The halls are decked, the egg is nogged, yon virgins are round, and odds are the people in your office spent the day mentally checked out and standing around gawking at the snow like rubes who just wandered in from Dogpatch. Yes, it's the Friday before Christmas, and even we're having trouble maintaining our usual veneer of cynicism, mostly because being snarky about Christmas is fucking
boring. Besides, what's not to like? The forced cheer? Well, you obviously haven't been a functioning member of society for very long, because fake enthusiasm and patronizing ingratiation is the lifeblood that sustains our very civilization. The rampant consumerism? Why, that's the thing that's keeping our staggering economy from pitching face-first off the ledge like Frank Nitti at the end of The Untouchables. Sure, so maybe it's inspired some questionable entrepreneurial endeavors–like the woman who was recently busted for selling "gothic kittens" with "ear, neck, and tail piercings"–but considering we could all be peddling pencils and apples and dances-for-a-nickel this time next year, who are we to judge? And what about the children? Are we to look them in their tiny, naïve, drooling little faces and say, "Sorry kids, Santa Claus didn't get your letter this year, because it went straight into the hands of some registered sex offenders"? Well, we might be cynical, but that's just downright cruel… Nevertheless, not everyone is high on Christmas spirit. People are still out there being dicks to each other, acting selfishly and lying about it, falling into despair and disarray… Some of them are even dying! Yes, right outside your window it's a world of dread and fear, where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears, and the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom. Well, thank God it's them and not you, right? Friday Buzzkills for all, and to all a good night. - We know it's been an unusually shaky year for finance, with all but the most innovative among us forced to cut back on ostentatious spending in favor of trying to keep our necks above the commoner muck, but fuck it–it's the holidays! Get out there and blow your last remaining wad on the greatest charitable cause there is: Validating Scarlett Johansson's giraffe-ass-high opinion of herself by bidding on her snot-encrusted tissue. Johansson–who's already inspired you to stop reading this piece and start composing clever comments about "blowing my wad on Scarlett Johansson" and "donating my own crusted tissues"–recently appeared on The Tonight Show to talk about her "celebrity cold" (and some kind of movie or something), whereupon America's favorite pervy uncle Jay Leno encouraged her to put her Samuel Jackson-derived illness to philanthropic use by auctioning off her germs on eBay. Because Christmas is the one time of year we have to demonstrably give a shit about helping the homeless–and because when it comes to celebrities we are a nation of catfish and lamprey eels–the high bid is currently over $2100, making this the week's most ridiculous auction despite some seriously formidable competition. Dear Scarlett: Please hole up with a roll of toilet paper and some warm milk and maybe we'll still have Fords next year. - It's just too bad Jeremy Piven doesn't have Scarlett's, er, bounty of talent, otherwise he might be able to turn his tragic case of sushi-related mercury poisoning–which recently forced him to bow out of a Broadway production of David Mamet's Speed-The-Plow three months early–into something other than a huge P.R. disaster. Still, we're not sure why everyone is so quick to judge Piven. Is it because he spent most of the last few months acting like a kid trying to get out of going to school and complaining of everything from mono to Epstein-Barr before finding a doctor who could provide him with the so-stupid-it's-plausible excuse of "I ated too much fishies" and get him out of his hellish, 80-minutes-a-night work schedule? Is it because his doctor is a steroid-loving former bodybuilder turned supplement shill and spokesman-for-hire who comes off like a real-life version of 30 Rock's Dr. Spaceman? Is it because Piven is one of Hollywood's most notorious ski-and-skank enthusiasts, and that it's highly likely once he realized he'd be playing eight days a week to Midwestern tourists in a New York winter instead of offering to "let you hold my Emmy" to the girls at Hyde he decided he needed to bail? Is it because you're just jealous and stuff? Give the man a break. It's Christmas! - And you know, maybe Piven was right to ditch the stage; after all, it's been a particularly bad week for live performance. Take the case of Austrian actor Daniel Hoevels who, due to a weensy prop mix-up at the Hamburg theater where he was acting in a production of Mary Stuart, accidentally slit his throat onstage when the fake knife he thought he was using turned out to be very real. To his credit, he got some of the biggest applause of the show from an audience who thought they were seeing some particularly wicked special effects, which is more than can be said about David Copperfield's own theatrical disaster. The illusionist most famous for his trick where he made any lingering respect for magicians disappear made the news this week after one of his crewmembers became trapped in a 12-foot industrial fan during his Las Vegas revue, lacerating his face and breaking his arm in several places. Copperfield's response? Using the incident to issue the self-serving statement about how audiences "assume that the death-defying illusions I do on stage are not dangerous," followed by a visit to the hospital where he gave the crewmember a children's magic set. Ha ha, please don't sue. On a side note: Extra kudos to E! Online's Gina Serpe, who–following her network's strict protocol–somehow managed to link even this story to Lindsay Lohan…. …a kudos she'll have to share (it's the chocolate chip kind!) with the People reporter who made sure to mention that Peter Falk played the "scatterbrained detective Colombo" and brought up his role in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in a story about how the actor now suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia. Hey, according to his daughter, the 81-year-old Falk also "can easily be deceived into transferring away property," yet no mention of Robin And The Seven Hoods or even All The Marbles? (We'll leave it to you to link Falk's tragic mental state to his appearance in Corky Romano.) Now if only there were some embarrassing photos of Falk looking crazy and disheveled. Oh, thanks TMZ!
- It's no secret that Christmas is a time when suicide statistics tend to skyrocket, as the season of love and togetherness only tends to throw a person's lonely existence into stark relief, and the end of another year of wasted opportunities and crushing failures often causes one to reflect on how life's cycle of expectation and disappointment is endless, with the only way to escape it being the sweet release of death. Still, while Christmastime suicides can make for very entertaining, redemptive stories when they star Jimmy Stewart, in real life they're not nearly as heartwarming–particularly when they involve
country singer Mindy McCready, who this week was discovered by her brother "in a bloody bed" after having swallowed several pills and cut her wrists in her latest attempt to end her increasingly troubled life. And there were certainly no angels getting their wings or communities coming around the piano and having a merry sing-along at the end of Justin Levens' story: The former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter was found dead along with his wife in an apparent murder-suicide when his mother-in-law reported she hadn't heard from them in over five days. Merry Christmas, movie house! - Levens wasn't the only modern-day gladiator to pass this week: Professional wrestler Mike "Mad Dog" Bell was found dead at the age of 37 last Sunday. Bell's substance abuse problems were well documented in this year's Bigger, Stronger, Faster–directed by his brother Chris–which examined his habits of popping steroids and painkillers while also drinking heavily. At the moment authorities are waiting on toxicology results to declare an official cause of death, but Chris Bell has already implicitly blamed it on the "wrestling lifestyle."
- Although he never really had his breakout moment, actor Sam Bottoms had memorable roles in two of the most iconic films of the 1970s: The brother of actors Timothy, Joseph, and Ben Bottoms was cast in The Last Picture Show as the mentally handicapped teenager "Billy" after director Peter Bogdanovich spotted him on the street. Later, he played the role of a California surfer turned soldiers Lance Johnson in Apocalypse Now, one of the GIs who accompanies Martin Sheen up the river on a gunboat and who, on the orders of Robert Duvall, rides the waves after a napalm strike. Bottoms died this week at the age of 53 from brain cancer.
- As the wife of Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett Roddenberry was known as "the First Lady of Star Trek," a role she filled not only by providing support to her husband, but by appearing in every episode of nearly every incarnation of the TV series and most of the Star Trek films, where she lent her voice to the USS Enterprise computer. Roddenberry also occasionally appeared on screen–as a First Officer in the pilot, a doctor and a nurse in later episodes, and as Ambassador Lwaxana Troi in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Most recently, Roddenberry lent her voice one again to the NCC-1701 for J.J. Abrams' upcoming Star Trek reboot. She died of leukemia this week at 76.
Have a super holiday! [Friday Buzzkills will return January 9.]