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GRRR! Pop Culture Fireworks on the 4th

Happy 4th | Things That Make Me Go Grrr!

Happy Independence Day, America

It’s ironic that the country we celebrate freedom from every Fourth of July is our greatest ally today, and as Great Britain felt the grip of Al Qaeda tighten around it over the past week, our alliance is as important today as it was 60 years ago, at the end of World War II.

The notion that the West faces a world war against Islamic fanatics is anathema to many, but that’s exactly the case.

To think Paris Hilton has dominated much of the news over the past few months during such a pivotal moment in history seems trivial, but like it or not, celebrity is America’s favorite pastime, and when times get extreme, that’s when the Hiltons, Lohans and Spears of the world take front and center in everyday Americans’ lives.

A few weeks ago, the Grrr! Block on "FOX & Friends" (Mondays at 6:45 a.m.) incurred the wrath of hundreds of baseball fans when I said that the boys of summer have lost their mystique, thanks to steroids and womanizing by some of the sport's biggest stars.

Is there anyone in the country today who actually cares if Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record? The argument that taking steroids doesn’t help one hit a ball is so outrageous it doesn’t even warrant a response.

Football players made a mockery of themselves when the NFL’s headline-grabbing millionaires started acting like spoiled 12-year-olds who don’t get their way. Would that professional players all behaved more like the retired Tiki Barber or the great Ladanian Tomlinson, where scoring touchdowns is just part of the job, without the fanfare.

NHL players went on strike and no one noticed, and the NBA’s All Star game in Vegas last year created a near riot in Sin City, a sad testament to the state of the hoops game.

Musicians long ago took the mantra of “sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll” so far that the majority of our music icons of the past are former heroin addicts, divorced and absentee fathers who wonder what happened to all the groupies they helped corrupt on their way to a starring role on “Where Are They Now?”

It’s heartening, actually, to see former Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx’s upcoming autobiography send some of its proceeds to the Los Angeles branch of Covenant House, which provides shelter to homeless and troubled kids.

Kudos to you, Nikki. Just for that I hope your book hits the New York Times best-seller list.

The point is America is tiring of the rich and famous throwing it all away on drugs, alcohol and a general malaise and contempt for the work that is needed to sustain fame and fortune.

Where once upon a time, one couldn’t even venture to Hollywood and into the movie business without a resume that included a starring role in a hit Broadway play, today one can’t get a role on Broadway without first being in a reality show that involves eating snails.

Because reality TV has a following, American art has reaped what it has sown. But the era of unscripted television may finally be coming to an end. Mark Burnett may be a reality TV impresario, but when Richard Hatch and Donald Trump are your biggest stars, eventually the genre runs its course and Jerry Bruckheimer is suddenly back in fashion.

Not even the great Steven Spielberg can generate ratings on a reality show these days, and despite Mark Conseulos’ good looks and affable personality, “Age of Love” is just another gimmick in which singles make fools of themselves not for love, but to become famous.

But television isn’t all that’s changing.

When Paris Hilton went to jail, the era of "famous for being famous" ended.

That’s why Lindsay Lohan stayed in rehab. She knew the toxicology report from her March accident investigation would come back positive for cocaine, in addition to the possession charge she undoubtedly faces.

Being a first-time offender, her lawyer probably advised that a judge would suspend her license, sentence her to rehab and probation, but with two months at Promises under her belt, she'll likely only get probation and a suspended license.

No matter, Lohan’s career is over.

No audience of mothers will pay $10 for their daughters to watch this sad person act like an upstanding human being. Even Jane Fonda, who co-starred with Lohan in “Georgia Rule,” disapproves, and we all know Fonda wasn’t always the voice of reason in any room.

Give me George Clooney and Meryl Streep over any of the headline-grabbing starlets any day of the week. Their work speaks for itself. They don’t need the tabloids or TMZ.com to make them stars.

It’s high time the consumers who make or break box offices, the Nielsens and ticket sales, demand to be entertained by real talent, no matter how ugly, how fat or how uncool the artists are.

Because in the end, Britney Spears can’t hold a note, and the countless headline-starved starlets and pretenders who yearn for their 15 minutes will one day disappear into the Oblivion from which they came.

Pretty soon, Tinseltown, the popular nickname for Hollywood, will be replaced by Cybertown or DigiLand or something else to describe YouTube and other Internet video stars.

And that is when America will truly be independent, and a better pop culture will emerge.

Things That Make Me Go Grrr!

- Driving to the Jersey Shore over the weekend, I'm all for fun and games as people get ready for a few days of fun and sun on the beach. But weaving in and out of traffic, even braving the rumble strips by passing traffic on the shoulder, is totally unacceptable. The beach will be there when you get there. Slow down.

- While I'm on the subject, I love a nice pedicure as much as the next person, but girls, when you stick your feet out of the passenger side window or rest them on the dash, God forbid your driver gets into a fender bender, because what should have been a dent could mean broken feet and ankles or worse for your little tootsies.

- And what's with the female drivers who put their left foot up on the dash ... as they're driving? I'm impressed with your flexibility (not to mention just a tad distracted myself), but driving like that isn't the smartest thing in the world to do, that's for sure.

- Now that "The Sopranos" is off the air, I don't have to endure the heavy and labored breathing of actor James Gandolfini as I wait for "Entourage" to start. The only GRRR is that now there's nothing on to kill the time before "Entourage," and if making "Entourage" an hour long is out of the question, how about doubling the number of episodes and running two new ones back to back?

- Now that we know the dangers to skin caused by the sun, we have a perfect excuse to wear more clothes on the beach. I always wear a long-sleeved rash guard on the beach. It keeps me from getting burned, but it also spares the sight of me bare-chested with the beer gut or freshman 15 hanging out. Please return the favor. That goes for men and women.

- Busybodies must go. The other day I was approached by one who jubilantly told me how much money the person down the block was asking for her home, but has since dropped that price by several hundred thousand dollars. I asked the woman why she was so happy about that? Didn't that mean her own home was worth less as well?

- People should not shuck corn in the grocery store.

- Your music is a reflection of who you are. It is the soundtrack to your life. You should share it with your loved ones. The general public, however, does not care what you like to listen to. Not impressed. Turn it down.

- With movie tickets averaging $10 a pop, 25 cents worth of popcorn going for $6 and a dollar's worth of soda costing $5, is it so much to ask for movie theaters to update their screens, sound systems and seats? There's nothing worse than going to old movie theaters to see state-of-the-art films. Nothing.

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