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 tmz.com, 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  

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