Drooling on the Pillow

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bad Behavior And It's Uses 

As noted below, there is a certain expectation of extravagant behavior for actors, writers, musicians, artists and the like. Drinking, drugging, carnal excess and violence are the foundations of more reputations than is talent. It has always been thus. Lord Byron was the sexiest of men, a world class carouser and free with his opinions on many topics he knew little about. There is little doubt that were he alive today he would be very good at getting his mug on the TV. He would be a fixture at protests as well, braving the elements at Camp Casey and amazing the world with his magnificent gestures.

He was also a genius. Like that matters.

Today, amazingly, reputations can be built on bad behavior alone, free from talent, accomplishment, honesty, rigor or intelligence. Put a crucifix in a jar of pee, you're an artist. The whole Paris Hilton oeuvre is based on her promise to be more shameless than you thought possible. It wouldn't occur to most people to degrade themselves to the extent she does, but for adolescents of all ages, she lights the way.

Twenty-five years in the theater will put you alongside any number of barely-tethered egos. I knew a guy who, on the first day of rehearsal would throw a fit. It didn't matter about what. He would find something to object to and go all red-faced and crazy-eyed and start screaming. Things would get broken, people would be crying, fist-fights narrowly averted. After that, he pretty much got whatever he wanted. Anything to avoid a repeat performance.

Another guy would get what he wanted by talking the issue to death. I did a terrible production of Romeo and Juliet with him, me as Mercutio, him as Friar Lawrence. We were running about four hours long (it seemed like twelve) so we had a line-cutting session. Every time the blade hung over one of his lines he would begin defending it and it became horribly plain that he wouldn't stop talking until the angel of death moved on. I wound up losing the Queen Mab speech, but he kept every one of his tedious lines.

Well, this is mostly regret and jealousy. Perhaps if I had been less embarrassable I would have gotten further.

Now I sound like the lady at the Mah Jong table: "Louise, you know what my problem is? I'm too nice."

I expect to be fully recovered from the jungle fever by tomorrow. Coherent thought returns.
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