Winners & Losers Of The Year (2006) – Part One

With December just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about the year 2006 before it leaves us completely.  I know.  It’s too early.  I can hear you saying, “But we still have one month to go!”  I agree.  But pretty soon, all of us will be bombarded by media retrospectives from various TV programs, the radio, the Internet, numerous magazines and countless newspapers.  So, I’ve proposed a compromise. 
Even though these year-in-review type deals always start way too early and pretend to be comprehensive (the month of December is frequently ignored), I’m beginning my own retrospective by taking a different approach.  Starting today, I’ll be looking back at 2006 in a series of pieces rather than cramming all my thoughts into one giant posting.
Let’s begin with the first installment, the winners and losers of the year:
Winner:  Howard Stern
Ignore most of what you read in the mainstream press about this man.  He had one hell of a year.  After some 14 months of self-promotion on terrestrial radio, Howard Stern finally made the jump to Sirius Satellite Radio on January 9th.  And what a start it was:  George Takei joining the gang as the program’s official announcer, Howard shooting down false reports that he secretly got married to longtime gal pal, Beth Ostrosky, and all those revelations. 
As the year progressed, the show never seemed to be out of the news.  There was Wilmer Valderrama’s famous appearance where he talked about all the hot famous chicks he was nailing, Henry Hill’s gay sex tape, Jenna Jameson christening the Sybian sex machine, Carmen Electra getting in trouble for doing the same thing, Crazy Cabbie’s release from prison after his tax evasion conviction last year, Pete Townshend and Rachel Hunter bailing on the show, Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon’s Michael Richards stories, the return of Andrew Dice Clay, Dee Snider and Richard Simmons, a guy claiming to have had an affair with Clay Aiken, the introduction of new Wack Pack member, Big Foot Mark, the Howard Stern Film Festival, the return of Jackie Martling, the roasts, Howard’s plastic surgery and so much more. 
Stern joined a company that had 600,000 listeners and singlehandedly convinced over 5 million more to sign up.  That’s pretty close to almost half of his own audience from the K-Rock era, but it’s only a matter of time before all of us (including me) join the revolution.  That being said, Sirius is now neck and neck with its rival, XM, with regards to subscriptions and that’s all because of Stern. 
Besides the reinvigorated and now uncensored radio show, Stern started his first year at Sirius with a lot of experimental programming.  There are the popular mainstays like Superfan Roundtable, The Wrap-Up Show (which immediately follows The Howard Stern Show), and The Howard 100 News.  And he’s even brought guys like Scott Ferrall and Bubba The Love Sponge on board, as well.
Another great success was the acquisition of 20 years worth of past K-Rock broadcasts, one of the sticking points of a fruitless and extremely self-damaging lawsuit filed by Les Moonves and CBS Radio.  Now, every Friday, fans get to relive, or experience for the first time, classic Stern between 1985 and 2005.  No more chopped-up broadcasts, no more FCC.  These shows are aired now with fewer commercials than before (making the reruns way shorter than the new shows) at the end of the week (replacing The Friday Show) and on days when the gang are on holidays.  They’ve named these special re-broadcasts, MasterTape Theatre.
As for the current show, even reading about the daily show happenings here and here are funny and entertaining in their own right.  With guests like Joan Rivers, the Hogan family, Barbara Walters, Jenna Jameson, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Wilmer Valderrama, Roger Daltrey, Martina Navratilova, Ant, Gilbert Gottfried, Ivan Reitman, Danny Bonaduce, Jay Thomas, Jon Stewart, Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper, Donald Trump, Kid Rock, Rosanna Arquette, the Osbournes, Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Mr. T, Henry Rollins, Jenny McCarthy, Jimmy Kimmel, Meat Loaf, The Dixie Chicks, Rob Zombie, Kathy Griffin, and so many more, it’s no wonder millions are tuning in every morning.  Here’s hoping the next four years are even more successful.
Loser:  Rev. Ted Haggard
This dispicable hypocrite went from being a pal of the religious right to persona non grata in a matter of seconds.  The reason?  Despite being a supposedly straight and happily married father of 5 and the founder of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado, Reverend Ted was secretly having an affair with a gay prostitute and doing drugs.  How do we know this?  Mike Jones, the gay prostitute in question, came forward and even played a voice message Haggard left for him when he was looking to score some drugs.  (For more details on the story, check out Reverend Ted Is In Denial.) 
The publicly anti-gay crusader Haggard went from being the head of the National Association of Evangelicals and President Bush’s close, personal pal to a national disgrace.  He lost all his important gigs in the evangelical movement and it was amazing how quickly his fellow preachers pretended not to really know him all that well.  James Dobson, the founder of Focus On The Family, once said he would try to “heal” Haggard of his homosexuality but on Larry King Live recently, he said he has now abandoned that idea.  I wonder if he’s really serious about staying his “friend”.  We shall see.
Despite being angry with Reverend Ted, I also feel sorry for him.  Here’s yet another repressed gay man who has been indocrinated by so much religious bullshit in his life it has screwed him up for decades.  I also feel sorry for his family who are the real victims of this scandal.  Since the story died down, Haggard has pretty much disappeared from the public eye.  One wonders what will happen next.
Winner:  Howard Dean
I can’t tell you how much it continues to annoy me that Howard Dean is still getting goofed on for that silly scream he let out during the run-up to the last Presidential election.  (Today’s cover of The Toronto Sun refers to him as “The Scream”.)  Enough already.  Yes, it was very funny but I will never understand how that could possibly undermine a campaign for President.  Being chronically inarticulate hasn’t stopped President Bush from winning elections.
At any event, Dean rebounded big time.  He became the head of The Democratic National Committee and despite receiving tons of grief from insiders about his “50-state” election strategy, the 2006 midterm results made him look like a genius.  A number of Democrats questioned the logic of trying to make inroads in places where they generally don’t do very well.  Dean, rightly, ignored their cluelessness and rewarded his party with control of The Senate and The House Of Representatives, a story so important The Toronto Sun never put it on the cover.  (By comparison, The National Post, The Toronto Star and The Globe & Mail all had front page stories on the historic victory.)
As far as I know, he’s been against the second Iraq War long before it became the majority opinion in America.  (I’ve always been against it, too.)  However, I don’t always agree with him.  He’s for the drug war, I want it ended.  He’s for gay civil unions but not gay marriage.  For me, it’s gay marriage or nothing at all.  Despite that, as Bill Maher has pointed out on more than one occasion, he is the spine of The Democratic Party.
Loser:  Karl Rove 
The media have been kissing this guy’s ass for so long it was only a matter of time before reality destroyed his reputation, hopefully for good.  Just before the 2006 midterms, there was a book out called The Way To Win, written by Mark Halperin of ABC News and John Harris of The Washington Post.  According to Eric Boehlert, it’s nothing more than a love letter to Karl Rove.  I wonder how well it’s selling these days.  (#6786 on, as of this writing.) 
On June 22nd, Harris said, “If I were them [meaning the Democrats], I’d be scared to death about November’s elections.”  Good one, John.
Karl Rove, himself, thought he had nothing to worry about, at least publicly, as he told NPR’s Robert Siegel on the October 24th edition of All Things Considered:  “…I’m looking at all these [election races], Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and a Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you’re entitled to your math, I’m entitled to the math.”  What a genius.
Furthermore, during the same interview, he claimed to have seen a “poll showing that [Sen. George] Allen is pulling away in the Virginia Senate race.”  As we all know, Jim Webb edged Allen ever so slightly to beat the racist incumbent.  0 for 2, Karl.
How long will he remain “Bush’s Brain” in the White House?  Will he be gone sooner than later?  Will he ever pay for being part of the plot to expose undercover CIA Agent Valerie Plame?  Could it be true that The Republican Party’s remaining supporters are Southerners and nobody else?  One thing’s for sure.  The bloom is off this fat, balding rose.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, November 30, 2006
6:38 p.m.
Published in: on November 30, 2006 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Additions And Future Postings

We’re getting close to the end of the year (less than 5 weeks to go before the start of 2007) and it’s time for another website update.
I’ve already mentioned my Amazon book list a couple of times.  If you’re looking for a terrific read that’s available at a reasonable price, click on any of the titles on my list and when you buy one or more of my recommendations, you’re financially supporting The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  I am planning on adding more titles to the list right until the end of the year.  I personally vouch for every book on there.  I have read them all and thoroughly enjoyed them.  They’re all worth purchasing either for yourself or a loved one this holiday season.  So, what are you waiting for?
Speaking of lists, you may have noticed some new ones to the left of my blog.  I finally got around to posting some of my movie lists, something I mentioned I was going to do earlier this year. 
Back in high school, I started to write movie reviews for the school paper.  (Check out From The Published Archives: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, From The Published Archives: Sleeping With The Enemy, From The Published Archives: Star Trek VI, From The Published Archives: Gladiator, From The Published Archives: Far And Away and From The Published Archives: Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers to understand what I’m talking about.  You’ll find them all in my blog lists or just search under Movie Reviews.)  And at the end of the year, I would have a Top 10 list.  I’m happy to report that I now have six Top 10 lists on my site:  The Top 10 Films Of The Decade So Far and year-end Top 10 lists for the years 1991-1995.  I also have three 10 Worst lists:  The 10 Worst Films Of The Decade So Far and year-end lists for 1993 and 1995.  I was going to add another Worst list for 1994 but I made an error and need to correct it before it can be posted.  Right now, I have 18 lists available for your perusal and unless Windows Live Spaces changes its policy, that means I only have room for 2 more lists.  I probably will add that ’94 list before the end of the year.
Every comedian on my list of The Funniest People Alive now has a link to either their official website or another destination that I felt was worth linking to.  As a result, I dropped Howard Stern’s official site from my Recommended Websites list and just relocated the link to the The Funniest People list.  It seemed redundant having the same link twice on here. 
I’ve added a couple of more links to that Recommended Websites list.  I use the Canadian Google search engine every single day so it made sense to add it.  No other search engine is as quick and effective as this one.  Like I needed to tell you that.  I’ve also been getting into The Huffington Post lately.  Bill Maher writes pieces from time to time on there thanks to his friendship with the lovely Arianna Huffington who founded the site in May 2005, but there’s lots of interesting links and opinion pieces by other writers posted daily.  (This is the site that broke the story about those partisan Fox memos.)  It’s amazing how rapidly popular it’s become already.  I’m on there every day now.  It would be nice to have something posted on there.  I wonder if they pay their writers.
I’ve also added a few more artists to My Favourite Musicians list.  Like a lot of the lists I have on my site, expect more additions from time to time.  I like updating the content on here to keep things fresh and interesting. 
As we enter December in a couple of days, what can you look forward to before the end of the year on here?  Well, I’m still planning to post that piece about my experiences being an intern on the Royal Canadian Air Farce, I’m hoping to have a couple more Hamilton Spectator pieces posted, and I’ll continue to write new stuff directly for the site. 
Looking to next year, with the return of American Idol in January, I will post a rejected article about the first season of the show and the following month, I’ll be posting another previously published article from the Spec, this one about romantic films you should check out for Valentine’s Day.
Oh, I forgot to mention something about my blog lists.  When you click on any entry, it will open up a new window so you don’t have to go back and forth between my home page and the piece you want to read.  This was the way it was when I started this site back in February.  Up until recently, however, you would just be redirected from the home page to the blog entry, all within the same window.  I’m glad a new window opens up now.  It’s so much more convenient.
As I learned this year, it’s best not to promise too much because things happen and you don’t always get to see your ideas finalized on here.  But, for the most part, I’ve done what I’ve set out to do over the course of the last 9 months. 
Once again, I thank you all for checking out The Writings Of Dennis Earl and urge you to return again and again.  There is so much writing on here for you to enjoy and more is on the way.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
2:17 a.m.
Published in: on November 29, 2006 at 2:19 am  Leave a Comment  

You Can’t Ban A Word

The Michael Richards nonsense continues and I’ve just about had enough.  Richards recently appeared on Rev. Jesse Jackson’s radio show to once again apologize for making what looks like the biggest professional mistake of his life.  To review, during a show at The Laugh Factory in California, Richards was being heckled by some black folks in the audience.  He got so fed up with them he made racist remarks in order to shut them up.  As we all know, thanks to that amazing cell phone footage, it didn’t quite work out for him.  The hecklers rightfully felt Richards went over the line and then one of them called him “a cracker-ass”.  Classy.  Despite making two apologies on the public airwaves, one on David Letterman’s show and the other on Jackson’s radio program, Richards is still very much in the public doghouse.  His hecklers are right to ask for a personal, face-to-face apology and even demand a refund, as I noted in a previous posting, but they do not deserve anything else. 
Meanwhile, there’s a new twist to the story.  Rev. Jackson has now pretty much pushed Richards to the background while he demands attention for all the wrong reasons.  According to Fox News, Jackson has developed a boycott fetish.  He wants people to stop using the word “nigger” (as does the NAACP) and to not purchase the Season 7 DVD of Seinfeld.  It’s hard to fathom the logic of this.
First of all, to demand people not use a word like that ever again is like telling them never to curse, never to drink, never to push that shiny red button that is forever tantalizing them or to never draw a breath from their lungs.  It’s just not realistic.  Besides, the word “nigger” or “nigga”, if you will, is so ingrained in our culture and history, it would be virtually impossible to stop saying it today, regardless of the context.
It’s bad enough broadcasters refer to this epithet as “The N-Word” which, sadly, gives it a cachet it doesn’t deserve.  It’s also a childish way of dealing with racism.  Racist words like “nigger” shouldn’t be forgotten nor should their pungent tone be sanitized by using safe, useless phrases like “The N-Word”.  We’re not children here.  We’re adults.  When a foolish comedian says “nigger” over and over again in his stand-up act, it should be reported that he said “nigger”, not “The N-Word”.  When you say he said “The N-Word”, that’s not accurate.  He said “nigger”.  If we’re going to deal with racism head-on without any fear, we have to stop referring to this nasty word as something other than what it actually is.  “The N-Word” sounds mysterious.  “Nigger” sounds horrible.  Note the difference.
A few years ago, there was a controversial book called Nigger and it was all about the history of the word.  (I have long wanted to read it and hope to do so in the future.)  How come Rev. Jackson didn’t call for a boycott then? 
How many rappers over the last 20 years have used the word “nigger” or “nigga” in a song?  I think we’ve all lost count by now.  Anybody remember Rev. Jackson or The NAACP planning to boycott rap albums at any time during the genre’s history?  (The NAACP is hoping comedians and rappers stop using the word today.  Good luck with that, guys.)
And what about films like Boyz N The Hood?  Remember that scene where the black cop says, “One less nigger in the streets”?  Did Rev. Jackson voice his concerns about that?  Did he want people to skip the movie?
How come Jackson hasn’t boycotted any of Spike Lee’s movies or any other film that has showcased that word?  This word has been around for so long why is now the time to stop using it? 
As for the boycott of the Seinfeld DVD, that’s even more ridiculous and astoundingly racist.  What did the people associated with that show have to do with Michael Richards’ stupidity?  Why should they be punished for one man’s sins?  It’s absolutely infuriating and extraordinarily insulting.  And how come it’s only Season 7 that’s the subject of a boycott?  What about Seasons 1-6?  Can we buy those box sets, Rev. Jackson?  Does that meet with your approval?  Or as George Costanza would say, “Is it doable?”  
I think it’s time for everybody to calm down and take a deep breath.  Knowing that Michael Richards is an asshole shouldn’t ruin your enjoyment of his great work on a great sitcom.  There’s something wrong with you if you think Cosmo Kramer and Michael Richards are the same person.  He’s playing a character and that character we enjoy watching.  The real guy is a mess and no one wants anything to do with him.  Why does an actor have to be a saint in order for you to enjoy his acting?  Get over yourself.
Boycotting a word is silly and not realistic.  It is a counterproductive way to tackle racism.  Telling people to not buy a DVD of a show they love is even more ridiculous and should be promptly ignored.  What we need is for Michael Richards to apologize sincerely to those hecklers in person.  We need the hecklers to accept that apology and, in turn, apologize for calling Richards “a cracker-ass”.  We need Richards to accept their apology.  Then, we need the hecklers to go back to their normal lives out of the limelight.  We need Richards to disappear for a while.  We need Rev. Jackson to stop exploiting the situation for his own gain and go back to being ignored again.  And we need everybody else to move on and focus on more important matters. 
I want this story to die already.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
11:16 p.m.
Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 11:20 pm  Comments (2)  

More Recommended Books…Just In Time For Christmas!

With less than a month to go ’til Christmas, here are some terrific books I’ve read over the years that I’ve recently added to my Recommended Books For Sale Amazon list.  Stuck for gift ideas?  Look no further than these titles:
U2: At The End Of The World is a fantastic book about the greatest rock and roll band during one of their most fertile creative periods.  Journalist Bill Flanagan follows the band’s every move during the Achtung Baby/Zoo TV/Zooropa years.  It’s quite a read.
Too Close To Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle To Decide The 2000 Election is Jeffrey Toobin’s account of Gore V. Bush after the infamous race was declared “too close to call”, an appropriate title.  Toobin, the CNN Analyst, is also a lawyer and like a lot of lawyers, he has a way with words.  This is a good reminder of why we’ve all been suffering the last six years.
Thomas Harris’ The Silence Of The Lambs is the second Hannibal Lecter novel and the only one I’ve read.  It inspired the excellent film version of the same name and there’s a reason for that:  it’s excellent in its own right.
The Run Of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson is the definitive account of the disastrous criminal trial, yet another triumph for Jeffrey Toobin.  Covering the trial for The New Yorker at the time, Toobin managed to get some fantastic scoops which are thankfully mentioned in the narrative.  This book will remind you in gripping detail why the former football great remains a hated figure worldwide. 
Private Parts and Miss America are the literary versions of Howard Stern’s highly influential and much misunderstood radio program.  They are so entertaining I whipped through each one in less than a week.  In fact, I still look at my paperback copy of Private Parts from time to time and it’s still highly enjoyable.  Highly recommended for those just getting into Stern through Sirius, even though they are very much time capsules.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest saved my ass back in high school.  In Grade 12 Advanced English, we were all assigned a book report.  We had to pick a novel and then write about it.  I got through 3 or 4 chapters of Wuthering Heights before I realized I was not going to pass this assignment.  I switched to Cuckoo and ended up with a report so good Mrs. Hagger just had to hang onto it to show future English students how to get the job done.  I still haven’t seen the movie.  I got 97%, in case you were wondering.
Live From New York: An Uncensored History Of Saturday Night Live is a surprisingly serious oral history of one of the longest-running programs in Television history.  Edited by Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales and James A. Miller, many of the past and current cast members, along with creator Lorne Michaels and other creative staff members, dish the behind-the-scenes dirt about the creation of an influential sketch comedy show now over 30 years old.  You’ll never think of Chevy Chase in a positive light ever again.
Brain Lock: Free Yourself From Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviour by Jeffrey M. Schwartz is one helpful book.  I lived in denial for many years about what was wrong with me.  This book positively changed all that and helped me start my long road to recovery which I’m still travelling on.  It will help you, too.  I still practice the 4 steps everyday.
A Vast Conspiracy is yet another Jeffrey Toobin title, this one about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  It’s very good.
Remember, every time you click on any title on my Recommended Books For Sale Amazon list and make a purchase, you’re supporting The Writings Of Dennis Earl.  At the same time, you’ll be making either yourself or a loved one appreciate the written word this holiday season.  You only have a few weeks left.  Use my book list to finish off your shopping this year.  You’ll be glad you did.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
10:19 p.m.
Published in: on November 28, 2006 at 10:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Rock Stars’ Crocodile Tears

Here’s another previously published piece from The Hamilton Spectator Era.  It appeared on page D12 of the Entertainment section on Thursday, July 4, 2002.  Written for YourPlace, it’s all about phony celebrities, particularly the ones who claim that they’re not in show biz for the money or the worldwide attention.
The piece was precipitated by an article I read in Rolling Stone Magazine at the time.  Remember when Courtney Love, representing The Kurt Cobain Estate, and Dave Grohl & Krist Novoselic were fighting over this song called You Know You’re Right?  Dave & Krist were hoping to put it on a Nirvana box set they were working on while Courtney just wanted a greatest hits package with that song included as a special bonus. 
The fight had been going on for years.  The box set was supposed to be released around the 10th Anniversary of the band’s breakthrough album, Nevermind, back in 2001, but the legal battle prevented that from happening. 
In the end, an interesting compromise was made.  Courtney got to release the self-titled Nirvana album around Christmas 2002 which included the full band version of You Know You’re Right while Dave & Krist were allowed to release Kurt’s acoustic solo version of the song on their 2004 Nirvana box set, With The Lights Out.  (According to a 2005 interview with Spin Magazine, Courtney claims that the guys wanted to name it Sappy.  Yes, they even fought over the title of this box set.)
When you read the article, you’ll understand why I brought up this story.
As for the article itself, I’m really proud of it, despite a number of edits.  It was accompanied by a famous Associated Press file photo of Kurt singing and playing guitar during a taping of The Headbanger’s Ball for MTV in 1993. 
The piece originally ended with the line, “At least rappers enjoy being famous.”  But it was cut from the printed version.  I always felt the piece didn’t really end properly, thanks to that excision, but now I think, no matter what I had written as the last line, it was always going to get removed because of space limitation.  I’ve decided to not reinsert the line because, today, after temporarily putting it back in, I just don’t think it works.  Instead, I’ve kept the ending the same as the published article.  I still don’t think it has a good enough ending, though.
There were more significant deletions.  Near the middle of the text, almost an entire paragraph, #5, was removed with the exception of one sentence.  It went like this:
“I can’t tell you the number of times a famous musician has said in an interview how fame and fortune were never the motivating factors for establishing a music career. One is baffled by this obvious line of bull. Let’s face facts here. Musicians tend to be the kind of people who can’t hold a regular job because 1) they hate it 2) they’re too incompetent to do it 3) they’re not responsible and 4) it doesn’t pay enough.”
Obviously, it was cut because there wasn’t enough room for that part in the newspaper.  I’ve decided not to reinsert it because it is a bit of a tangent (a bad habit I can’t shake in my life) and the article flows better without it.  Sometimes, an editor sees things clearer than you do.
Also rightfully removed was this reference to MC Hammer:  “And unless they’ve blown all their dough, (like our old friend, MC Hammer) there’s a huge financial incentive involved, also.”  The line reads better without it.
I have made a few changes from the printed version.  At one point, I mention “that the media is filled with filthy liars”.  The Spec excised “filthy”.  I’ve restored it because my way sounds angrier, the way it was supposed to sound.  Also, the first line of paragraph 2 was slightly different in The Spec version.  They removed the phrase “and often”.  I’ve restored it.  The other alterations are too minor to mention. 
Other than that, this is exactly how my piece appeared 4 years ago in The Hamilton Spectator.
Rock stars’ crocodile tears
Cut the bull!  Fame ‘n’ fortune’s what it’s all about
Special to The Hamilton Spectator

Ever get the feeling life is extremely difficult for your favourite big-time celebrity? Didn’t think so. But the way you hear them talk these days you’d think they were serving a life sentence without any chance of parole.

Probably the biggest lie celebrities tell publicly and often is this: “We’re not in this for the money or the fame. We’re in it for the art. All this awful fame stuff happened by accident.” Considering that there are few accidents in the entertainment business and not much can pass for true art these days, it’s a laughable sentiment.

Recently, I was reading about the battle over Nirvana’s legacy in Rolling Stone Magazine. Dave Grohl, the former drummer for the band, told reporter Chris Heath – with a straight face  – “We weren’t in it for the fame.” Interesting considering how the band signed to a major label and sold millions of albums worldwide. None of the members ever thought to interfere with that sales bonanza or not record a follow-up album. It’s been said that Nevermind itself earned 50 million dollars in revenue. Call me crazy but I think Nirvana, especially the contradictory Kurt Cobain, didn’t exactly mind the fame and fortune that album brought.

Reading the article reminded me how the celebrities, rock musicians in particular, have become the new politicians. Whenever a new album or tour needs to be plugged, you can expect to hear only the best about these forthcoming projects. Even if the press reports otherwise, particularly the critics with their scathing views on mediocrity, the musicians will swear up and down that the media is filled with filthy liars who haven’t heard the brilliance of their new music. Or worse, they’re too stupid to get it. But then again, it’s not supposed to be good enough to be popular anyway, so why bother promoting it?

You have to remember that the music business is a crowded ocean of egos all swimming towards the shores of a multi-billion dollar island. The idea that someone starts a band so that the fewest amount of people can enjoy their music, so they won’t get paid a lot of money, so no girl will even look at them and so no one will remember them, is sheer lunacy. As Bill Maher has said many times, no matter who you are, fame is the most addictive drug of them all. And the worst part is there’s no rehab for it.

The big issue at stake in the ongoing “Nirvana Wars” is a previously unheard track called You Know You’re Right. The main issue is how to release the song. No one wants it to remain unheard, but there is disagreement.

Dave Grohl and surviving bassist Krist Novoselic were hoping to include the song on their box set of rarities. Courtney prefers a greatest hits album that would include the song has a bonus track. Either way, it’s clear that all 3 parties want more fame. And unless they’ve blown all their dough, there’s a huge financial incentive involved, also.

It is peculiar that this grudge match between the survivors of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain’s estate really boils down to how to make more millions and extend their fame on one song.

In his excellent biography, Heavier Than Heaven, author Charles R. Cross wrote that Kurt Cobain himself was a walking contradiction. In public he bemoaned being a huge rock star, but privately he would often bug MTV complaining that his band’s videos weren’t being played enough.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 27, 2006
5:27 p.m.
Published in: on November 27, 2006 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

The 7 Rules Of Greatest Hits Packages

Last week, U2 issued its third greatest hits package, U218.  I was very annoyed.  (Check out “U2 Are Ripping Off Their Fans” to find out why.)  While thinking about that today I was reminded of something I’ve been wanting to talk about on here for quite some time:  Greatest hits packages.

To me, they’re the Reader’s Digest of music careers.  Each one tells the condensed version of an artist’s career through their hit songs.  And every story is different and unique.

But far too often, artists screw up their hits packages.  They tinker with a basic, successful formula time and time again which turns off music lovers and I’m sure inspires a number of them to either create their own greatest hits CD by picking the tracks they really want and then burning them on a blank disc or simply downloading them for their iPod.

What is this “basic, successful formula” I speak of?  Well, it’s a series of timeless rules that under no circumstances should ever be broken.  When an artist follows these rules to the T, music fans are happy.  (Ok, I’m happy.)  Here now, revealed for the first time, is how you make the perfect greatest hits package.

Rule #1:  No New Songs

How many times have you looked at the track listing for a greatest hits album only to discover something utterly disturbing?  Chances are it’s because of one reason:  a brand new song.  There’s nothing more obnoxious than an artist offering you all their hits on one CD, plus one new song.  Why, oh, why do they do this?  To convince you to pay 20 bucks or more for all the songs you already own, just so you can get that extra track.  The list of offenders is long and egregious:  The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Lenny Kravitz, Def Leppard, Placebo, The Police, Alanis Morissette, Weird Al Yankovic, Depeche Mode and many, many others.

Then, there are the artists who put 2 or more new songs on their hits packages.  (That’s what U2 did for U218.)  Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones put 4 new songs on their retrospectives.  Why didn’t they just save those songs for a new album?

Not everybody does this.  Iggy Pop’s first compilation, Nude & Rude, doesn’t offer anything new.  Neither does Echo & The Bunnymen on their terrific release, Ballyhoo, nor Guns N’ Roses on their 2004 Greatest Hits album.  Every Rush hits package that I know of offers no new recordings, either.  The first Red Hot Chili Peppers compilation, 1992’s What Hits!?!, wisely didn’t throw in any unreleased material.  Even Garth Brooks respected his fans enough to put out a hits set with no exclusive songs.  That would be 1994’s The Hits.

Leave it to The Beatles to set the standard with their hits albums.  In 1973, their record company issued 2 double albums which are better known as The Red Album and The Blue Album.  Every single hit they ever had in their entire career is documented in those two terrific releases.  And guess what?  There were no new songs, either.  They weren’t necessary.  (Come to think of it, they were all too pissed off at each other at the time to even think of doing such a thing.)

I hate to say it but the only other band that has gotten it absolutely right is Creed.  Yes, Creed.  Not too long after they broke up, we got their Greatest Hits package in 2004.  No new songs, just the hits, which leads me to the next rule…

Rule #2:  Include ALL The Hits

How many times have you picked up a greatest hits CD only to discover your favourite hit isn’t on the disc?  This happens all the time.  U2 are notorious for this.  For their first hits package, The Best Of 1980-1990, for some odd reason, they left off Two Hearts Beat As One, one of the big singles from War.  Bullet The Blue Sky, a radio hit from The Joshua Tree, and A Sort Of Homecoming from The Unforgettable Fire, were excluded as well.  Gloria from October failed to make the cut, also.  And while it would’ve been nice to have some of their early non-album singles like A Celebration and 11 O’Clock Tick Tock included in the release, as well, I can understand them not including them because they weren’t hits.  I still would’ve liked having them on that CD, though.

When it came time to follow up that release with The Best Of 1990-2000, there were so many hits to choose from they probably should’ve put together a double hits package.  They didn’t and as a result, a lot of worthy singles were excluded from the release.

Remember, hits aren’t always found on studio albums.  Remember Cheap Trick’s Live Version of I Want You (To Want Me)?  That was on Live At Budokon, recorded during a famous concert in Japan.  Remember Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by U2?  That was on the Batman Forever Soundtrack.  And what about Pearl Jam’s cover of Last Kiss, which was a surprise Top 10 hit in 1999?  That was from a benefit album called No Boundaries.

And then, there are the songs that were only available as singles.  The Jean Genie by David Bowie comes to mind.  (March 27, 2012 CORRECTION:  Actually, it appeared on the Aladdin Sane album in a slightly remixed form.  My bad.)  Any song of yours that was a hit, whether it was on one of your albums or not, must go on your hits package.  No exceptions.

I mentioned Creed a minute ago.  If you look at the track listing for their Greatest Hits album, you’ll notice they included everything, all the big songs from their three studio albums.  (I don’t believe they had any non-album hits.)  And not only that, they even added a DVD to the package which includes videos and live performances.  Like The Beatles, they got it right, too.

Rule #3:  Never Include An Edited Version Or Remix Unless It Was A Hit In Its Own Right And/Or It Is The Superior Version Of The Song

Again, U2 has some explaining to do.  How many people were happy to hear cut-off versions of Miss Sarajevo, Where The Streets Have No Name and New Year’s Day on Best Of 1990-2000 and Best Of 1980-1990, respectively, instead of the full length versions that were played on the radio?  Didn’t think so.  Speaking of Best Of 1990-2000, why were a number of hits on that record given new mixes for the release?  The originals weren’t good enough or something?

David Bowie’s single disc version of Best Of Bowie is loaded with radio edits.  A number of songs off The Stones’ Forty Licks are shorter than they should be.  In those cases, for the most part, that was done because of time limitations on their respective CDs.  (One CD can only hold 80 minutes of music.)  I can live with that.  But what’s U2’s excuse?

There’s only one time I want to hear an alternate version of a hit single on a hits package:  when it’s the more popular and/or superior version of the song.  Examples:  The Jimmy The Saint Remix of Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know, Trent Reznor’s remix of David Bowie’s I’m Afraid Of Americans, the radio edit of Seal’s Prayer For The Dying.

Rule #4:  If You Must Add New Songs And Rarities, Have So Many Of Them They Have To Be Put On A Second Disc

Prince seemed to have started this 13 years ago.  In 1993, his then-record company, Warner Bros., issued The Hits/The B-Sides which featured 2 discs worth of his big singles plus a terrific third disc of non-album cuts, many of which had never appeared on CD before.  (They also offered the 2 hits discs as separate releases – The Hits 1, The Hits 2 – but the triple disc set is far superior.)  Also, if you check out Ultimate Prince, another singles compilation, this one from 2006, you’ll notice that the second disc features non-album remixes.  He was on to something.  (Or, maybe it was Warner Bros who deserve the credit.)

Remember HIStory by Michael Jackson?  Disc one featured nothing but hits.  Disc two was a brand new studio record.  In retrospect, there should’ve been an option to buy them separately.  (Indeed, there are now numerous Jackson hits packages available for those who still don’t want to hear his 1995 material.)

U2 did something cool for their two previous greatest hits albums.  They put out special limited edition versions that came with a second disc of B-sides, and in the case of The Best Of 1990-2000, remixes, as well.  It was a nice gesture for those who wanted to hear the non-album side of U2.  The Smashing Pumpkins did the same thing in 2001.

Other artists like throwing in a bonus DVD instead of B-sides and that’s fine, too.  The Very Best Of Sheryl Crow is a good example.  On her DVD, you get a ton of her videos and while watching them you can drool all over her as often as you’d like.  (I could do that all day long.)  I mentioned earlier that Creed did something similiar.

But the best examples of this idea come courtesy of Stone Temple Pilots and Sloan.  Both STP’s Thank You compilation and Sloan’s A-Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005 have special editions that include bonus DVDs packed with about 3 or 4 hours of material each.  If you can’t follow Rules 1-3, which nonetheless should never be broken, honour Rule #4 instead.  A worthy bonus disc of music or DVD Video is a tantalizing offer few can refuse.  Including me.

Rule #5:  Never Put Out A Greatest Hits Package Unless You Have Enough Hits To Fill At Least One Disc

I’m looking at you, Better Than Ezra, King’s X, Nick Cave, and all you other performers who don’t understand that you have to earn the right to release a greatest hits record.  If you don’t have enough songs that people remember from Television and/or the radio, get back to work cranking out more hits.  If you must put out a compilation of previously released songs, even though you don’t have many hits, please call it something other than Greatest Hits.  The Best Of… is a good substitute.

Rule #6:  Never Add “Volume One” Or “Part One” To The Title Of Your Hits Package Unless You Know For A Fact You’re Going To Have More Hits In The Future

It’s always a bad idea to assume you’ll still be successful after you release a CD of your hits.  It’s even worse to express this feeling in the title of your hits package.  Any time you see the words “Vol. 1” or “Part 1” after “Greatest Hits” or “The Best Of…”, it’s an outright guarantee that these performers will never have enough new hits to justify releasing a follow-up.  It’s like their ego gets the best of them and they can’t keep their hot streak going.  R.E.M., Madonna, The Rolling Stones, U2, Depeche Mode and The Red Hot Chili Peppers could’ve done this themselves but refused.  Is it any wonder then that they all have had enough hits to persuasively put out more than one hits package?

I’m wagging my finger at the following guilty parties for breaking Rule #6:  Van Halen, Korn, Hall & Oates, which leads me to the next rule…

Rule #7:  Never Put The Same Hits On Any Two Greatest Hits Packages

U2 broke this rule with U218.  12 of the hits on that record were already on either of the two previous Best Of.. releases.  Other repeat offenders include Bryan Adams, The Police, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Iggy Pop, Hall & Oates, Van Halen, Prince and countless others who have recycled their best known repertoire over and over again because none of them had enough new hits to warrant putting together another hits package.  I can understand Iggy Pop, Bryan Adams and Van Halen releasing expanded versions of their earlier compendiums (2 discs instead of the original 1) but wouldn’t it have been best to have gotten it right the first time?  The greed of bands and their record companies know no bounds.

Musicians and record companies, memorize these rules.  Deviate from them at your own peril.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 26, 2006
6:46 p.m.

Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

From The Published Archives: Seek Out A Video Hidden Treasure

This is another one of my previously published pieces from The Hamilton Spectator.  It appeared on the YourPlace page, F4 of the Entertainment section, on Wednesday, June 5, 2002. 
Because I didn’t think I could write a decent movie review, focusing on one title, in 700 words, I tried a different tactic.  I always tried to think of interesting ideas that would be relatively easy to finish off in a quick manner, particularly when it came to writing for the YourPlace page.  So, I came up with the idea of singling out 5 films that never found an audience in the theatre that deserved to find an audience on home video.  I ended up writing short capsule reviews of these movies and it turned out really well.  The Spec made exactly one edit.  (A comma was turned into a period.  That was it.)
Originally titled The Movies You Should Be Renting, the paper changed it to "Seek Out A Video Hidden Treasure".  The article was accompanied by a couple of nice photos.  There was an enormous still of Oscar-nominee Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit from a scene in Almost Famous which was parked to the left of the piece.  And on the right side, surrounded by my words, there was a much smaller shot of Matt Damon in a cowboy hat on a horse from a scene in All The Pretty Horses.  The layout looked great and I’m still happy with it 4 years later.
4 of the films mentioned in the article – The Iron Giant, All The Pretty Horses, Love And Basketball and Tigerland – were screened on full-screen VHS.  (They were all borrowed from The Hamilton Public Library.)  Almost Famous was the only DVD rental of the pack.  That was during a period where I screened only some films on widescreen DVD while the rest were Public Library tapes.  By December 2002, greatly influenced by something Roger Ebert had written that year, I reversed my policy.  Now, everything I see is on DVD.  Very rarely do I watch anything on tape.
Seek out a video hidden treasure
Go with a lesser-known title for your next movie rental
Special To The Hamilton Spectator

The next time you rent a movie from your local video store, avoid the popular releases for once in your life. Instead of grabbing a freshly pressed smash off the shelf, take a chance by seeking out a lesser known title. The best films being made today are often the smaller ones that fail to compete with the big budget blockbusters like Spider-Man and Attack Of The Clones. Thanks to home video, you get another chance to see a terrific film you should’ve seen in the theatre. Here are some recommendations:

1. The Iron Giant (1999)

This animated charmer would’ve found an audience if it didn’t have to compete with the unstoppable blockbuster, The Sixth Sense. Featuring some breathtaking animation, The Iron Giant is an alien war machine who crash lands in a small American town on Earth in the 1950s and befriends a young boy, obsessed with science fiction, who saves his life one night. Jennifer Aniston is the voice of the boy’s mother. She’s a widow constantly working late at the local diner while her son pretty much does what he wants while she’s away. Christopher McDonald is appropriately slimy voicing the opportunistic FBI agent. Harry Connick Jr. is surprisingly charming as a friendly junkyard sculptor, and yes, that’s Vin Diesel, delightful and sweet as the title character. There are moments in this film that will break your heart.

2. All The Pretty Horses (2000)

Released in the crowded month of December, Billy Bob Thornton’s beautifully photographed romantic western got lost amongst the more popular Oscar contenders. This is a film that makes you fall in love with its landscape. (It was filmed in New Mexico and Texas.) At the heart of the film is a forbidden romance between a drifter (Matt Damon) and a Mexican woman (Penelope Cruz in her best performance), who he meets while working on her father’s ranch. He’s played nicely by Ruben Blades. Also good is Damon’s buddy, Henry Thomas. All in all, an effective drama with emotional truth.

3. Love And Basketball (2000)

Omar Epps is a cocky high school basketball star who can’t stop thinking about his next door neighbour, also a talented baller (Sanaa Lathan), and the feeling is mutual. The result is a wonderfully moving, humourous and surprisingly insightful film that not only gives you a sweet and convincing love story but some insight into the temptations NBA pros face. Separated into 4 quarters (get it?), we meet the future lovers as fighting kids and follow them through adolescence straight into the perils of adulthood. Dennis Haysbert is excellent as Epps’ father, an ex-NBA pro whose indiscretions catch up to him. He has some smart scenes with his son where we start to believe just how difficult it is to resist groupies. He creates empathy for his character. A lesser movie wouldn’t have.

4. Tigerland (2000)

This is the best Joel Schumacher movie. Colin Farrell, in a star-making performance, plays Bozz, a reluctant leader who knows how to get frightened soldiers discharged from a military training facility. He gets away with a lot of insubordinate behaviour simply because he’s a talented soldier and his superiors know a born leader when they see one. Set in 1971, during the Vietnam conflict, the movie lays the groundwork for the effective training exercises at the end which are held in a jungle-like setting called Tigerland. With one psycho soldier (Shea Whigham) after him for turning the men against him, Bozz is torn between fleeing the facility and facing up to his responsibilities. Funny, brutal, real. If you were moved by Platoon, you’ll enjoy this one, too.

5. Almost Famous (2000)

Before Vanilla Sky, writer/director Cameron Crowe made this serio-comic valentine to his rock and roll adolescence. It is a wonderful film about a child prodigy who finds solace among the larger than life characters he writes about for Rolling Stone. Despite strong reviews, this one never found the audience it so richly deserved. Often hilarious, and extremely wise about the inner workings of the music business, Almost Famous is filled with solid performances, memorable lines and best of all, a heart of gold.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, November 26, 2006
1:58 p.m.
Published in: on November 26, 2006 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Marlon Brando’s First Appearance On Larry King Live

For a while now, I’ve had this quiet fantasy of being a great TV interviewer, one of the greatest jobs in the world.  I always imagine myself talking to the most interesting people; the famous and the infamous.  I think about who would give me a hard time and who would be a pleasure to grill.  I may never get to do it in real life which is too bad because I could do a way better job than Larry King, the master of the softball interview.
That’s a nice way of introducing this previously unseen piece from 1994.  It was an assignment for one of my support classes at Mohawk College.  We had to write a straight news story, without adding opinion, for Mohawk’s student newspaper, The Satellite.  I decided to report on Marlon Brando’s famous appearance on Larry King Live which aired live on October 7, 1994.  It was a rare interview that wasn’t broadcast directly from Larry’s famous studio setting.  (It took place outside on Brando’s property.)
I watched the show twice.  I taped the live broadcast at 9 p.m. as I watched it for the first time like everybody else who tuned in that night and then watched it again the following morning on VHS.  At the bottom of the article, I listed a bunch of meaningless but funny statistics I gathered based on observations of this particular program.  This was done in anticipation of Entertainment Weekly, my favourite magazine at the time, doing the same thing for their own report, something they would do from time to time after a certain show aired.  Much to my surprise, they didn’t do it for the Brando interview. 
The assignment was rated an A+ from Professor Richard Giles – ("Thoroughly excellent writing.  I need say no more but thanks.  You restore my faith in students!") – but unfortunately, it didn’t make it into The Satellite.
Brando did return to the program, which King promised would happen during their initial interview, on April 5, 1996 where he got in trouble for saying the Jews run Hollywood and that they were responsible for exhibiting all kinds of racist stereotypes, excluding Jewish ones, in their movies.  He later apologized for what he said.  He never did interview Larry, as far as I know.   
It’s been a couple of years since Brando’s death at the age of 80 and he is greatly missed.  He remains the most influential actor of the last 60 years. 

By Dennis Earl

There were songs, there were compliments but there was little in the way of insight into the life of a legendary actor. Marlon Brando made a rare appearance on television a few nights ago on CNN’s Larry King Live. He granted this interview (his first in five years) for two reasons. One, it was in his five million dollar contract with Random House, the publishers of his autobiography, BRANDO: SONGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME, to grant at least one interview with the media. Secondly, he wanted to be interviewed by Larry King because, according to Brando, King is a genuine interviewer whom he admires greatly.

Wearing red suspenders in honour of his host, Brando mentioned his love for Shakespearean plays and his hatred for performing live theatre. When King attempted to ask specific questions about acting in film, though, Brando hesitated and avoided straight answers.

Brando did praise a few of the actors and directors in the American cinema such as Robert Duvall ("He was willing to fall on his face," he said); Robert De Niro; Harvey Keitel; and even Martin Scorsese ("He is extraordinarily talented, dynamic and has put film in a noticeably higher position," praised Brando).

Most of the interview focused on Brando’s political viewpoints. He talked about the problems with overpopulation, carbon dioxide and the mistreatment of Native Americans.

Avoiding the touchy questions, King played it safe by asking Brando why he hates doing interviews. "The interest is in the money," came the response. He also asked for his opinion on awards such as the Oscar. Brando said that he didn’t believe in these types of awards because he doesn’t think he’s any better than any other actor or boom guy in Hollywood. On being famous, Brando admitted that he has lost his identity in the real world and felt miserable when he first gained recognition. This resulted in many sessions with psychoanalysts, according to the actor.

No questions were asked concerning the recent murder trial of Brando’s son Christian, who is still serving time in prison. Nor were there any comments concerning the autobiography, his love affair with Marilyn Monroe and countless other women, the films he made or his private life.

The program, which was broadcast live from Brando’s home in California, ended with a mouth-to-mouth smooch and two promises: King promised to interview Brando again in the future and Brando said that he would conduct his own interview with King on a future show. Here are some statistics from the broadcast:

Number of times Brando said "fuck": 1

Number of times Brando said "What?": 12

Number of times King and Brando sang: 2

Number of times King said Brando was "wonderful": 3

Number of times Brando chewed and sprayed his cookie crumbs while talking: 1

Number of times that Brando said "If I was Joe Schleb, I wouldn’t be sitting here.": 1


Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, November 25, 2006
9:09 p.m.
Published in: on November 25, 2006 at 9:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Hecklers Only Deserve A Refund And A REAL Apology

It’s the story that won’t go away.  The two hecklers who were accosted by comedian Michael Richards during his now infamous gig at The Laugh Factory this past Friday want compensation.  They appeared on NBC’s Today Show this morning as well as CNN’s Situation Room earlier this evening.
Kyle Doss and Frank McBride are now being represented by the very annoying Gloria Allred who somehow thinks these guys deserve some kind of reward for putting up with Richards’ tirade.
The truth of the matter is they deserve only two things:  a sincere apology and a refund.  That’s it.  To put this before a judge, retired or otherwise, is nonsense.  And greedy.
If this horrible case does, in fact, reach a courtroom, it will be a considerable waste of everyone’s time.  And last time I checked, Kyle and Frank can’t claim the moral high ground here.
If you listen very closely to the audio of the infamous rant – thankfully captioned by the good people at – you’ll hear one of the two men call Richards “a cracker-ass”. 
I know.  Every epithet that’s ever been created for white people is lame.  Robin Quivers said it best in her autobiography when she noted the difficulty in encapsulating hatred for whites in a singular, shocking word.  “Honky” is too silly.  “Cracker” was the name of a band as well as Kid Rock’s rapper pal.  They’re just not insulting enough.
That being said, calling someone “a cracker-ass” is still an attempt to fight racism with more racism which is not good.  It’s also not likely to win over a crusty judge who will probably be wondering why he/she has to deal with all these losers wasting his/her time with all this bullshit.
I greatly sympathize with what these two young men had to deal with at a comedy show of all places.  No one should have to put up with the filth that was flung in their direction.  But instead of simply asking for an apology and/or a refund, they’ve kept this horrible nightmare going by demanding money they don’t deserve.  They’re old enough to know better.  So is Gloria Allred.  And I wonder what she gets out of all of this.  Does she really want to give reasonable people more ammunition to hate her?  Maybe she wants to be even more loathed than the irresponsible Nancy Grace who never apologizes for getting things wrong. 
As for Richards, this guy has got some serious explaining to do.  As expected, his Letterman apology was not considered sincere by the public.  A poll on, as of this writing, has 67% believing the apology was phony.  (Only 33% felt the opposite.)
He now, apparently, is on Mel Gibson’s Apology Tour.  According to, he’s been putting in calls to black civil rights leaders.  This guy has become a repugnant joke if he believes a series of bogus mea culpas are going to “revive” his “career”.  Last time I checked he didn’t have one.  And he certainly won’t have one now.  One wonders how long it will be before he loses his Cat Tale voiceover gig.
If Kyle and Frank want to know how the public feels about their greedy proposition, they might want to check the comments section on  Right now, they’re about as popular as Michael Richards. 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
11:15 p.m.
Published in: on November 22, 2006 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why Mystery Is Better Than Revelation

Jack Nicholson said it best 13 years ago.  In an interview with Entertainment Weekly which appeared in its January 8, 1993 issue, he remarked, “I don’t want people to know what I’m actually like.  It’s not good for an actor.”
It’s definitely not good for anybody working in the public eye, especially if you’re Michael Richards right now.  If you’re a beloved physical comedian with 3 Emmys to your name and a positive, permanent association with one of the most acclaimed sitcoms in Television history, for God’s sake, don’t tell anybody you’re a racist. 
As everybody knows by now, Richards tore into a few black hecklers during his set at The Laugh Factory this past Friday.  It’s one of the most shocking things I’ve ever heard.  It should’ve never happened.  But it did, and apparently, this isn’t the first time he’s lost his mind.
According to, the site that broke the story in the first place, Richards vented on a heckler during a show at another L.A. club, this one called The Improv, on April 22nd of this year.  2 eyewitnesses claim that he went off on this guy saying, “You people are the cause of Jesus dying.”  How did he know he was Jewish?  One thing’s for sure.  Richards is chronically incapable of silencing hecklers without coming across as a total asshole.  And he’s stopped being funny.  No wonder The Laugh Factory banned him.  (Is there anything more humiliating than being banned by The Laugh Factory?)
As I said before, Richards is lucky he doesn’t have a career anymore, otherwise this would be a much worse situation for him.  Can you imagine if this all happened while Seinfeld was still on the air?  What would’ve happened then?
Revealing your true self is a risky proposition for public figures, especially if your true self is riddled with ugly qualities.  When Mel Gibson was arrested for drunk driving this past summer, he embarrassed himself by revealing his horrible anti-Semitism to the cops who handled the case.  (Remember, he said publicly that his father had never lied to him.  His father has denied The Holocaust.) 
But it wasn’t the first time he put his foot in his mouth.  In the early 90s, he was interviewed by a member of the European press who managed to freely get anti-gay comments to come flying out of his mouth.
Interestingly, his arrest this year wasn’t the first time he’s been caught inebriated while driving.  21 years ago, the same year People Magazine named him The Sexiest Man Alive, (should that be changed to Sexiest Racist Alive?) he was also charged with drunk driving.  In 1992, while promoting Lethal Weapon 2 in the now-defunct Inside Hollywood magazine, he gave a simple reason for his actions:  “Overwork and burnout.”
He quickly added, “But that won’t happen again.”  Liar.
And then there’s Tom Cruise.  His problem is fundamentalist religion, namely Scientology.  Since the spring of 2005 when he went overboard in declaring his love for Katie Holmes on Oprah, (probably because he still gets steamed when people declare without proof that he’s gay) he became the laughing stock of late night (and early morning) comedians.  Although the audience and critics still support his movies, despite what you might read from writers who don’t have their facts right, he’s out at Paramount and people, generally, think he’s gone nuts.  On the plus side, though, he’s in much better shape than Gibson and Richards.  But how long will that last, I wonder?
With the incredible rise of celebrity-driven news shows, internet blogs and YouTube, it’s getting a hell of a lot harder for public figures to follow the wise Jack Nicholson’s advice.  Not everything about Nicholson’s life is a secret, of course.  As long as there are blabbermouths looking to make a quick buck, even private guys like him will always be subjected to reports that may or may not be accurate, one of the many irritations of our current media.
But he doesn’t go out of his way to share his life with the public, which was the same tactic Johnny Carson used throughout his life.  Despite the odd ex-wife joke he would throw out there on The Tonight Show, he wasn’t an open book.  When he quit his show in 1992, despite the odd appearance on Letterman and that guest stint on The Simpsons, he stayed retired.
There was an interesting clip of a 1982 interview Barbara Walters conducted with the great Clint Eastwood which was a part of her 30 Mistakes In 30 Years specials last week.  In the clip, he talks about how important mystery is, especially to the opposite sex with regards to romance.  If they know everything about you, what’s left to talk about?  Good point.
Maybe it’s best for our future celebrity screw-ups to heed the lessons of Nicholson, Carson and Eastwood, so they won’t fall into the same horrifying predicaments as Michael Richards, Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise.
Never let the people know everything about you, never show your ugly side and maintain mystery.
Words to live by.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
5:20 p.m.
Published in: on November 22, 2006 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment