After a rough year of in which he fought tirelessly against the press splashing the ugly details and dust-ups of his life across its covers, Alec Baldwin has declared he’s had enough, by splashing the ugly details and dust-ups of his life across the cover of New York Magazine. In an article titled “Good-bye, Public Life” published this weekend, Baldwin said farewell in the grand tradition of Greta Garbo and Scarface from Half Baked, declaring, “I just want to be left alone,” then launching into a series of insults aimed at some of those he may not get the chance to tell off again, as most of us make in our retirement speeches.
Of course, it’s not entirely clear what Baldwin is retiring from, other than the diplomatic reticence he was apparently conducting himself with prior to this. As characterized by NY Mag’s Joe Hagan—whom Baldwin’s screed was “told to”—it all reads like “a guy who’s trying to break up with his girlfriend” (with the emotional, half-finished thoughts and collateral-damage sideswipes at others that would imply), all in Baldwin’s attempt to end his love/hate relationship with celebrity. Still, also like a guy trying to break up with his girlfriend, Baldwin leaves open the possibility that he and celebrity could still get it on—but only casually, saying he still wants to make movies, but without the “Letterman, Saturday Night Live,” and other date-type scenarios where “you try to communicate with an audience playfully like we’re friends, beyond the work you are actually paid for.” He also says that “admittedly, this is how I feel in February of 2014,” meaning his feelings toward the public could always change, like maybe if we get a hot new haircut.
But in the meantime, Baldwin is done, rattling off a list of all the recent encounters that have led him to “loathe and despise the media in a way I did not think possible,” as the media continues to find the sights and sounds of Alec Baldwin aggressively attacking it fascinating, for whatever reason. He starts with the recent accusations of homophobia, stemming from his Twitter war with a British reporter and the subsequent “cocksucking faggot” incident—the latter of which he spends several paragraphs disputing, railing against TMZ as well as Anderson Cooper and Andrew Sullivan (“the Gay Department of Justice”) for setting out to vilify him. “Am I a homophobe? Look, I work in show business. I am awash in gay people,” Baldwin says, in what would have been a great 30 Rock line, but alas.
Baldwin admits he is “self-aware enough to know that I am to blame for some of this,” and that perhaps he should have had second thoughts about screaming at or manhandling people with cameras. But for the most part he (rather sympathetically) reiterates that the constant prying of cameras, and the quick judgment of “our “digital arena, like some Roman Colosseum, with our thumbs up or thumbs down,” are really to blame. And it’s that lack of privacy that’s had him now considering moving away from New York to Los Angeles, a quiet little burg on the California coast where folks only use cameras to gauge how their orange groves are comin’ in.
But before Baldwin retreats to the peaceful, hound-dog-lazin’ idyll of L.A., he offers a few parting shots at those he’s sparred with in the past, as well as some who probably didn’t even know they had it coming (and that’s what makes them doubly deserve it). While revisiting his talk show’s brief run at MSNBC, he gets in digs at former colleagues like Joe Scarborough (whose show is as “boring” as he is “neither eloquent nor funny”), Lawrence O’Donnell (“he’s too smart to be doing that show”), and Rachel Maddow (“a phony who doesn’t have the same passion for the truth off-camera that she seems to have on the air”). And he even spares a few paragraphs for his former Broadway co-star Shia LaBeouf, recalling in detail their contentious working relationship—“LaBeouf seems to carry with him, to put it mildly, a jailhouse mentality wherever he goes,” Baldwin says, definitely putting it mildly—and how he’d offered to quit the show before LaBeouf was fired.
Probably not coincidentally, Baldwin concludes by again referencing LaBeouf, who also “retired” from public life this year, also in as public and drawn-out a manner as possible. “Shia LaBeouf went to a film screening recently and he wore a bag over his head and the bag says I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE. And there was truly a part of me that felt sorry for him, oddly enough,” Baldwin says. And while one may similarly balk at any notion of Baldwin “quitting public life” while still actively participating in it—while also stoking the flames that have engulfed it—at least we can all be grateful he’s doing so with his usual Alec Baldwin candor, and not as some kind of tiresome art project.
Unless Baldwin’s behavior—going all the way back to their Broadway “falling out”—is also part of Shia LaBeouf’s art project, in which case we may also have to quit life.