Alfie didn’t need to feel like a marked man in 1966. He had lots of company. Everyone on the planet, to be exact. No one knew then, or knows now, “What’s it all about?” Necessarily, the meaning of life must be denied to us the living, mere mortals that we are. Equally as inaccessible, the meaning of death remains proprietary — owned absolutely by that rather sizable population on the other side of the celestial curtain. Clearly, you better leave these grand imaginings to the clergy who routinely stand behind lofty pulpits and routinely suggest they know precisely what God knows and wants. What God does know is that you routinely fixate on earthly riddles — or to be precise — on the human absurdity that exists in the land of the living. High on the list of idiocy is an affliction that renders human beings nothing short of demented. You call that affliction Celebrity Mania Syndrome, or CMS. You remember the first time you witnessed what amounted to human frenzy. You were 9. It was halftime of a Saturday matinee double feature at the Temple Theater. Johnny Mack Brown had just thwarted a bank robbery in Law Men. Next up was Vigilantes of Dodge City starring Wild Bill Elliott as Red Ryder. But now the Movietone News logo flickered in black and white on the screen and immediately hundreds of teenage girls were screaming, sobbing and swooning — over — none other — than Sinatra — a string bean crooner whose purring style unleashed a kind of pubescent bedlam. Even at 9, you could make no sense of it — this unglued behavior, the utter delirium. You simply were too young, too inexperienced, to comprehend this illogical conduct. Innocently, only one word echoed in your juvenile brain — “goofy.” In the decades to come, you would learn that imbecilic ritual is not the exclusive province of bobbysoxers and teenyboppers. Millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of adults seem hell-bent to apply God-like status to persons who have achieved some sort of success — as politicians, as musicians, as actors, as athletes, as broadcasters — even, God help us, as community organizers. Like their moonstruck ancestors, masses of goggle-eyed Brits and tourists line streets to gape rapturously at William, the Prince, and Catherine, the Duchess, as this royal progeny sits or stands or strolls — or waves and smiles. You may ask: “What has either of these people accomplished to merit this all-consuming adoration — this CM?” Silly question. They were conceived and born. Period. Not a bad gig if you can swing it. But royalty isn’t restricted to royal sperm. At least not in America — a country that idolizes entertainers and ignores the geniuses of industry. A country addicted to America’s media, that “bastion of culture and integrity.” A country of people infatuated with musicians, singers and actors. A country of people — by the millions — who believe famous celebrities surely have famous brains. People who evidently never heard that Hollywood is make-believe. Serious make-believe. Smoke and mirrors. And while these made-up idols are acting, playing and singing, real people in all walks of life are at work in the real world — raising civilization to new heights. Nobody’s lining the streets cheering for these people. Nobody applauds the engineers, surgeons, scientists, electricians, carpenters and bricklayers. The media ignores them. The media ignores the producers and businessmen ( and women) who make things happen, who move the needle of life; and in fact, the media belittles, condemns and begrudges them their success. The media is more interested in the opinions of a Danny Glover, or Lady Gaga or Tom Hanks or Whoopi Goldberg, than in those of research scientists who make life-saving discoveries. And, astonishingly, while real heroes die in foreign lands to preserve liberty’s torch, Americans are willing to tolerate that head Washington celebrity — the poster child of CMS — that fabricated aristocrat of zero accomplishment whose sole qualification is an oily tongue. Long ago, somebody of note advised the people to beware of “false idols.” Your guess is the people didn’t listen, didn’t heed that advice. And what about now? Even a nine-year-old can answer that one.
Enough of the apologies already. If racist, ethnic and gay slurs are distasteful to some, what is infinitely more revolting is the contrition, the concession, the confession. Week after week, some bigwig must grovel before all-powerful media in atonement for slipping on the icy slope of alleged bigotry. Paula Deen, the latest celeb to fall on her kebab skewer, summarily received the death sentence from The Food Network and condemnation from media hacks who evidently view themselves as Lords of Civility and Breeding. But anything the media had to say about this culinary diva pales in comparison to her own maudlin admission: “I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I’ve done. I want to learn and grow from this.” Gaaaa! Upchuck city. You can forgive her for the drippy atonement on the grounds that she desperately attempted to salvage her career and cash flow, as others before her who fell from grace. Mel Gibson dared to offend Jews, the undisputed world champions of victimization. As Kramer, Michael Richards got away with cavalier insults; in real life, the N word toppled him from doing stand-up faster than one of his signature falls. Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia fell too, on his chicken bone, and he’s still at risk of eventually losing a lucrative TaylorMade endorsement as well as future economic contracts. They all lamented loose lips and begged forgiveness. And despite Paula’s saccharine admission, the Food Network dropped her like a hot potato (food analogy, get it?) because, you see, her crime was unforgivable. No Southerner dare utter the N word in the midst of a media police state. The N word is so utterly distasteful, even the word Negro is anathema. Evidently, being called Negro is demeaning and being recognized as Black is honorable. To be sure, the Black community demands civility and respect while many of its members tool down city streets, windows down, blasting rap (replete with the N word and countless obscenities, by the way) at decibels that easily penetrate the inner recesses of any bank vault. Black culture is nothing, if not loud (said the racist). Not only did Deen dare to admit having uttered the N word in her past, but at least one sanctimonious pundit said she also had the effrontery to defend contemporary race relations by suggesting race relations in the South are “good… pretty good.” And then, “It will take a long time for it to completely be gone. . . we’re all prejudiced against one thing or another. . . I think black people feel the same prejudice that white people feel.” You look for disrespect or speciousness in her thoughts and see nothing but a candid expression of common sense and essential truth — something celebrities (from the South especially) must avoid like an erection lasting four hours. It’s only a matter of time before the next goal of the PC agenda reaches the halls of Congress and the High Court in the form of a law outlawing Prejudice. Go ahead, say it. Admit you think this is a silly notion. Then remember a thing called the Inquisition. Then remember who happens to be U.S. Attorney General within the Obama kingdom. Any white celebrity who inks a fat contract must learn four crucial lessons: (1) spend your very first “dime” on a PR coach; (2) understand that media practitioners are primarily serial assassins; (3) never get sucked in to discussions about Blacks, Muslims, Gays, Lesbians, Immigration, Roe vs Wade, Anti-Semitism, Contraception, Global Warming or Guns; and (4) lie convincingly and often like his highness, the POTUS. If, however, you happen to have a spine, you may announce with conviction that anyone breathing has biases and prejudices about everything — from people to politics to food to language — everything under God’s sun. You also may dare suggest that individuals deserve the right to express disdain, dislike and even hatred for anything and anyone. And being free, you also accept the criticism and shunning of friends, family and community. And if you happen to be a celeb, you definitely will bear the wrath of the PC Mafia. In her appeasement, however, Deen forgot one thing — the millions of fans who would stand by her if only she had put aside the bowing and scraping and stood for herself. For its part, The Food Network put its loving arms around what it adores above all else — advertising revenues. You can understand TFN; it’s not personal; it’s business. For Paula, too, it’s business — like the book deal that’s sure to come her way. Only, Paula — please — for the sake of humanity — enough with the apologies.
Exiting this life was a simple matter. It came down to the decision, the determination and the doing. But the matter became powerfully complicated in consideration of those he left behind. Just as acts of terrorism disrupted so many lives, turning off his own switch created at least momentary chaos; and long term, left behind a legacy of cowardice, shame, guilt and perhaps hardship. No one should inflict torment on those they love. If leaving life were a worthy objective, he should at the very least have found a way to commit the perfect crime – to either render the act an accident, or put on a disappearing act. The first is tricky, at best. Faking doesn’t wash unless everyone believes it. It’s been tried. “Lose control” of the car and T-bone a big oak. Take a nice long swim in the Atlantic. Slip from the balcony of a hotel resort. In the process, leave no evidence of premeditation, like drugs or alcohol. Easily said, difficult to carry off. Unfortunately, forensic investigation always seems to expose inconsistency and leave nagging doubts. Disappearance has more appeal. No one accused Amelia Earhart of purposely taking a dive. One thing must be certain with this strategy – human remains can never be found. No one would know if you were a deserter, living under an assumed identity on a Pacific isle or if you were truly deceased, decomposing in some desolate wilderness. The aftermath of such action might generate resentful anger or uncertainty, but no one would suffer through the awkward, embarrassing and painful task of cleaning up the “crime scene” and disposing of the corpse. To those left behind, mystery of the unknown has infinitely more appeal than stark reality. With this considerate approach, generations of families could gather to pass down legendary theories, speculating whether the old boy ran off to a secret life in Southern Italy, was kidnapped by the CIA or was robbed, murdered and ground up in a wood chipper. Not knowing is always a good thing. Self-destruction has no justification – none – unless it is perceived as an act of God or a third party interference. In a sense, Jesus played a key role in his own premature passing – albeit a redemptive, sacrificial act – willing to give Himself up for mankind. Thousands of mere mortals have given their lives to save others; but these acts of “suicide” are exemplified by valor, justifiably applauded and revered, while self-murder remains an act of selfishness and cowardice — regardless of extenuating circumstance. For reasons unknown, except for religious teaching, an individual in Western culture is not given leave to take life into his own hands without suffering ignominy. No such stigma exists in the East. Regardless, putting aside all moral and spiritual considerations, it seems only fitting that a person so inclined should be thoroughly thoughtful and judicious in the timing and manner of any final act – to, in a matter of speaking, just leave the scene, like stepping aboard a small boat and sailing away.