Quaid’s arrest photo the other evening on TV, and he looked just like the derelict character he played in “Independence Day.”   And Andy Dick – well, it’s a day’s work just figuring out how much trouble he’s in on any given day.

If you’re a New Englander, you will remember Manny Ramirez of the Boston Red Sox.  Manny acted like a jerk much of the time, and he acted crazy most of the time.  But he was a decent baseball player, so the crowd forgave him his peculiarities.  “It’s just Manny being Manny,” we said, and the phrase became a byword, meaning: Whaddya gonna do?  Sometimes you take the bitter with the sweet.

Entertainers are different.  Their careers are tangled up in their roles.  If you are a handsome leading-man action-hero type, probably you should not act too K-R-A-Z-Y in public á la Tom Cruise.  Ditto Russell Crowe.  Ditto Mel Gibson.

But if your persona is goofy, or boozy, or generally a hot mess, you can be in character twenty-four hours a day.  You may even enhance your reputation!

Athletes are judged more harshly, for some reason.  I don’t care about Brett Favre one way or the other, but I think the whole text-plus-pantsless-pic thing is overhyped.  He’s not a saint, that’s for sure.  Ditto Tiger Woods.  But who cares, really? Stupid and careless, both of them, but not violent.

There’s still a limit, however, even for Hollywood celebrities.  How much bad behavior is too much bad behavior?  At what point do people actually stop watching someone’s movies or TV shows just because the star is a felon or a mental case?

Murder, I suppose.  Rape, probably.  Significant brutality (although we seem to have forgiven Russell Crowe and Chris Brown, not to mention Michael Vick on the sports side of the aisle).

I’m not Mister Morality.  Violations of public propriety don’t bother me at all, nor sexual misadventures, nor drug use.  Hey, we’re all malefactors once in a while, right?  Look at Keith Richards.  Not long ago he was a walking joke.  Now Maureen Dowd has called him (without irony) “the voice of chivalry.” Ozzy Osbourne may be the Prince of Darkness, but now I think of him shambling around his kitchen making himself a burrito. He does not alarm me.

It’s only when they tear themselves apart that it becomes sad.  Anna Nicole Smith.  Andy Kaufman.  Janis Joplin.

Remember what your mama said? “It’s funny until someone gets hurt. You’ll see. It’ll end in tears.”

Are you listening, Charlie?




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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