Celebrity Meltdowns: Unrehabable, Winning or Just the Way We Roll?

My pal Blair Sabol has a new column today on the fascination with celebrity meltdowns, particularly Charlie Sheen. As always, her unique take, her acerbic wit -- even her refusal to feel guilty about writing about such banality, instead of Haiti, Darfur and the Middle East -- make for fun reading.

In 48 hours [Charlie] made TMZ more important than 60 Minutes and exploited the media better than the media could exploit any other personality. Who was screwing whom?

Blair asks an intriguing question: Are some people just unrehabable -- meaning no amount of rehab will work for them? [More...]

As for why we pay attention:

Obviously Sheen has raised a whole new bar for outrageous behavior because he CAN. And don't give me the complaint of how Haiti, Darfur and the Middle East are far more important stories. Of course they are. But our culture (and the media) thrive on this. It is a "sexier" story and it has become the "way we roll." Take it or leave it.

Sheen really can't do anything but win, because of the business story behind all this. The media -- from the Wall St. Journal on down -- will follow his eventual settlement with CBS. Then there's the story of his single-handedly and overnight breaking all records on Twitter, and eliminating the need for networks, agents and publicists by self-broadcasting on the internet. Sheen is more popular now than ever. Which means, he'll return to the airwaves earning even more money. As for the worst that will befall him, Blair writes "he'll be the next Hugh Hefner with his House of Goddesses."

As for "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner" -- it reflects a cheap win, but a win nonetheless: Years ago, when the standard bet was $2.00, Vegas casinos used to serve a three piece chicken dinner (with potato and vegetable) for $1.79. So when you won a bet, you had won enough for a chicken dinner.

Update: CBS fired Charlie Sheen today. They've released this letter explaining their decision.

There is ample evidence supporting Warner Bros. reasonable good faith opinion that Mr. Sheen has committed felony offenses involving moral turpitude (including but not limited to furnishing of cocaine to others as part of the self-destructive lifestyle he has described publicly) that have 'interfere[d] with his ability to fully and completely render all material services required' under the agreement."
Charlie's lawyer says he'll sue if Sheen isn't paid for the 8 remaining episodes.
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    Political future (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by getoffamycloud10 on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 07:33:13 PM EST
    Given Sheen's history, a future in gop politics seems certain.

    If nothing else, it's a pretty good predictive indicator that he can always build a new show around him, palin and bachmann with sheen starring as "The Sensible One in the Room."

    so, (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 08:33:54 PM EST
    the bar for "sensible" is now buried underground?

    with sheen starring as "The Sensible One in the Room."

    Buried Underground (none / 0) (#6)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 11:02:19 PM EST
    under the continental plates.

    We live in a nation where common sense is now  considered 'far left.'


    I don't follow Sheen's twitter feed (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Kimberley on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 09:03:57 PM EST
    But I've picked up on the essence of his meltdown through the "Duh. Winning." parodies of him. And I've cracked wise about it just once, calling it "The Sheening," a nod to King's novel.

    I've tried to imagine what his family must be thinking about all of this though. I'm sure they're worried sick about him and with good reason. Then the second he starts really coming unglued with full public access, he breaks world records for interest. It must feel like something of a betrayal.

    I disagree with Blair (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by lawyerjim on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:32:15 PM EST

    'As for the worst that will befall him, Blair writes "he'll be the next Hugh Hefner with his House of Goddesses."'

    That's not the worst that will befall him.  See John Belushi, Lenny Bruce, Chris Farley, Greg Giraldo, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Elvis Presley, etc..............................

    This has struck me as contract renegotiation (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 06:19:09 PM EST
    more than anything else.  Sheen's character in the sitcom is not too far from the character he's putting out there for us - something of a reprobate who goes through women like other people go through facial tissues.  But, for those who ran across his interviews they should have noticed this.  I was stuck in front of as TV the other day, after CBS shut his show down and after the head of the network was taped saying the reruns of Sheen's show were on top of the ratings.  Sheen was asked about this and he was very complimentary of  CBS' head, calling him brilliant and being very businesslike about this dispute being resolved.  

    Remember:  he's a skilled actor, and that means both that he is capable of putting before an audience just about anything and selling the audience that it's real, and also that he will always seek the spotlight.

    So maybe we'll (none / 0) (#7)
    by cal1942 on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 11:05:25 PM EST
    find out if Charlie ever figures out Manny Quinn (a figure in the fashion industry).

    your friend hasn't hit on some new (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 07, 2011 at 06:32:58 PM EST
    "way of things", "if it bleeds, it leads" has been SOP for the media, since probably there has been media. people tend to be more fascinated by the outrageous, as a break from their own ordinary, humdrum lives. the charlie sheens of the world give them the same sort of vicarious thrill that caused soap operas to become so popular.

    i'm not saying there's anything necessarily wrong with that (unless you happen to be mr. sheen), just that it isn't anything new under the sun.

    heck, the Comedia Del Art was popular for the very same reason, 500 years ago.

    As I've posted numerous times here on TL (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:39:49 AM EST
    I love Two and A Half Men, as a result, I've followed this story with some interest, but not maniacally.

    Anyway, this season's shows have been horrific. Completely not funny. Funny on the level of Happy Days. iow, not funny.

    My WAG is that he will not benefit (financially) from all this, that this is all just too much. Quirky is one thing, nut-jobs are something else all together.

    However, time will tell.

    Appears CBS, Times Warner (none / 0) (#9)
    by Madeline on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 01:02:14 AM EST
    is pretty miffed.

    According to the letter from their attorney to Sheen's attorney, they go into detail about how he was high on the set and were trying to write around him....with several attempts to get him into rehab. They give several examples of what occurred in this year's show. They also posted parts of contract that said he will not be paid for anything.  Sounds like this will be in the news forever.

    Charlie is not ready for rehab. It's a waste of time and effort. He will just keep on keeping on until he doesn't.

    For those who want to read (none / 0) (#12)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:10:28 AM EST
    that letter, here is the link:

    Letter from CBS attorneys to Sheen attorneys.

    Seems all was not quite as great on the production set as the finished product would indicate; a little thing called "outtakes" tells that tale.


    interesting bit from his lawyer (none / 0) (#14)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 09:22:28 AM EST
    whos name is of course named "Marty":

    "The fact is, during Mr. Sheen's recent criminal case in Aspen, Colo., the studio was willing to have him plead to a felony and still take him back while charges were pending against him," says [lawyer Marty] Singer. "Yet in this case, all my client did was make alleged disparaging remarks about [producer] Chuck Lorre."

    he has a point
    this is the account of what happened

    She alleged he grabbed her throat and held a knife to it while pinning her down, saying he'd kill her if she told anyone, according to police. The fight had escalated after Mueller, 32, threatened to divorce the actor, she told police

    via stinque

    I don't think anybody... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 09:49:38 AM EST
    is unrehabable..its just that some people don't wanna be rehabilitated, cuz they like how they roll or have deluded themselves into thinking they like how they roll.

    Charlie might tire of the warlock life one day, until then there is nothing anybody can do...nothing.  Every path to the pursuit of happiness is different, one man's hell is another's heaven, and really who is to judge any of that? Now when somebody gets violent or causes direct serious harm to others, than some judgement may need to be passed and appropriate punishment handed down...but absent that the guy should be free to rock out with his thang out  till the cows come home, its an inalienable right whether it offends others sensibilities or not...its his life.


    I don't think anybody is (none / 0) (#16)
    by sj on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:31:20 AM EST
    ... "unrehabable" either.  But the problem comes in when an underlying disorder contributing to the substance abuse can not be satisfactorily treated.

    Makes rehab darn tricky at that point.


    Child molesters are, in the sense (none / 0) (#25)
    by observed on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 10:04:50 AM EST
    that there is not treatment which removes their preference.

    Though I wouldn't... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 10:36:38 AM EST
    put it outside the realm of possibility that, through rehab/therapy/willpower, those with that particular sickness can learn to control it and not act upon it.

    An alcoholic on the wagon is still considered an alcoholic, just a rehabilitated one...their urge never goes away either, but it can be conquered.


    Perfect description (none / 0) (#17)
    by sj on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:33:08 AM EST
    Just like we did with Robert Downey Jr., who also presented his addiction with a wild and creative brilliance.

    "...presented his addiction with a wild and creative brilliance."  Yep, that says it all.

    Charlie Sheen's "wild and creative brilliance" is to RDJr's like a lightning bug is to lightning.

    We love celebrity meltdowns (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:42:50 PM EST
    For the same reason we love reality tv, watching train wrecks, and gawking at car crashes.

    It's "There but for the grace....."

    Well, apparently (none / 0) (#22)
    by Zorba on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:37:36 PM EST
    the Chinese are also weighing in on Charlie Sheen, excoriating him for being "not filial."
    He ignored his own father's advice to keep quiet, who was once the president of the US. Sheen is a disgrace, unfilial to his father and his fatherland.

    (I think they got Martin Sheen's television persona a bit mixed up with reality.)
    So Charlie Sheen's meltdown has indeed "gone global."

    Sigh... (none / 0) (#23)
    by jbindc on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 04:59:19 PM EST
    okay, that made me laugh n/t (none / 0) (#26)
    by sj on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 10:27:34 AM EST