If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all shitty things are not only possible but probable; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time and suspects in their heart of hearts that it's been co-opted and diluted by so many differing ideologies that it's been twisted beyond all recognition; who still questions the power of our democracy to distract you with empty rhetoric and petty bickering and tacky celebrity scandals and mindless entertainment while keeping the most important issues of our time safely out of your realm of influence, here is your answer. And to those A.V. Club readers whose support I have squandered time and again, I realize I may not have won the Internets with my recent, abbreviated posts. But I have heard your comments. I know you need my help. And these will be your Buzzkills too.
- Of course, Obama's victory wasn't just a mandate for change, a referendum on Bush, or a much-needed win for elitist idealism over pandering fear, it was also obviously a big night for African-Americans, and if you're black and even marginally famous, your phone has been ringing off the hook since around 11:01 p.m. Tuesday with patronizing reporters wanting to know if "you ever thought you'd live to see this day." Everybody from Usher to Ne-Yo to Diddy and Beyonce to Oprah dutifully got their pull-quotes in (What, nobody called The Wayans Brothers? There's like eight of those dudes) and effectively ended racism forever and ever, but what about the people who weren't fortunate enough to be blessed with historic skin? Thankfully that didn't stop Paris Hilton from offering her opinion–we're guessing that prompts to characterize the election as "hot" were met with a frosty, lazy-eyed stare–or Paul McCartney, Bono, Katy Perry, and 30 Seconds To Mars' Jared Leto (two of these things are not like the others) to fish for applause while paying their own smug lip service across the pond. But hey, at least Bono somehow restrained himself for taking full credit for Obama's presidency–unlike David Geffen, who is clearly convinced that the sun shines out of his fundraising-dinner-throwing asshole, at least according to this interview:
Having soured on the Clintons after raising huge sums of money for Bill and sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom—twice—Geffen found himself enamored of Obama from the first time he saw him on TV, giving a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. "I thought he was a remarkable guy," Geffen told me today. "After I heard him give that speech, I called him up and said, 'You're going to run for president and I'm going to support you.' " Geffen says Obama laughed and said he was very flattered, but that he wasn't running.
Cut to two years later. "He called me one day and said with a laugh, ' David, I guess you're right. I am running for president and I'd like your support.' And of course, I said, 'You have it.' "
And the trip down Unqualified Pundit Lane continues! Hell, somebody even thought it would be a good idea to wake Chevy Chase up from his 15-year career nap to get his trenchant thoughts on SNL's political coverage, giving him the opportunity to wax nostalgic on the last time anyone cared about Chevy Chase. But of course, for the fluffiest spin on the Obama story, you have to hand it to People, who actually assigned some poor reporter to call up Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan and ask him about the Obamas' promised new puppy! Guess what they found out? Apparently "dogs don't care if you're the president," but the "calm, assertive energy" Obama exhibits in his speeches should help him not only with house-training the new dog "but with world leaders as well." And they say journalism is in crisis.
But when it comes to using Obama as a platform for completely irrelevant self-promotion, as always nobody does it quite like music publicists: Since Tuesday we've received no less than a dozen press releases in our in-box here at the Buzzkills office, the majority of which can most charitably be described as "having fuck all to do with"–if not "totally exploitative of"–Obama, but which nevertheless try to draw some parallel between his victory and some shitty musician's shitty album, as though this sea change in American history is just like getting a new Seal song. (For further reading, Idolator has a pretty good rundown of all those many, many concerts and CDs "for change" that have been popping up, most of which are actually "for dollars.") On second thought, can we go back to when everybody was more blatant about their cynicism?
- Anyway, enough about our newfound "hope": The irony of this "progressive" victory, of course, is that the all the first-time voters who came out in droves to issue a "mandate for change" and make a bold statement for minorities, well, it turns out they kinda sorta don't like the gays. Propositions banning gay marriage were approved everywhere they appeared on a ballot, effectively nullifying recent, heavily publicized weddings like those of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi and (even sadder) sweet old George Takei, prompting celebrities like Melissa Etheridge to proclaim that she's done paying her state taxes (a declaration that will probably resonate more once she issues it over a ringing open G chord). But the dirty not-so-secret of California's Proposition 8 (which, let's face it, is the one that affects our nation's most valuable gays) is that its campaign was funded to the tune of $22 million from out-of-state Mormons, who–in the face of protests like the massive one that descended on the Santa Monica Blvd. Mormon Temple Thursday–have issued calls for "civility, respect, and love" without a trace of irony or self-awareness. Anyway, there's no quip here, really… Just the sense of a great cosmic balance righting itself as we once again take one big step forward and three giant leaps back, with the bonus reminder that "separation of church and state" is still just a phrase we make little kids learn so that when they grow up they have a fundamental understanding of how hypocrisy works. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
- Look, if we're going to go around sticking our nose in everybody's genital business, how about we start extending that to relationships that truly mock the sanctity of a union between man and woman? Say, for example, the kind of situation where an octogenarian porn magnate keeps a minimum of three women around as interchangeable "girlfriends," then plays off their fucked-up daddy issues to such an extreme that when one of them wants to leave the nest and marry another man, he's her first choice to "give her away" at the wedding–you know, like what Hugh Hefner is doing for former Girl Next Door Kendra Wilkinson in a private ceremony at the Playboy Mansion. (Perhaps he should add, "I even had her cleaned for ya"?) Or, and this is just wild speculation of course, perhaps we could work together to foster a society where sexual orientation isn't so tied up in repression and shame that it causes people to act out in harmful, pathological ways, like the teenage kid who used to force a four-year-old Tom Arnold to play sex games with him in exchange for candy bars? I mean, now that we've officially totally cured racism, do you think we could start working on that a little? No? You'd rather just shut your eyes and plug your ears and pretend like your "gays are yucky!" Puritanical ideals will eventually be embraced by everyone if you just keep propagating bigoted legislation and preaching to them about the fiery pits of Hell? Alrighty then….
- Anyway, so yeah, that shit's crazy–though [AWKWARD SEGUE!] not half as crazy as Salvador Dali was. But even Mr. Melty Clock has nothing on the Hollywood execs who are moving forward with the biopic on the surrealist painter to be directed by Simon West, a.k.a. the sensitive storyteller behind Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Josh Modell's favoritest movie, Con Air. Of course, the fact that Action Jackson over there has been tapped to lend his car-crash cinematography style to the multifaceted tale of one of the most layered and fascinating figures in art history would probably be less foreboding had he not gone with this most lunkheaded of casting choices: Yes, Antonio Banderas is currently in negotiations to bring his musky aura and signature "breathe like I'm barely suppressing a boner" line delivery to the role of Dali–because, you know, there are only like three Latino actors in all of Hollywood, and John Leguizamo and Mario Lopez were busy.
- But at the very least, that film is bound to be an entertaining mess–which is more than you can say for the planned Americanized remake of Chan Wook-park's already legendary, brutally violent revenge film Oldboy, which has currently been placed in the hands of Steven Spielberg and Will Smith for maximum homogenization. Now instead of [SPOILER] the main character discovering he had incestuous relations with daughter and cutting off his own tongue in penance, it's revealed that none of that even matters because his daughter was an alien all along! Now that's a movie that everyone can get jiggy with!
- Hey, here's an interesting reversal of fortune: While this has clearly been a momentous time for African-Americans and politics, somehow it's been a terrible week for black music. First came poor Bernie Mac's marble turd of a headstone Soul Men. Then there was the report of Sly Stone's crazy comeback train barreling through Santa Rosa, an epically sad story that includes Stone firing his manager, leaving the stage in a middle of a song (after telling the crowd, "I gotta take a piss") and never coming back because he spent the rest of the set backstage demanding to be paid, THEN ditching his band at the venue, forcing them to chase him down and have an embarrassing late-night stand-off at a gas station (while "his young Japanese girlfriend cried hysterically" in the background) before he disappeared altogether. On top of that, you have the death of former Motown president Jheryl Busby, the man who fostered the careers of Johnny Gill and Boyz II Men, at the age of 59, and the death at age 64 of Nathaniel Mayer, the Detroit R&B; singer (most famous for the hit "Village Of Love") and who had just started to make a comeback in recent years by recording new music with bands like The Black Key and The Dirtbombs.
- Still, no death this week was as shocking as that of Shakir Stewart, who took over as the head of Def Jam from Jay-Z in June. Stewart was responsible for signing artists like Rick Ross and Young Jeezy to the label, and had barely spent five months in his position before he shot himself last weekend in his Atlanta home. Stewart was 34.
- And we guess this sorta qualifies as part of our "blacks in music" theme, although Mothers Of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black famously called himself "the Indian of the group" when he ad-libbed over the Frank Zappa-led band's third album We're Only In It For The Money. Black provided the complex rhythms (and occasional vocals) for the Mothers until the group disbanded in 1969, then later went on to play with Captain Beefheart before more or less retiring from music to run a house-painting business. He died this week at the age of 70.
- At the height of her fame in the '50s and '60s, "Peruvian songbird" Yma Sumac was an international icon who filled venues like the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, enchanting critics and fans alike with her superhuman voice which, according to her at least, could stretch to five octaves. Her shows were a thrilling mix of traditional South American folk songs (Sumac also claimed to be descended from Incan royalty) and Hollywood spectacle, combining elaborate costumes and huge companies of dancers and backing musicians. Her popularity began to wane in the rock 'n' roll '60s (and her 1971 psychedelic rock album Miracles was more or less buried) and Sumac "retired to Peru"–although The Times points out that this was merely part of her commitment to maintaining an aura of mystery, and that indeed Sumac remained in Silver Lake, California until her death this week at the age of 86.
Have a super weekend!