|Charlie Sheen. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas
Addicts, racists, ingrates, egomaniacs, idiots, philanderers and adulterers: Hollywood loves you ... if you sell tickets to movies or bring eyeballs to television sets.
Today, more than in any other era in Hollywood's 100-year history, moral turpitude is irrelevant if you deliver the goods. So a 25-year train wreck -- hello Charlie Sheen -- is back on top with his new primetime TV series. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are still hot properties -- in gossip columns and on marquees -- despite the public meltdown of their personal relationship. Mel Gibson -- even after anti-Semitic rants -- still gets hired to act when he is not acting up. On and on it goes.
In Sheen's case, it doesn't matter how embarrassing was his exit from Two and a Half Men, or how slimeball is his fascination with Hollywood whores. He is driving the popularity of Anger Management. It launched June 28 and reportedly ranked as the most-watched sitcom premiere in U.S. cable history.
The tagline for Bruce Helford's series cleverly exploits our fascination with Sheen's foibles: "Everyone deserves a 24th chance." Hilarious! Actually, if you start counting, Sheen is well past his 24th. But no one cares, except extreme fringe players such as American fundamentalist groups.
For the rest of us, Sheen is unabashed entertainment. Anger Management showcases him as a former baseball player who now does anger management counselling after ending his career in a pique of anger. Sound familiar? Jack Nicholson starred in the 2003 movie.
Sheen, despite his stupid behaviour, is smart enough to own up to it, including this past weekend on the sports blabshow, Intentional Talk. Giggly co-hosts Chris Rose and Kevin Millar (a former baseball player in real life) chatted up Sheen as "a good guy" and interviewed him by a computer link. Looking worse for wear, Sheen nevertheless was amusing as he showed off memorabilia, including Babe Ruth's 1927 World Series ring, and re-counted stories of drunkenly reserving an entire section of a baseball stadium for one game. He was most proud of his work in the Major League flicks: "I felt like I left an arm behind of each of those movies!" Gotta love the goof.
As for Stewart and Pattinson, good luck. Unlike Sheen, or nearly hopeless cases such as Lindsay Lohan, their personal life has nothing to do with their professional conduct ... yet. It will be interesting, however, to see how they handle publicity for the final instalment of The Twilight Saga in November, given that they are no longer "breaking dawn" together.
In another era of Hollywood, however, Stewart's career would have been crippled by her startling decision to confirm rumours of infidelity. In 1949, Ingrid Bergman (of Casablanca fame) abandoned her Swedish family for a romance with Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. She was pregnant with his child when U.S. politicians formally denounced her on the Senate floor. According to popular wisdom, Bergman rehabbed her career only by playing a nun in The Bell's of St. Mary's and a virgin saint in Joan of Arc. But it took to the mid-1950s for a total resurgence. When it came to women, Hollywood operated on a despicable double standard.
Kristen Stewart won't have that problem. As soon as the boxoffice spoils from The Twilight Zone: Breaking Dawn start piling up, her movie marquee status will be as sizzling as Charlie Sheen's TV stardom.