A little bit of madness-juice goes a long way, but ’tis a stupidly slippery slope.
Charlie Sheen, at 45 and clearly losing his mind, has generated more headlines over the last fortnight than he has in his 27-year career. It is an alarming meltdown, but one peppered with such breakneck quotes that Sheen — who calls himself a warlock with poetry in his fingertips, among other things — has risen, in this age of viral infamy and tweeting towncryers, to the uncoveted albeit distinguished status of The World’s Biggest Fool.
Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin must be overjoyed, or, perhaps, jealous. But dethroned they have been, because Sheen’s insane ranting — “I’m an F-18, bro, and I will destroy you in the air and deploy my ordinance to the ground” — is just too unhinged to be anything but real.
This is a man who was caught with a briefcaseful of cocaine not so long ago, and while Hollywood has been chuckling at his hookers-and-heroin lifestyle for some time now, it is only over the last few interviews that the full extent of his dementia has come to light. And it’s nutjobbery of the scale that keeps even the disgraced John Galliano out of the news cycle.
I can’t help visualising West Wing’s President Jeb Bartlet shaking his head, the 70-year-old Martin Sheen unable to comprehend just what his son is going on about, calling himself a winner with fire-breathing fists, and claiming to be filled with tigerblood.
Yes, tigerblood. Charlie says that is what runs in his veins, and makes him better than the rest of us. And — while not saying that those magnificent beasts have anything in common with the former Two And A Half Men actor — perhaps he’s not the first celebrity to have it inside him.
And that might not be a bad thing, really. Because we thrive on celebrity misbehaviour, we always have. We want to see them drunk and disorderly, inappropriately dressed and candidly foulmouthed, falling, falling, falling — just so we can point and laugh. Just earlier this week we in Bombay had ourselves a snicker when a director had a few drops too many of tigerblood in his soda, abused a superstar on facebook, and apologised the next day — the said superstar himself oiled in so much tigerblood his shirt has trouble staying on his body, and he has trouble staying on the roads when he drives.
Yet a very little bit of tigerblood isn’t a bad thing at all. In an overtly correct and unfairly public life, a measure of errata — an outburst, a poor choice of words, going commando in a dress at a children’s function and laughing about it later — helps both celebrity and viewer to take themselves less seriously. All the stars we admire the most occasionally indulge in a gargle, and it is only when they glug down too much that things really go awry.
It is, however, idiotically idealistic to expect moderation when it comes to any magical potion. Just think about how latter-day Elvis liked his steak tigerbloody.
First published Mumbai Mirror, March 9 2011