It's another Friday, and somehow you've convinced yourself that 2008 isn't one of the worst years in recent memory. "Sure, we're witnessing hypocrisy illustrated on a grand scale with our administration's half-hearted 'tsk-tsk' policy on Russia's invasion of Georgia. And yes, we lost Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes within hours of each other, a creepy coincidence that definitely puts Soul Men ahead of The Dark Knight in the running for being the Poltergeist of the new millennium. (Buckle up, Samuel L. Jackson!) And okay, so today we found out that bouncing Baby New Year was squeezed and shaken to death, then had his tiny corpse bathed so he'd smell nice for Jesus. Yes, granted, all of that stuff is pretty terrible. But fuck it. It's the weekend, and damn it all, I just want to fire up the barbecue and bask in the glory of Michael Phelps!" Well done, America. If this were the Self-Delusion Olympics, you'd certainly take home the gold. But before you take your place on that platform and offer up your neck to the judges, there's just one more heat you have to endure: The 500-meter Friday Buzzkills. Take your positions.
- After last week's edition suggested he was expected to make a full recovery, we naturally feel a sort of grim personal responsibility for Bernie Mac's untimely demise. That's why this week we're resolving not to make any positive speculation at all: Christina Applegate, you are doomed…to be exploited as a crass publicity ploy by Suzanne Somers, who this week used the announcement of your breast cancer as an opportunity to draw attention to herself under the guise of offering unsolicited "support" by writing you a personal, heartfelt letter–to be printed exclusively in the pages of People magazine. Somers, who has been battling cancer since 2001, reached out to Applegate and urged her to "take your time and think it through," and to "use your cancer to learn and grow and as a force to work for you"–you know, like turning it to your advantage by using it as a way to keep yourself in the public eye. After all, cancer only comes around once in a lifetime. And girl, you better work it!
- Luckily, we never offered any predictions on Isaac Hayes, so we can't take the blame for his sudden death. Nope, that's all on you, Scientology–at least, according to Fox News columnist Roger Friedman. Monday, the former friend of the late soul singer painted a grim picture of the last few years of Hayes' life in an article innocuously titled "Isaac Hayes' History With Scientology," revealing that Hayes had never fully recovered from a 2006 stroke, which at the time was covered up by his staff–"consisting of Scientology monitors who rarely left him alone," according to Friedman–as a "minor health issue" and explained away as "exhaustion." Furthermore, Friedman elucidates the various ways that Hayes was manipulated into leaving South Park over its controversial "Trapped In The Closet" episode, despite the fact that "Hayes was in no position to have quit anything due to his stroke." Friedman goes on to say that after quitting the show, Hayes' income stream was severely affected, forcing him to take on a brief tour despite his health; of a New York appearance in 2007, Friedman said, "The show was an abomination. Isaac was plunked down at a keyboard, where he pretended to front his band. He spoke-sang, and his words were halting. He was not the Isaac Hayes of the past." Troubling–but not as much as the questions raised by Hayes' death, which supposedly happened while he was on his treadmill, despite the fact that Hayes was in no condition for exercise. To wit:
There are a lot of questions still to be raised about Isaac Hayes' death. Why, for example, was a stroke survivor on a treadmill by himself? What was his condition? What kind of treatment had he had since the stroke? Members of Scientology are required to sign a form promising they will never seek psychiatric or mental assistance. But stroke rehabilitation involves the help of neurologists and often psychiatrists, not to mention psychotropic drugs – exactly the kind Scientology proselytizes against.
But, uh, surely this is just another case of Fox News stoking the flames of controversy where there is no spark, right? We can't blame the Church of Scientology for Hayes' death, even if they refused to allow him to seek proper treatment from those greedy, thetan-destroying suppressive persons with all their "medications" and "neurological treatments." Why, if Hayes had wanted to get well, he would have just willed it to be so! Anyone who says differently is practicing religious discrimination, and should expect to incur the wrath of Tom Cruise, newly anointed godfather of the Scientology syndicate. Don't be surprised to wake up to an offer you can't refuse, Friedman.
- Finding out the nefarious secrets behind the million-dollar smiles is never easy, but by this point we've become so inured to thinking of Tom Cruise as, with apologies to Keats, our cold and empty Grecian urn–except that so-called "truth" is just you being glib, and beauty is absolutely all ye need to know–that at this point we could probably learn that Cruise killed Isaac Hayes with his bare hands and swapped his vocal cords out with his own (all the better for serenading Katie at karaoke) and we probably wouldn't bat an eye. But that's because Cruise is a mega-star; he's supposed to be fucked up beyond all repair. It's the only way we can justify not killing ourselves with jealousy. But when such revelations are made about lower-tiered celebrities–the kind of folks that we can more readily identify with, because they're only barely famous–somehow it hurts even more: Take 40-Year-Old Virgin actor Shelley Malil, who played Steve Carell's coworker "Haziz" (a role he landed after winning America's hearts in those Budweiser "Whassup" commercials), and who was arrested this week for allegedly attempting to murder his girlfriend by stabbing her 20 times about the chest, neck, and face. According to police reports, Malil appeared on the patio of Kendra Beebe's house last Saturday and, without saying anything, immediately started attacking her while her two children slept upstairs. After a man who was visiting Beebe disarmed him, Malil then found a second knife in the house and got right back to the stabbing. Somehow, despite three life-threatening wounds, Beebe is expected to survive. Malil, currently being held on a $4 million bail, faces life in prison. And you, you'll never be able to watch 40-Year-Old Virgin again without worrying for Paul Rudd's safety–not to mention any of the following TV clips, most of which contain far too many references to murder (and one especially unfortunate face-bandaging scene) for comfort.
- Of course, when it comes to pulling the mask off of our previously warm and familiar silver-screen friends, nothing this week compared to the revelation that beloved French chef Julia Child–who filled our stomachs and our hearts with her delightfully down-to-earth take on French cuisine for decades–was actually a secret spy working for the OSS, the WWII-era precursor to the CIA. According to formerly classified personnel files released earlier this week, Child was one of many Americans recruited to battle the worldwide threat of Nazis, serving as a clerk and aiding in the development of "shark repellent" (later put to excellent use by Batman and Robin). Granted, fans and those with memories longer than the average commercial break may remember that all of these things were already made public years ago in various articles, the book Sisterhood Of Spies, and in a CIA-published obituary. Okay, Mr. Reads Too Much, so you're not easily impressed. What if we told you that super-spy James Bond–the On Her Majesty's Secret Service, George Lazenby version anyway–was actually an abusive alcoholic who gave beer to his toddler children and threatened to kill his wife? Would that shut you up? Good, because that's the allegation made by Lazenby's wife and tennis champion Pam Shriver, who says in divorce papers filed last week that throughout 2006 and 2007 Lazenby routinely offered his kids–none of whom were more than 3-years-old at the time–"beer from beer bottles and ice from scotch glasses," and once told her during a heated discussion about their marriage, "If you take the kids, I will kill you." Oh, and he also "once launched an anti-Semitic attack against senior Israeli government officials who were dining in the same swanky Los Angeles restaurant." Sure, that's the kind of classlessness one would expect from the "lesser Bond," but we can't blame Shriver for feeling shaken, not stirred. (We just made that up!) Still, who's to say he wasn't just trying to help his kids relax, thereby avoiding a sudden stiffness?
- Obviously we don't like it when our celebrities turn out to be real, deeply flawed human beings behind their ready-for-primetime personas–but what about when our most detested tabloid parasites are revealed to have both self-awareness and heretofore-unknown standards of decency? Shouldn't they then be commended rather than punished? So why is it that Paris Hilton is being sued for $75,000 for refusing–for the first time in her existence–to be a publicity whore? For once in her ridiculously overbooked life in the public eye, the socialite and sometimes actress chose not to choke our airwaves with halfhearted testimonials of "hot"-ness regarding her glorified cameo in 2006's National Lampoon's Pledge This!, and rather than being showered with accolades from a grateful nation, she's facing a breach-of-contract suit from Worldwide Entertainment Group, who claim that she didn't fulfill her required amount of "reasonable promotion and publicity." Look, WEG: First of all, when it comes to "reasonable publicity" and Paris Hilton, there's clearly no such thing. But don't try to pretend like you got shortchanged here. You paid Hilton the insane sum of $1 million dollars for her "acting services," and in return you got exactly what you wanted: To put her name and face on the straight-to-DVD cover of your umpteenth shitty collegiate comedy, thereby fooling her legion of gullible "fans" into picking it up. Services fucking rendered. We can't start suing people for doing exactly what we want them to do. When your headache finally goes away, do you sue the makers of Tylenol?
- Here's another "surprise" that isn't: The Disney corporation is, despite its outward appearance as a dream factory run by happy little elves, actually just like any other multibillion dollar business run by happy little wage slaves, and one that doesn't take too kindly to work stoppages, even when they involve some of its most beloved characters. This morning 32 protestors–including Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Tinkerbell, and Cinderella–were handcuffed and packed into police vans in front of thousands of tourists outside of Disneyland after they led an hour-long march to voice their grievances over Disney's new proposed labor contract, which the workers' union says creates an "unfair two-tier wage system and makes health care unaffordable for hundreds of employees" by classifying resort workers who put in 30 hours or less as "part-time" (which means no health benefits, no sick pay, and zero holidays), and increasing the amount of hours full-time employees must work to qualify. Apparently wishing upon a star no longer gets you anything your heart desires–especially when it's an angioplasty. As a bonus, here's one of the saddest photos in recent memory; gather the kids around for a potent visual metaphor on when fantasy and reality collide. (But don't worry, children. If all of you just clap hard enough, Tinkerbell can post bail!)
- After last week's Saturday surprise, we're especially uneasy about declaring this a slow week for celebrity deaths. So let's just say that mortality grimly marches on like always, and in the last few days most stars have been fortunate enough to be spared the dangling sword of Damocles known as The Rule Of Three. That is, unless you count renowned steel guitarist Don Helms, who died Tuesday at the age of 81. Helms was an original member of Hank Williams' Drifting Cowboys, and it was there that he contributed that high lonesome slide on tunes like "Cold, Cold Heart" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," helping to set the standard for the bluesy, soporific wail that would define country music for decades. Later he did session work for the likes of Lefty Frizzell (on his classic "Long Black Veil") and Patsy Cline, for whom he contributed the signature slide on "Walkin' After Midnight."
- As a playwright, George Furth was a true innovator, creating the book for Stephen Sondheim's unconventional musical Company; a later collaboration on the unusually structured commercial failure Merrily We Roll Along has since become a cult favorite of theater buffs. But even those who don't follow Broadway probably know Furth as an actor: Among his many supporting roles, Furth played the railroad guard "Woodcock" in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, "Van Johnson" in Blazing Saddles, and appeared in dozens of movies like Oh God!, Airport '77, Shampoo, and Bulworth, as well as TV shows like Batman, Murder She Wrote, and All In The Family. Furth died this week at the age of 75–sadly, his obituary remarks that he had no immediate survivors.
- Along with his recently deceased partner Ahmet Ertegun, producer Jerry Wexler helped shape Atlantic Records into a home for groundbreaking artists, beginning with his work on recordings by artists like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. (Among the many, many standards that were produced with Wexler at the boards: Aretha Franklin's "Respect," Dusty Springfield's Dusty In Memphis, Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman," and Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour.") Later he helped make Atlantic a home for rock icons like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, whom Wexler helped garner his first Grammy by producing his 1979 album Slow Train Coming. After selling off his share of Atlantic to Warner Bros., Wexler began collaborating with various Southern musicians like Duane Allman, Dr. John, and Willie Nelson (with whom he recorded Shotgun Willie and Phases And Stages), and later helped shepherd the careers of artists like George Michael and Dire Straits. Wexler died today at the age of 91. His son Paul says his tombstone will read, "He changed the world," adding, "I don't think I'm overreaching." Neither do we.
Have a super weekend!