Tuesday, September 04, 2007
I'll make this quick.
I'm a huge fan of the Rat Pack, and that entire era in show business. One of my biggest regrets is the fact that I'll never be able to see Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter -- hell, even Joey Bishop -- perform live. They represent a time when comedy and camaraderie went hand in hand, both onstage and off; when a martini and a cigarette within view of cameras wouldn't earn you an automatic censure and accusations of irresponsibility from six or seven advocacy groups with cleverly acronymed names; when the attitude was, "If the person I'm ribbing isn't offended, for Christ's sake you shouldn't be -- now shut the fuck up before I belt you."
Jerry Lewis comes from this era (although admittedly I can't see him ever belting anyone).
Over the weekend, during his annual tribute to cut-rate entertainment and giant glowing wheelchairs known as the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, Lewis was going off on one of the comedic rants that were once par for the course among his ilk when he rattled off a gay slur.
While talking to one of his cameramen, Lewis said that the guy's family had shown up and wanted to see him. "Yeah, Bart your older one -- and Jesse, the illiterate faggot, you know him right?"
As soon as it popped out of his mouth, he realized what he'd said -- and what decade it was -- and immediately tried to take it back.
Now look, I'm not saying that indiscriminately spouting the word "faggot" on national television is a good idea. On the other hand, it took all of ten seconds before the usual suspects, in particular Neil Giuliano of GLAAD, to begin offering themselves up to any television show on the dial that might be interested in hearing their self-righteous indignation directed toward an 81-year-old comedic fossil who, like him or not, has done more genuine good for humanity than they'd do if they lived to be twice that age.
I'm constantly suspicious of guys like Giuliano, who are always more than willing to throw sanity, reason and anyone they feel slighted by under the bus just to make a point which furthers their particular agenda. What makes me so wary is the nagging understanding that if tomorrow morning, Giuliano woke up to a world where gays and lesbians lived without persecution, he'd be out of a job -- ergo he needs the battle to continue unabated if he wants to see himself on television (and if you argue that he doesn't and his intentions are entirely altruistic, you're either naive or incredibly stupid).
Besides, you wanna know what's really offensive and intolerable -- a professional victim.
Jerry Lewis knows what he said was wrong; he's already apologized for it. Now leave him the hell alone already.
Jesus, I can only imagine the trouble Frank and Dino would've gotten in these days for the kind of things they used to say to Sammy.