Thursday, March 10, 2011


       Q.  What is it about our media’s fascination with the raving mad Charlie Sheen? The man is obviously zonked out on drugs and alcohol and in addition is obviously seriously demented.   Where is the news story in this repeated coverage?
     A.  No one has specifically commented on this but this is our culture of death gone totally bankrupt…since this guy is headed for a complete crackup and in fact said late yesterday he was losing his mind.  The interest in Charlie is frankly not so much the media’s fault as the largely pro-death fascination that an increasing number of people have in this arid, pleasure-crazed godless society.
          So I’m not letting media off the hook but the sickening interest is beyond the media and is pornographic—the fascination of our crazed society, quivering with anticipation when a guy is moving closer-and-closer to suicide. It is the same thrill as a guy in a crowd of bystanders … calling up to a poor lout standing on the ledge the Willis Tower threatening to jump…and yelling “go ahead and jump, sucker!” hoping for a thrill to see the body tumble to earth and hit the street, the guts splashing too and fro.  The carnal media are there to exploit that pornography, assuredly—but it is the pro-death society…viewing lives as mere convenience…that has seeped into our once Christian…now post-Christian…ethic.  The crowds that jammed into the Roman Coliseum to see lions devour Christians were the same.  So don’t blame the media exclusively—but our sensation-crazed culture of death society.
       Many, many  years ago…67 to be exact…I was a small town newspaper reporter covering a small county fair. At these fairs there were carny attractions…a tattooed woman…a two-headed frog…a transvestite willing to disrobe for the gawkish stares of the rural hayseeds. 
       At this fair there was a narrow, precariously-built wooden ramp constructed 94-feet high. Twice a day each hot summer evening a rider would show up at the top, mount a unicycle…fix his eyes on the horizon…and with the crack of a starter’s revolver roar down the wooden ramp at a high degree of speed—his eyes trained on the horizon.   Every so often a unicycle would go off the track and a guy would either be killed or seriously maimed….and the small town newspapers would have photographers poised to catch the accident. If no accident, no story or photo in the next day’s daily.
      One summer night I was interviewing the guy before he made his last ride for the evening.  I was doing this interview with him before crowd of some 200 or so for my paper’s small town radio station.  The guy said:
       “How do I do it?  Strange you should ask. See this guy over here?”…pointing to a village rustic with gaps in his teeth,  devouring pink cotton candy from a spindle with a dazed Alfred E. Neumann grin.  “At the start of my run I focus on one guy in the stands.   He’s always in the same spot—in a seat high on top.  The point is to fasten your gaze on a fixed spot and stare at him as you roar all the way down.  His constancy and my complete attention on him is the trick.”
         Pointing to the guy he said:
         “You’ve been to my performances yesterday afternoon…last night…and this afternoon, have you not, my friend? I’m fascinated by you and all the others I watch.  What is your name?”
          The rustic grinned, flushed with pride at being recognized in front of the crowd…none of whom had ever before given him a thought—now aware that he was an integral part of the act.
         The village rustic giggled and said his name in a proud, steady voice.
         The driver repeated it.  “Folks,” he said, “meet [repeating the rustic’s name] a fixture of stability who is just as important to my completing this ride as I am myself.  Whether I make it or die depends on him.
        “And presumably you’ll be sitting in the same seat at the top of the stands when I climb on my unicycle.  And I’ll be looking at you tonight as I ride down the ramp.”
        With that our session was over and I signed off the radio…thinking, wow this thrill driver must either be naïve to the point of being committed or will soon be a dead man.
       Sure enough Alfred E. Neumann took his seat at the top of the stands; the driver eased himself on the unicycle.  They waved at each other and the precarious descent started….roaring down the track.

        Then, predictably, Alfred E. Neumann arose, waved his sweater so as to distract the driver and disappeared.  
         All those of us who had been in the audience for the radio program gasped—but the driver on his unicycle roared down the ramp happily.
         Afterward I got the driver and asked if Alfred E. Neumann’s distraction bothered him.
       “Naw,” he said as he removed his helmet and goggles.  “We try to pick out at least one jerk like that—and they never disappoint. They get up, wave and often jump up and down to make us lose our concentration…hoping we’ll crash and allowing them a cheap thrill from causing our deaths. .  What I really do is focus on an inanimate object—a flag,  a sign….I’m not going to tell you what. “
        That kind of perverted thrill is behind the mass interest in Charlie Sheen—and it’s just as sick as it was manifested so many  years ago at the Benton county fairgrounds in central Minnesota.

1 comment:

  1. There's another factor. Sheen is, at the moment, one of very biggest acting stars in America. He was a co-star of the most popular show on broadcast TV, and the highest paid TV actor. Or so I understand.

    If this was happening to a random B-list actor, it wouldn't get much attention.

    Also - Sheen has been aggressively defying convention. He isn't just transgressing, he's defying the current "conventions" of transgression.