Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Apology to a Bay-area 'Iron Man' fan

Monday morning, I appeared as a guest on San Francisco's KSFO with Brian Sussman, to discuss the problems afflicting the Obama campaign. While I was on hold waiting for the segment to begin, there was a news report about the huge weekend box office for "Iron Man," starring Robert Downey Jr.

Morning talk-radio is usually lighthearted -- kind of a "zoo crew" scene -- and whenever I'm on a morning show, I try to get in the spirit of things, so Monday I added a little topical humor. The hosts enjoyed it, kept me on for an extra segment, and said they'd love to have me back soon.

Then last night, I get this e-mail:
Dear Mr. McCain,
I was listening to your interview with Brian Sussman and Officer Vic on KSFO Radio on the morning of May 5, 2008. You started off the interview by responding to Vic's news report about the "Iron Man" movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. making over $100 million on its opening weekend by saying something along the lines of "Maybe with all that money, Robert Downey, Jr. can buy some more blow!"
I became deeply offended by that particular comment about Mr. Downey. It was a needlessly mean-spirited, immature, and ignorant comment to make about one's past personal problems. I'm not here to rationalizes or make excuses for Robert Downey, Jr.'s past drug problems. What I will say is that the fact that he has been able to go from the personal depths that he went to now, starring in a smash hit blockbuster about a comic book icon like Iron Man should be commended, not ridiculed.
It just wasn't the appropriate context to be making tasteless cocaine jokes when discussing the weekend box office results. When will people first be judged by their success than their personal problems. And God forbid, you're not the only person in the world who doesn't have your own demons.
Let me begin by saying that I mean no offense to "Iron Man" fans. People say it's a great movie (3-and-a-half stars from Ace) and I'm actually delighted to see Robert Downey Jr. make such a strong comeback. He's a talented actor, and I remember his work all the way back to his Brat Pack days in "Weird Science" (I'm a big fan of of Brat Pack movies.) All that said . . .

For crying out loud, man, if I can't make a joke about Robert Downey Jr. and cocaine, what can I make a joke about?

The dude's been in rehab more times than Charlie Sheen's been with hookers. OK, that's an exaggeration. Nobody's done anything more than Charlie Sheen's been with hookers. But still, my point is, the faults and foibles of celebrities have always been fair game for humor.

When I was a kid, I remember watching Don Rickles busting drunk jokes on Dean Martin and Ed McMahon, just like he did mobster jokes about Frank Sinatra and ex-wife jokes about Johnny Carson. It's a shtick.

Is cocaine addiction somehow sacrosanct? Why? Because coke is a favorite indulgence of the rich and famous? Robin Williams (who certainly did his share of toot) once famously observed that coke is God's way of telling you you've got too much money. Just imagine the fortune that Robert Downey Jr. snorted up back in the '80s and '90s! (In addition to coke, he's also been busted with marijuana, heroin and various pills over the years.)

Every late-night comedian in the country tells drug jokes about Robert Downey Jr., simply because he's quite possibly the most notorious dope addict in the world. If Cheech and Chong ever reunite, they could do a whole album on the dude.

Yet I somehow crossed a line by joking that the huge box office of "Iron Man" might finance another excursion to the Bolivian snowfields for Downey? Such a joke is "needlessly mean-spirited, immature, and ignorant"? As to my own "demons," I was a teenage dopehead until, at the age of 19, I had a severe hallucinogenic experience involving cocaine and psilocybin. (Just say no, kids.)

Well, OK, I had bad drug experiences, and gave up dope. Downey had bad drug experiences, and kept doing dope. So why didn't I spend two decades feeding a coke habit and popping in and out of rehab umpteen times like Downey? Because I couldn't afford it, that's why!

What you're doing, in telling me I can't crack a joke about Downey's coke habit, is telling me that he's off-limits because he's rich. Well, screw that. There are too many people truly deserving of my sympathy for me to waste any sympathy on a rich Hollywood pretty boy who's so stupid that he lost Sarah Jessica Parker over his dope habit.

There are guys at Walter Reed who got their legs blown off in Iraq. There are abused women worried sick that their violent ex-boyfriend's going to break the restraining order and come kill them. And don't even get started on the millions and millions of people living in parts of the Third World so poor they don't even have clean water, much less medicine or proper nutrition. (Fact: The average life expectancy in Botswana is 34.)

There are people genuinely suffering in this world, and Robert Downey Jr. is not one of them. So get off my back about a silly joke. If you don't have a sense of humor, that's not my problem. Besides which, most dopeheads are on self-pity trips anyway. Being sensitive toward their "personal problems" is the exact opposite of what a dopehead needs.

Excuse me for being so unapologetic, but this ain't 17th-century France, and a guy like me doesn't have to kowtow to a guy like Robert Downey Jr. just because he's a movie star. I routinely crack jokes on senators and presidents, and if Downey thinks he's better than Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton or Larry Craig, he's got another think coming. (On second thought, I take back the part about Ted Kennedy. Downey has never driven off a bridge and beat the rap for vehicular homicide, so he is better than Ted Kennedy. But that's not saying much.)

Now that I've gotten myself into such an ill mood, I need to get some sleep to be ready for the Tuesday primary results. Here's some cool dopehead music for you in the meantime:

1 comment:

  1. Iron Man was pretty good over all; its makers drop some pretty obvious sequel hints too... i'm thinking the next one should be equally great